Volume 6 No. 2

South Park City Historical Foundation Newsletter

September 2010

Our Mission Statement: To acquire, refurbish, and interpret artifacts and historic structures unique to a 19th century Colorado mining town; and to maintain exhibits that best represent to visitors the typical personal and professional lifestyles of that period.


During the early part of the twentieth century, a member of a rare breed of humanity slipped, unobtrusively, into the South Park scene. He was one of those people who had the foresight to see value in the relics of the past - the things that the less astute discarded as "junk." The man was Leon H. Snyder, attorney from Colorado Springs, and he would leave an indelible mark on the area. His reason for coming was recreation. For some forty years, he found respite from his work schedule fishing the Park's many streams. During that time, he became keenly aware that time, neglect and vandalism were taking their toll on the remains of the mining era.

After discussing the dilemma with Everett Bair, the unofficial historian of the Park, he decided that the best way to preserve that history was to move representative period buildings to a single site where they'd have benefit of police and fire protection. He contacted other individuals who were of like mind, and in 1957, the South Park Historical Foundation was organized. The site selected was on the outskirts of Fairplay. The area was steeped in history and was in close proximity to many of the abandoned camps. Land and buildings still standing there were purchased, and an inventory of other available buildings was made. Rights to the most appropriate of these were secured by donations or purchase.

In the summer of 1957, the move was on! A professional mover was hired, and a volunteer labor force was charged with laying foundations.

By the end of that summer, six buildings had been moved to Fairplay. Together with the seven already on the site, they formed the beginnings of Colorado's newest mining town.

A museum visit offers in addition to family fun and education, great photo and painting opportunities capturing the life and time of the pioneers and miners in the late 1880s in South Park, Colorado.

The summer of 1958 was a busy one. Additional buildings were moved in, and restoration work was in full swing. Various civic groups took on the responsibility of collecting artifacts and furnishing the buildings. The families of Park County embraced the project and scoured their attics, basements and barns for appropriate artifacts. Roughly 40,000 items were donated.

In 1959, exactly 100 years from the first gold find, South Park City was opened to the public as an endorsed project of the Colorado "Rush to the Rockies" celebration. For thousands of visitors, the reconstructed mining town turned back the clock to a lustier time.

During the ensuing years, other representative and sometimes endangered structures have been moved to the museum site. Additional artifacts have been donated and new exhibits developed.

Today 35 original buildings stand in tribute to the Colorado Goldrush and to the men and women who lived it. Fairplay's "ghosttown" recalls for the visitor, the romance of a by-gone era.

Bricks-n-Bottles - Preserving the past - investing in the future.

Ten years before Colorado became a state, Leonard Summer built a small log structure and began producing South Park Lager Beer to quench the thirst of pioneers and miners in and around South Park City. It was a modest beginning of what was to become the Summer Brewery in what was later to be known as the thriving town of Fairplay. Business flourished during the height of the gold rush era, but sadly tragedy was about to strike in early fall.

On September 27, 1873, a fire completely destroyed the brewery and most of town of Fairplay. In 1875, Leonard built a two-story stone building constructed of red sandstone quarried from nearby Red Hill. This building still stands today under the watchful care of the South Park Historical Foundation. In 1879 the Summer Saloon was erected to provide an outlet for the brewery. In 1893 a third story was added to the brewery to provide living quarters for Leonard's family until their permanent home was built. The brewery was in operation well into the 1890s producing 40-50 barrels of premium lager beer a day! Needless to say, the Summer Brewery was the cornerstone of the Fairplay business community. Today, it remains as the cornerstone of South Park City and a vivid reminder of those who came before us.

After several years of preservation and rehabilitation by the South Park Historical Foundation, the building was open to the public in 1959. For over 50 years it has served as the primary museum of South Park City where numerous exhibits have been displayed. While much has been done to maintain the building over the decades, it is now time to make a major commitment to preserve and protect this important historic landmark. Over the years the building has deteriorated and a recent State Historic Structure Assessment points out that repairs are needed for the building foundation, exterior stone work, roof, windows, doors, interior displays as well as a completely new electrical system. The total cost of this rehabilitation is estimated to be $197,000. Several grants have been applied for but most of them require 25 per cent, or more, in matching funds before they are considered. In order to meet our obligation for matching funds, the Board of Trustees has established a donor program known as Bricks-n-Bottles - Preserving the past - investing in the future. To recognize our donors, we are announcing a Bricks-n-Bottles

One display will be a wall of antique bottles with the donor's name prominently displayed on the label. The bottles will be of various sizes and colors depending upon the amount of the donation. Small amber bottles will be $50, large amber bottles will be $250, and large colored bottles will be $500. The second display will be a brick floor near one of the entrances to the brewery.

The bricks, available in two sizes, will be permanently engraved with the donor's custom inscription. The small brick, for a $250 donation, will be 4" x 8" and will have space for three lines of text, 16-20 characters each. The large brick, for a $500 donation, will be 8" x 8" and will have space for eight lines of text, 16-20 characters each. The Bricks-n-Bottles program is our way of recognizing our donors and their generous contributions to preserving the historic Summer Brewery. Donations may be made online at www.southparkcity.org. You may also send your donations to South Park Historical Foundation, Inc., 100 4th Street, P.O. Box 634, Fairplay, CO 80440. Or, you may make your donation in person at the entrance to South Park City in Fairplay. Donation forms are available online or at the South Park City Visitor Center. All donations are tax deductable. Article contributed by James Sapp/ Trustee

From the President, Harley Hamilton

Our annual Living History Day, on August 14, was great fun for all ages. We had lots of volunteers dressed up in 1880s costumes, live events and great weather. With almost 500 visitors, we set an attendance record over the weekend.

The Gold Canyon Gun Fighters preformed three times on Saturday and on Sunday with humorous shoot-outs and story telling of the old west. Monarch Productions had their people in 1890s costumes mingling with the visitors, and one member of the Buffalo Soldiers Re-enactment Group was present.

Live music was provided by Carole and Randy Barnes of Buena Vista and by banjo player, Steve Swanson. Other regular volunteers, Jimmy and John Vitt were there in cowboy attire with their horses and provided horseback rides for the kids. Ladies from Colorado Springs demonstrated how clothes were washed in a tub the old fashioned way. Annie and Chuck Monsen, Beth and Erik Swanson, Hugh Williams and Joan Condon were there to help with the 1890s re-enactment scenes. Our Board members and their spouses and staff members showed up in costumes, too, and provided service and entertainment for everyone attending.

It seems that I always write about the big or overall happenings at South Park City. I want to mention an interesting item accomplished after three years of searching. The chandeliers in Rache's Saloon finally are working. For the past 52 years they had hung there without the glass shades. I found a lamp restorer in Maine that had the perfect amber glass shades to match the brass chandeliers. We rewired them, bought 1890s filament type bulbs, and added the glass shades. This is just one of the many small restoration projects going on constantly at South Park City.“

Our 2010 Living History Day was the Best Attended Family Event Ever!

Over 60 costume-clad volunteers interacted with the many visitors.

The first informative historical trail markers with added drawings or photographs have been placed in front of some of the museum’s exhibits. They are enjoyable to look at and most informative. Watch for many more to come by next year.

October 15 is the official closing date for South Park City Museum and it will re-open on May 15, 2011 for visitors. Ifyou are in the area, please join in the caroling this December in front of the giant Christmas tree and the gates of South Park City. We wish you all a blessed Holiday Season – see you again... next year!

Everyone at South Park City