When we go to someplace for vacation, we often find ourselves headed to destinations which we may never have been before for the chance to see something new. For this reason, we can sometimes travel without truly appreciating or understanding the complex history that led to the birth of the city or destination we now find ourselves in. By learning this unique history and the tales that lie hidden within the past, we gain the ability to not only enjoy our vacation, but truly appreciate what we are seeing and the long journey taken to get there. If you find yourself traveling to our lovely Colorado town this travel season, read on to learn about the fascinating Winter Park history of our small mountain town!
The area in which Winter Park finds itself is not a new area for humans to inhabit but was rather the home of two nomadic Native American tribes known as the Arapaho and Ute. However, around the 1820s, the first pioneers came and laid eyes upon the beautiful forests and mountains, falling in love with it as many of us in the modern era have in turn. It wasn’t long until the first permanent homestead was built in 1850, officially marking the start of what would eventually becoming a thriving tourist destination.
The Early Years of the Railroad
During the start of what would eventually become Winter Park, the main game in the area was the town of Tabernash, well known for their railroad industry, which was booming at the time, allowing riches to flow through the small mountain area. However, nothing is ever meant to last, and in 1928 the Moffat Tunnel was built, which allowed for most to bypass the town and soon the railroad industry that had put it on the map was drying up. However, the collapse of the once prosperous town wasn’t to get in the way of one determined local named Linus Oliver “Doc” Graves, who moved to the area in 1922 to build a local drug store; unknown to himself at the time, this decision would eventually lead to the founding of what would later be called Winter Park.
The Birth of a Town
After the collapse of the railroad industry, Linus decided that he wasn’t quite ready to call it quits and return home. The young man took his family and moved to the nearby town of Fraser. However, it wasn’t meant to be, as the rapid evolution of highways, cars, and roads resulted in the creation of U.S Highway 40, which would have gone straight through his store, resulting in another move. However, he was determined to live the quiet mountain life he so dreamed of and once more moved, purchasing 10 acres of land in 1932 in current day Winter Park. In this new area, Linus built a total of 10 small tourist cabins which they rented mainly to hunters and fishermen. However, as the area became more popular, they opened a small café, more cabins, and even a small service station which was given the nickname “Doc’s Place.” Within three years, several more business had opened, and the population nearly doubled, giving hint to the popular destination that would soon develop.
The Rise of the Resort
While the area was popular with hunters, outdoorsmen, and fishermen, the mayor of nearby Denver had a bout of inspiration and saw that the future of the town was in winter sports and tourism. Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton had the now famous ski resort built. For many years the resort stayed within control of the city of Denver, but eventually it would be sold to an investment group who would turn the humble ski slopes into one of the most popular and renowned ski areas in the US. Eventually, in homage to the ski slopes that put the town on the map of winter lovers and enthusiasts everywhere, the town was officially named Winter Park, which it has retained since. Though much has changed since the world of railroad kept the local towns afloat and different technologies and faces have come and gone, the area still retains the beauty that first drew settlers to the area so long ago.
As you can see, Winter Park has a rich and diverse history that truly gives one an appreciation of the long journey and quick rise of the popular travel destination. If you find yourself curious about what other little tidbits and stories exist within the realms of its history, make sure you give Visit Winter Park Lodging a ring at 970-363-7458 or book a stay with us online today!