Saddlerock Society to open historic home to the public |

Saddlerock Society to open historic home to the public

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Robin Theobald and the newly formed Saddlerock Society want to bring a piece of Breckenridge history back to life.

The Barney Ford house at the corner of Washington Avenue and Main Street in Breckenridge has been sequestered behind a chain-link fence for decades, and now Theobald wants to open it up to the public as a museum.

It’s all part of the efforts of the Saddlerock Society, a new nonprofit organization comprising the house’s owners, Robin and Patty Theobald and Randy Hodges, historian Larry Gilliland and Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula. The group is named after the Saddlerock Restaurant, one of many business endeavors undertaken by the home’s original owner, Barney Lancelot Ford.

Ford, who started his life as a plantation slave, and his wife, Julia, moved to Breckenridge in 1860 and operated a miners’ boardinghouse on the northwest corner of Ski Hill Road and Main Street. The couple moved to Denver in 1861 after the sheriff kicked Ford off his mining claim. At the time, blacks were not allowed to own land.

They returned in 1879 and began construction on a house at the corner of Adams and Main streets, which is now The Photo Shop. The home on Washington and Main was built in 1882.

Ford, who, despite his status as a black, had light skin and blue eyes, owned numerous restaurants and hotels in Denver and Cheyenne, Wyo., and was considered a prominent businessman in Breckenridge.

“The museum will show that while blacks did come west, they comprised a very small percentage of people, yet they did influence Colorado history,” said town historian Rebecca Waugh. “It will also provide to the Breckenridge community historic resources, artifacts and knowledge about the Fords.”

The Saddlerock Society wants to honor that legacy, and its members are beginning to prioritize tasks, identify funding opportunities, develop operating plans and determine the role a partner – possibly the town – could play in the building’s restoration.

Town officials see the reopening of the 1882 house as one more way to show off the town’s cultural and historical assets. According to Mamula, Waugh must first determine the extent of restoration needed.

“The house is in very good shape,” she said. “It could be opened without a grant and with a little elbow grease. But replicating wallpapers and bringing the interior back to the era … that’s going to take time. It’s going to depend on how together the Saddlerock Society wants the museum to be.”

Theobald agreed.

“There are some modern elements in there, like hot-water baseboard heating, that aren’t entirely accurate,” he said of his childhood home. “We have to decide if it’s more important to open soon and deal with things like that some time in the future.”

Waugh will work with historical preservation experts to ensure restoration efforts won’t exempt the building from national registered landmark status.

The house was built by Elias Nashold, whose trademarks included square bay windows and diamond-shaped insets on the exterior trim.

The house includes five rooms: a dining room, a sitting room, formal parlor, bedroom and a small room that might have been a butler’s pantry, Waugh said. There is no kitchen because the Fords owned a restaurant that originally sat on the front of the property on Main Street.

At the turn of the century, someone added a bathroom and another small room to the rear of the house.

“It’s a magnificent house,” Waugh said. “It’s a beautiful piece of Breckenridge. The Theobald family loved this building and truly has taken care of it. It has a wonderful spirit of place about it.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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