Historic Places

Mining, tourism history preserved in Ward, Allenspark

Colorado’s rich history is being preserved through the efforts of locally- and nationally-designated historic places. Each month this year, the MMAC Monthly takes a region-by-region look at the many properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the mountain communities in Clear Creek, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties.

The passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 established the National Register and the process for adding properties to it. For a property to be eligible, it must meet at least one of four main criteria involving architectural styles, association with various aspects of social history and commerce, ownership and design/construction.

Western Boulder County is home to several former mining towns including Ward and Allesnpark along the Peak to Peak Highway. Ward was named for Calvin Ward, who prospected a claim on the site known as Miser’s Dream. The town boomed the following year with the discovery by Byrus W. Deardorff of the Columbia vein. Over the next several decades the population fluctuated, growing from several hundred to several thousand before declining once again. The mines in the area remained profitable for many decades, with one mine eventually producing over 2 million ounces of silver. The city was incorporated in June 1896 and the railroad reached the area in 1898, arriving over the Switzerland Trail. In 1901 over 50 buildings were destroyed by a devastating fire, but the profitability of the mines led to the immediate rebuilding of the town. It was largely deserted by the 1920s, but construction of the Peak-to-Peak Highway in the 1930s led to a revival.

While it was first visited by Native Americans and later by trappers, Allen’s Park—now Allenspark—got its name from a miner who built the first cabin in the area. During the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859, Allenspark’s namesake, Alonzo Nelson Allen, left his family in Wisconsin to seek his fortune in the territory that became Colorado. Allen prospected and ran cattle in Allenspark and built a cabin there in 1864. The cabin burned down in 1894, the year he died. The village of Allenspark is situated on part of the original George Mack homestead, site of Crystal Springs, an excellent water source. After Mack’s homestead patent was granted on January 7, 1895, he sold some of the land to the Allens Park Land and Townsite Co. which filed a plat for the village on May 23, 1896, and began selling small building lots.

Switzerland Trail of America
In 1881, the Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad laid rails from Boulder west to the town of Sunset, and in the 1890s the successor Colorado and North Western completed the line to Ward. Until the collapse of the local mining economy after World War I, the railroad served the area’s mines and mining community. The line winds past several local historically prominent mines, including the Blue Bird Mine and a few miles from the Caribou Mine in the then-bustling  town of Caribou.

Modoc Mill
The circa 1890 Modoc Mill is a good example of industrial architecture associated with Boulder County’s mining history. This concentration mill of wood and metal reaches four stories in height.  The uppermost story of hewn logs received the ore.  Here gravity bins held the ore until it was fed into a crusher and the stamping apparatus below. The 18 foot high stamping apparatus, manufactured by Griffen and Wedge of Zanesville, Ohio, consists of 30 stamps each weighing 950 pounds that are arranged in three banks of ten.  Both the mill and nearby mine closed for the last time in 1920.

wardchurchWard Congregational Church
Dating from 1894, the rectangular one-story, wood frame church is built into a hillside with its side walls barely visible from the street. The steeply pitched front gabled roof is topped with a bell tower. The walls are clapboard, and there are decorative bargeboards held in place with rosette-shaped fasteners.  Lancet windows flank the entry door, and a round window is in the gable end.  Georgia O’Keeffe came to Ward in 1917 and painted landscapes and an oil painting of the building, Ward, Church Bell.

Ward School (Ward Town Hall/Post Office)  
This 1898 wood frame rural school survived a fire that destroyed 53 local buildings when it was draped in wet blankets to serve as a fire line. It now serves as the town hall, post office and library for the town.

bunceBunce School
Constructed in 1888, the building is one of two log rural schoolhouses remaining in the county. Built in 1888 by V.H. (Dick) Rowley, the school is an excellent example of the early educational structures in the high mountain areas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It was named after J.H. Bunce, an early settler in the area and served the local communities of Raymond, Heathermeade and Peaceful Valley. In spring 1996, the members of Hilltop Guild purchased it.

Thunder Lake Trail-Bluebird Lake Trail
The trail is associated with the early resort industry and tourism in the Estes Park region, and first appears on a tourist guide map in 1910.  During the late 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) performed trail maintenance and improvements.  The trail design reflects National Park Service Naturalistic Design of the 1920s through the 1940s.

Western Boulder County  
Switzerland Trail of America
Location: Ward to Eldora
Date Listed: National Register, Sept. 18, 1980

Modoc Mill
Location: 4 miles north of Ward
Date Listed: National Register, Dec. 27, 1978

Ward Congregational Church
Location: 41 Modoc, Ward
Date Listed: National Register, August 8, 1989

Ward School (Post Office/Town Hall)
Location: 66 Columbia, Ward
Date Listed: National Register, Aug. 3, 1989

Bunce School
Location: Colo. Hwy. 7, south of Allenspark
Date Listed: National Register, May 22, 1986

Thunder Lake Trail-Bluebird Lake Trail
Location: Allenspark vicinity, RMNP
Date Listed: National Register, Jan. 29, 2008

B&W Photos: Switzerland Trail rail route west of Boulder. The train on right bound for Ward and train on left is bound for Eldora. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library/Western History Collection

Originally published in the August 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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