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The county seat (1860, 9,603 feet) was named for U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge but changed the spelling of its name after he joined the Confederacy. Prospectors first prowled the confluence of the Blue and Swan rivers and French Gulch in 1859. Fearing the Utes and the weather, they built a stockade called Fort Mary B, for Mary Bigelow, the only woman in the party.

After obtaining a post office in 1860 and capturing the county seat from Parkville in 1862, Breckenridge began a series of bonanzas and busts. Gold in the 1860s, silver in the 1880s, and turn-of-the-century gold dredging bankrolled rosy times. During hard times, some who had built homes and institutions on the outskirts of town moved them closer to the center. As many structures had no foundations, Breckenridge could accommodate its shrinking and stretching with this game of musical buildings. To this day, bed and building hopping continues to be common in a town with roughly 1,400 residents and some 23,000 bed pillows, the indicator by which the tourist bureau attempts to keep track of the town's accommodations.

Since the Breckenridge Ski Area opened in December 1961, the town's building stock has grown tremendously. A 1980 National Register District designation has helped preserve approximately 250 structures in the center of town. Hospitable landmarks include a half-dozen nineteenth-century dwellings converted to bed and breakfast inns.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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