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Summit County Real Estate History: Mapping the Original Homesteaders

Published: April 25, 2022

Breckenridge Ski Area HistoryWhile the municipalities in Summit County comprise some of the country’s most loved ski towns, we didn’t start as a skiing community. Part of what makes our winter wonderland unique is our rich history that began during the Gold Rush Era, dating back nearly two centuries.

Thanks to a new interactive project by the Summit Historical Society, you can now travel 160 years back into Summit County real estate history!

The Homestead Mapping Project was created to track the beginnings of Summit County land ownership. The map displays 160-acre parcels from Breckenridge to Heeny – in color – and includes the names of approximately 300 original homeowners who traveled from far and wide to our mountain community to put down roots, mine for gold, and live in what we believe to be the most incredible place on earth.

“What we want people to do is to get curious about how that land was used before the reservoir, before the subdivision, before the Walmart,” Sally Queen, executive director of the historical society, told the Summit Daily News in a recent profile of the mapping project. 

Recent funds from a Summit Foundation grant allowed the Historical Society to hire Will Mertens, a Summit Historical Society intern with a master’s degree in geographic information systems, who created the map.

Mertens obtained land papers from the Bureau of Land Management, known as the General Land Office during Breckenridge’s early years. Mertens then wrote a code to extract data from the land papers, such as property boundaries, ownership names, and dates. That information is displayed on the map.

Mertens and Queen also teamed up with Summit County local Alan Rice, who grew up on The Rice Family Ranch – one of the parcels in what is currently Keystone – before it was sold and turned into Summit Cove. 

Rice, 85, recalls life in Summit County during a much slower era before our local ski resorts were developed. He said he is thrilled for people to gain more profound knowledge and understanding of Summit County’s colorful history through the map.

“It was the best place in the world to be raised,” Rice told the Summit Daily. “We had lots of chores to do, but we also had lots of fun.”

The Historical Society hopes the map will tell more stories of Summit County homesteaders like Rice and the Rice Family Ranch, ultimately telling the storied history of our beloved mountain community. 

Access the interactive map by visiting SummitHistorical.org/homesteads.

People who have family connections to the original Summit County homesteads can reach out to the historical society by emailing mail@summithistorical.org

Want to learn more about the history of Summit County real estate and homeownership? Stay up-to-date with our blog by signing up for our newsletter!

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