Breckenridge’s historic buildings that survive in the 21st Century have lived many lives, from boarding houses and saloons in their earliest days to private homes, businesses and restaurants today. Many of Breckenridge’s restaurants occupy some of the oldest buildings in town. It’s a unique Breckenridge experience to enjoy a fine meal while sitting in the same room that the early pioneers built 140 years ago. The oldest buildings in Breckenridge date from the 1860s, just a few years after the founding of the town in 1859. You can read about those structures on this blog post. These restaurants in historic buildings date from the 1880s, an era when Breckenridge experienced a building boom due to advances in mining techniques and the impending arrival of the railroad:
Fatty’s Restaurant and Pizzeria at 106 South Ridge Street was first constructed in December 1880 as Mr. Whitney Newton’s Dry Goods store. Catering to the needs of miners and their families, the store offered books, shoes, clothing, and furnishings. By 1894, the structure had a new purpose: the Peabody’s Colorado House boarding house. Owned by the Peabody family for well over a half-century, the name stuck and continues to this day on the façade of the building. In 1970 the Colorado House was resurrected as a restaurant and hotel for the burgeoning ski business in Breckenridge. In several Oral Histories, long-time locals share that cheap rooms were offered upstairs and a dining room with occasional live music downstairs. In 2002 the building was remodeled to emulate its original form with a classic false front. Fatty’s Restaurant was opened in 1975 by Richard Poveromo and continues today under new ownership.
False-fronted buildings were common in the early mining camps to give substance to a humble log structure and to provide plenty of billboard space for advertising the business within. Amazing Grace at 213 East Lincoln Avenue exemplifies this architectural style, with the roof hidden behind the façade. Built in 1880 as a restaurant to serve businesses on Lincoln Avenue, Breckenridge’s “second main street,” it is a restaurant again today. Known as the Walker Cottage, it also served as a surveyor’s office and residence. In the 1950s, it was the home of Helen and Earl Knight. During Breckenridge’s quiet years, between the end of mining and the beginning of skiing, residents did anything they could to survive. Earl was a miner, excavator and artist; he created the murals on the pediments of the Old County Courthouse across the street.
The Hardy House at 200 South Ridge Street was also built in 1880, a big year for construction in Breckenridge. Today it houses Twist Restaurant. It was originally built with funds raised from the citizens of Breckenridge for the Summit County Leader newspaper, which started publishing in July 1880. Charles E. Hardy took over the newspaper in 1884, and operated it until 1892. As with many buildings in historic Breckenridge, it was repurposed into Mrs. Hardy’s residence in 1898, where she continued to reside until her death in 1919.
The oldest structure to house a restaurant on Main Street today is the Springmeyer Building at 105 North Main Street, now known as the Breckenridge Tap House. Historians date the building to 1883, though old newspapers found in the wall go back to 1873. In its early days, it was a boarding house, various commercial enterprises, and later a residence. Standing the test of time thanks to its high-quality craftsmanship, the building is a fine example of early pioneer log construction, with hewn log walls and dovetail corner notching. Patches of old newspapers lining the walls for insulation are still readable today.
The Springmeier run on Peak 8 at the Breckenridge Ski Area is named in honor of Alva Springmeyer, a notable character during the transition period in Breckenridge from mining town to ski town. He was known for hanging out on the bench in front of his house and stopping vehicles coming in to town to check and make sure they were “nice people.” Maybe we can attribute Breckenridge’s friendly atmosphere to Alva Springmeyer’s careful screening process.
We hope you enjoy your time experiencing Breckenridge’s history in our many restaurants that remind us of times past. To learn more about Breckenridge’s historic buildings, sign up for the Walk Through History Tour or the Behind Swinging Doors Saloon Tour.
written by Leigh Girvin