Building on art in Breckenridge |

Building on art in Breckenridge


Five years from now, or maybe less, people will see the concept of a Breckenridge Arts District in full flower. But take a look now to see the buds forming.

In time, the corridor running from Riverwalk Center through Blue River Plaza, up Washington Avenue to Ridge Street will be a pedestrian-friendly pathway dedicated to history and culture.

The goal is to accentuate what Breckenridge already offers in history, music, the performing arts and the fine arts. It’s taking advantage of Breckenridge being a real town at the foot of a ski hill.

The concept took root when the town bought Shamus O’Toole’s Roadhouse Saloon on Ridge Street and converted it into a community theater. The lobby has become a showplace for local artists, as well.

The town also bought the parking lot next to the theater and the old barns on Washington, to get control of land for the future district.

The momentum continued when the Theobald family decided to celebrate the history embedded in the old Barney Ford House at the corner of Washington and Main. The newly formed Saddle Rock Society wants to turn the house into a historical icon dedicated to one of the town’s original success stories – a story made all the more compelling because Ford was a former slave.

Saddle Rock recently tore down the forbidding chain link fence around the house, one of the best acts of urban renewal the town has seen.

The town is now focusing on the Bailey building, which sits on Blue River Plaza. Plans are under review for turning it into a public building that would feature historical exhibits.

Earlier this year, the town council decided to forego an effort to build a permanent performing arts center and to continue with a seasonal tent structure at the Riverwalk Center.

The elected officials, including now-Mayor Ernie Blake, agreed the cost of a permanent, year-round building would rob the arts district of future funds – and the arts district was the real priority.

They also agreed a permanent structure would require even more operational subsidy than what currently is committed.

We think the decision is a wise one. If there are to be compelling reasons to invest in a permanent facility somewhere down the line, a thriving arts district will be one of them. So, first things first.

In the meantime, the town has to figure out how best to replace the music tent fabric, which is nearing the end of its useful life. As part of that, there could be some redesign of the facility and acoustical improvements.

Undeniably, town officials are investing in arts district projects as a way of increasing economic vitality in the town core. Destination visitors, as we all know, now want more than just athletic pursuits.

But locals should be happy for the commitment. Anytime history and the arts are supported, the quality of community goes up for everybody.

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