License plates, mining, and a house frozen in time

licenseplates_4476Can Be Enjoyed This Summer Courtesy of the Gilpin County Historical Society

by Heather Worrell

The Gilpin County Historical Society kicked off their season with the opening of the museum at 228 E. 1st High Street in Central City on Saturday, May 23, 2015. The Gilpin County Historical Society is committed to preserving, promoting and interpreting Gilpin’s rich history and has been housed at this location since 1970. There are several different locations in Central City that are open throughout the summer and a few are even open year round.

The “schoolhouse” history museum is open from Memorial through Labor Day, Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 am – 4 pm and is located behind Johnny Z’s Casino. The museum is the old Central City Schoolhouse built in 1870. Inside the two-story stone building there are many fantastic treasured collections that present life in Gilpin County from the 1860s to the present. You will learn about everything from mining, to the county’s submarine, Gilpin County’s key players, to an old classroom and recreated Main Street.

This year the curator, David Forsythe, has a very interesting and unique exhibit at the history museum that highlights the history of license plates in Colorado called What Nice Licenses! The History of Colorado License Plates. It is the only exhibit of its kind in Colorado and the last time one was done was by the State Historical Society was back in the 1960s. The oldest license place in the exhibit is from 1913 and runs all the way through to the present day. Forsythe is a minor license plate collector and enjoys them. The American License Plates Collectors Association lent many of the plates to the Gilpin Historical Society for this special exhibit. The great, great grandson of Henry Teller made this connection with the ALPCA possible, as he is also an avid collector.

The Coeur d’Alene Mine Shaft House is open for tours during the summer weekends from 12 – 2 pm. This mine was opened in 1885 and continued operations for several decades into the 1940s. In 1986, heavy snows caused the old shaft house building to collapse. In 1994 the mine was restored using gaming revenue and funds from the Colorado Historical Society. It is a wonderful opportunity to see the inner workings of an old mine shaft house and a great collection of antique mining equipment. To access the mine, turn onto Nevadaville Road from the Central City Parkway and take the second right turn. The incredible views of Central City and Black Hawk are a must see.

Let us not forget the additional locations the Gilpin Historical Society has available for tours year round. You can start at Washington Hall, across the street from the Opera House in Central City. Docents are available to give tours of the Teller House, Opera House, and Thomas House from Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm during the summer. The Thomas House was built in 1867 and purchased by the Thomas family in 1894. The home, a museum since 1987, is “frozen in time” and looks mostly the same as when the Thomas family moved to Denver in 1913.

Membership to the Gilpin Historical Society provides free admission to the History Museum and Thomas House. Discounts, newsletters and other benefits are also offered to members. You can visit or call 303-582-5283 for additional information about membership or visiting the museums. There are many upcoming events you won’t want to miss this summer including High Tea at the Stroehle House, the 27th Annual Cemetery Crawl, and the Central City Beer Festival.

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