Every good mining camp needs a core of businesses to support the mining industry. Hotels, saloons, restaurants, mercantile, assay offices and more were essential to keep the miners mining and the flow of wealth into the community. In Breckenridge, the historic center of business was the intersection of Main and Lincoln Avenue up to Ridge Street. Here was found the concentration of essential services. The 100 Block of South Main Street was the liveliest with 19 saloons and dance halls for a few wild years.
The restaurants and bars profiled here are concentrated in the historic core of Breckenridge. The buildings started life as commercial enterprises and continue that tradition today. One retains its original name, still in use a century later. Another has always been a bar, under different names through the years. One had a long life as a pharmacy before becoming one of Breckenridge’s favorite restaurants.
While many buildings in Breckenridge have changed names, uses and owners over the years, we still call The Brown Hotel by its original moniker more than a century later. Located at 208 North Ridge Street, The Brown Hotel’s original building was constructed in the 1880s. In 1898 it was extensively remodeled to the Italianate style with ornate brackets, scrollwork and dropped pendants, a hipped-roof and canted bay windows. Breckenridge was a relatively wealthy mining town at this point in its history and The Brown Hotel was intended to attract the well-funded traveler. The building was extensively remodeled again in 2015 and connected to the old barn to the east. Today The Historic Brown Hotel and Foxes Den is a bar offering live music in the basement while the front parlor still retains the dimensions and feel of the Victorian-era receiving room.
Along the rollicking 100 Block of South Main Street was the Arcade Hotel, built in 1892. Today we know it as Après Handcrafted Libations at 130 South Main Street. Harry Whitehead’s wife was the entrepreneur in the family; he constructed the building for her budding restaurant and hotel business. While many boarding houses were seedy joints or covers for prostitution, Jennie Whitehead became known as Breckenridge's "keeper of popular and homelike boardinghouses." The Arcade Building served many functions in its long life, including offices and Widows’ accommodations, returning to its roots as a restaurant with the growth of the ski business in the 1970s. For many years it was known as The Prospector Restaurant.
The Evans Pharmacy at 103 South Main Street was built in 1913 of brick and concrete during a trend in Breckenridge toward more substantial and permanent structures. Today we know it as The Motherloaded Tavern. The site, so close to the busy commercial intersection of Main Street and Lincoln Avenue, originally housed a wooden, false-fronted building for businesses including a clothing store and a grocery. The scene changed in 1913 when Harry Evans moved the old wood building and constructed a modern concrete and brick Rexall Pharmacy there. In addition to drugs and remedies, Mr. Evans stocked the store with fine toiletries, choice cigars and tobaccos, books, stationary, art goods, even pianos. The drugstore became the Coltman Pharmacy in 1935 as Breckenridge declined through the Depression years. The commercial layout of the large space and the pressed tin ceiling still tell the story of the original historic businesses.
Breckenridge’s oldest bar began life in the 1880s as a saloon, possibly owned by Herman Strauss. Today it is The Gold Pan Saloon, located at 103 North Main Street. From the outside, the building appears to be two separate structures stuck together, and that is indeed the case. The southern portion is the 1880s original; the northern half was added in 1905, and the two businesses were joined in 1911 with the addition of the second story covering the two. For many years, the northern section was Bradleys’ Bowling and Billiards. The Gold Pan Saloon has been a fixture in downtown Breckenridge for well over a century. Today, libations still flow from the beautiful Brunswick bar. A 21st century remodel included a winery in the basement for The Carboy Winery.
To learn more about Breckenridge’s historic buildings and the history of the town, take a guided Walk Through History Tour or Behind Swinging Doors Saloon Tour offered by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. There are over 150 contributing structures to Breckenridge's Historic District, many of which are home to restaurants. Read our other blog articles for information on the four oldest buildings in town, restaurants in the oldest buildings and fine dining spots in fine old buildings.
written by Leigh Girvin