Silverthorne buries pieces of its past to be unearthed five decades from now |

Silverthorne buries pieces of its past to be unearthed five decades from now

A time capsule is put underground next to the tennis courts at Rainbow Park during Silverthorne’s 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday.
Eli Pace / |


1859 — Judge Marshall Silverthorn arrives in Breckenridge.

1881 — Judge Silverthorn lays claim to a section of the Blue River and a year later files a mining patent for what would become the “Silverthorn Placer.”

1963 — Construction completed on Dillon Dam.

1967 — Silverthorne incorporated as a town.

1970 — Population recorded at 400.

1970-1980 — Town annexes 1,059 acres to the north of town in Eagles Nest, while adopting many of its administrative and zoning regulations.

1989 — Outlet mall opens.

1990 — Population reaches 1,768.

1995 — Silverthorne undergoes a major recodification of the municipal code.

2005-2007 — Silverthorne annexes another major subdivision, Maryland Creek Ranch, adding 61 acres in 2007 to the 355 acres annexed two years earlier.

2009 — Silverthorne annexes Smith Ranch, a 51-acre property that’s been designated for mixed-use development.

2010 — Population reaches 3,887 a figure that would grow to 4,505 by 2016.

Sources: 2015 Silverthorne Community Profile, Summit Daily archives and U.S. Census Bureau

Silverthorne came into existence 50 years ago, and town officials buried a time capsule on Saturday that’s to be unearthed 50 years from now.

Inside the capsule, they put a snowboard, skis and other winter gear. There’s also a VHS tape from the grand opening of the outlet mall in 1989, along with a VCR, in case whoever digs it up can’t find a way to play the analog tape.

For more recent history, a DVD copy of the film “Mean Girls” made the cut, as did about 80 other items, all of which came as a result of community suggestions. One of the more interesting pieces in the capsule has to be a package of pot cookies, but each item is meant to represent an important piece of the town’s last 50 years.

The steel capsule was welded by Turner Morris and buried at Rainbow Park, next to the tennis courts, as the town hosted a free concert in conjunction with its popular Sunset at the Summit Series. The capsule was sealed with a plaque and contains a letter from Mayor Bruce Butler, who couldn’t help but note that the park at which the capsule was being buried was once a lagoon.

“I don’t think 50 years ago anybody would have thought we’d be standing in, or near, the lagoon having a 50th birthday party so we’ve definitely come a long way,” Butler said before it went underground. “We may be the new kids on the block as a municipality, but I just want to take a moment and remind people that this is all about going forward, but at the same time you got to remember where you came from.”

Today, Silverthorne is widely considered the gateway to Western Colorado and a premiere retail destination of Summit County. However, the town that borrows its name from one of the most colorful characters of the county’s past, Judge Marshall Silverthorn, started as a series of mining claims in the 1800s.

According to town history detailed in a 2015 community profile and reiterated by Butler on Saturday, Judge Silverthorn moved to Breckenridge in 1859 and bought land along a section of the Blue River in 1881. In April 1882, the judge patented the mining claim for what would become known as the “Silverthorn Placer.”

The judge was sorely disappointed to find little gold there, but it was the first of a series of claims on land that would eventually become the town.

While Judge Silverthorn provided the name, minus the “e” at end, it would be another seven decades before the real impetus that gave birth to the town came to Summit County.

The event was the construction of Dillon Dam, which began in the 1950s, when the surrounding area largely served as a makeshift camp for the workers building the dam, completed on Dec. 17, 1963.

Silverthorne was incorporated as a town four years later in 1967. At the time, President Lyndon B. Johnson was ramping up the U.S. presence in Vietnam, gas was 33 cents a gallon and The Doors had just released their self-titled album.

Since then, the town has steadily grown decade after decade, both in geographic size and in population.

In fact, Summit County was believed to be the fastest growing county in the country from 1970 to 1980, with a 232 percent increase in its permanent-resident population, just as Silverthorne was transitioning from a convenient refueling stop along Interstate 70 to a well-balanced community that now has over 4,500 people.

The county’s extreme growth slowed in the 1980s but didn’t stop. It ramped up again in the 1990s with the population more than doubling.

Meanwhile, from the 1970s through the 1980s, Silverthorne remained on the move, adding 1,059 acres by annexing the Eagles Nest neighborhood, bringing in the outlet mall and adopting many of its zoning and administrative regulations.

After the turn of the century, Silverthorne made two more big moves, annexing a pair of major subdivisions in the Maryland Creek Ranch and Smith Ranch properties, both of which are still being developed today.

At the same time, Silverthorne has undertaken other significant development projects, including the opening of a $9 million performing arts center just this summer.

“We feel like we’re the new kids on the block,” said Blair McGary, the town’s marketing and culture manager. “Silverthorne is 50 years old, which in municipal years is pretty young, and we’re really excited not just about the foundation we’ve created in the last decade, but what the next 50 years are going to look like.”

Referencing a modern vision for the town and applauding the community that brought it to where it is today, Bulter said he just hopes to be around for the next 50 years to see what happens.

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