Keystone Science School and Old Keystone Village: A look back |

Keystone Science School and Old Keystone Village: A look back

Monica DiazKSS Staff

An early cabin being moved to the site of the Keystone Science School in 1980, as reported in the Summit Sentinel.

Whether you’ve attended our elementary or middle school programs, experienced one of our popular summer camp programs, or if you’re just a kid in Summit County, chances are you’ve been to the Keystone Science School campus once or twice. Founded in 1976, the School has taught science education to thousands of kids over the years. Recently, however, we decided to take a little journey through time and discover what our campus might have looked like 100 years ago.Long before the days of lift lines, carved ski slopes and international tourism at Keystone Resort, what’s now the Keystone Science School campus was Old Keystone Village, a railroad town centered around a major loading station for silver, gold and lumber. In the early 1880s, the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad completed a branch to Keystone, and the town was a booming community until the railroad ties were removed in 1937. Nearby Ski Tip Ranch is the site of the historic freighting station and served double duty as the social epicenter for all of Summit County, providing regular pot-luck picnics to its railroad workers, ranchers, and miners. As an escape from the daily grind, a trip to Denver via passenger rail was $10.75.Though mining was the strongest draw for most of its residents, Old Keystone Village boosted its economy with a flourishing sawmill operation. The steam-powered sawmill supplied local area businesses with raw lumber and provided Denver with materials for home construction into the 1930s. Logging activities sustained the town into the 1940s, when ski pioneers Max and Edna Dercum purchased a large parcel of land that would become Keystone Resort in the 1970s.We still have lots of relics of Old Keystone Village on our campus. The next time you visit our campus, take a look at some of the old cabins along the School’s access road. The building now known as the Pika cabin was once home to the founders of Keystone Resort, Max and Edna Dercum (it was later purchased by Bill and Jane Bergman, who donated the cabin to the School in the 1980s). The original plans for Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin ski areas were created in the kitchen of that cabin. During renovations, the Eagles Nest cabin exposed Swedish newspapers from 1890 on the walls, revealing its history as a home to sawmill foremen as many of Keystone’s original residents and loggers were recent Swedish immigrants. Some of Old Keystone’s original residents, the Eric Erikson family, once lived in the nearly 100 year-old Wapiti cabin, one of the first buildings at Old Keystone with electricity. Not long after Keystone Resort was founded in the early 1970s, our founder, Bob Craig, opened Keystone Science School. Throughout the years, we’ve worked to preserve the history of our 23-acre campus and share what we know with the more than 4,000 students who visit our campus each year. We particularly appreciate the folks who have documented the colorful history of our roots such as Mary Ellen Gilliland and Edna Dercum whose books “Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado” and “It’s Easy, Edna, it’s Downhill All the Way” have helped educate us. We’re always interested in learning more about the history of Old Keystone Village – if you have a comment or tidbit to share, please send them to And whenever you’re in the area, stop in and visit to see a bit of the past for yourself.Monica Diaz is the Administrative and Logistics Coordinator at Keystone Science School. She can be reached at To learn more about our programs, visit