Breckenridge Town HistoryProspectors entered what is now Summit County (then part of Utah Territory) during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, soon after the placer gold discoveries east of Breckenridge near Idaho Springs. Breckenridge was founded to serve the miners working rich placer gold deposits discovered along the Blue River. Placer gold mining was soon joined by hard rock mining, as prospectors followed the gold to its source veins in the hills. Gold in some upper gravel benches east of the Blue River was recovered by hydraulic mining. Gold production decreased in the late 1800s, but revived in 1908 by gold dredging operations along the Blue River and Swan River. The Breckenridge mining district is credited with production of about one million troy ounces (about 31,000 kilograms) of gold. The gold mines around Breckenridge are all shut down, although some are open to tourist visits. The characteristic gravel ridges left by the gold dredges can still be seen along the Blue River and Snake River, and the remains of a dredge are still afloat in a pond off the Swan River.
Notable among the early prospectors was Edwin Carter, a log cabin naturalist who decided to switch from mining to collecting wildlife specimens. His log cabin built in 1875 exists today and has been recently renovated by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance with interactive exhibits and a small viewing room with a short creative film on his life and the early days around Breckenridge.
Harry Farncomb found the source of the French Gulch placer gold on Farncomb Hill in 1878. His strike, Wire Patch, consisted of alluvial gold in wire, leaf and crystalline forms. By 1880, he owned the hill. Farncomb later discovered a gold vein, which became the Wire Patch Mine. Other vein discoveries included Ontario, Key West, Boss, Fountain, and Gold Flake.
The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance reports that in the 1930s, a women's group in Breckenridge stumbled upon an 1880s map that failed to include Breckenridge. They speculated that Breckenridge had never been officially annexed into the United States, and was thus still considered "No Man's Land". This was completely false—official US maps did include Breckenridge—but these women created an incredibly clever marketing campaign out of this one map. In 1936 they invited the Governor of Colorado to Breckenridge to raise a flag at the Courthouse officially welcoming Breckenridge into the union—and he came. There was a big party, and the entire event/idea of Breckenridge being left off the map made national news. The "No Man's Land" idea later morphed into a new theme of Breckenridge being referred to as "Colorado's Kingdom", and the theme of the town's independent spirit is still celebrated to today during the annual "Kingdom Days" celebrations every June.
In December 1961, Breckenridge opened its ski area with the cutting of several trails on the lower face of Peak 8, connected to town by Ski Hill Road. In the 50-plus years since its inception, the ski slopes have expanded onto Peak 9 and Peak 10 on the south end of town, and Peak 7 and Peak 6 to the northwest of town.
Breckenridge was the filming location of the 1989 comedy National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and the town stood in for Aspen in Dumb and Dumber.
On November 3, 2009, voters passed ballot measure 2F by a nearly 3 to 1 margin (73%), which legalized marijuana possession for adults. The measure allows possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and also decriminalizes the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia. Possession became legal January 1, 2010. Possession was still illegal by state law, however, until the passage of Colorado Amendment 64 in 2012. The measure was written mainly to be symbolic. In 2015, the voters in the Town of Breckenridge voted, by a margin of 3 to 1, to not allow canibus in the historic district including Main Street.