This is the residence of Barney L. Ford, an escaped slave, who later became a prominent entrepreneur and black civil rights pioneer in Colorado. It is one of Colorado's most amazing success stories.
Barney Ford was born into slavery in Virginia in 1822. His mother Phoebe was his inspiration through life and instilled in Barney the importance of education and learning to read. As a slave, Barney, who did not have a last name at the time, worked at many tasks, including being a waiter and a cook on a riverboat and working in the gold fields of Georgia. Barney's mother died when he was a teenager and soon after he was able to escape the bonds of slavery and make his way north to Chicago via the underground railway.
In Chicago, Barney never forgot his mother's inspiration and continued his quest for knowledge. He read many books on classic literature, politics, and economics. He also learned the barber's trade. While in Chicago, Barney met and married Julia Lyoni and chose a middle and last name after seeing an impressive railroad locomotive in the Chicago rail yards with the name Lancelot Ford emblazoned on its side.
In 1851 Barney and his new wife struck out on a journey to the California gold fields by ship. When the ship detoured to a port in Nicaragua and Barney and Julia decided to remain. The Fords opened a small hotel and restaurant in Greytown, Nicaragua. The hotel and restaurant were successful, but the Fords left Nicaragua after several years due to the threat of war.
Fordcame to Colorado in 1860, still dreaming of striking it rich in the gold mining business. He came to Breckenridge to stake a claim but lost it all because of a dishonest lawyer. The Fords retreated to Denver to start again. There, he started a barber shop and impressed leading citizens with his eloquent speech and worldly knowledge. In 1863 the barbershop burned to the ground. Because of his reputation, he was able to borrow $9,000 from a local banker to build a new "first-rate" barbershop, restaurant, and hotel. This business was highly successful and he used the profits to build a much larger hotel called the Inter Ocean Hotel at 16 th & Blake Street in Denver.
Ford return to Breckenridge and opened a boarding house, a restaurant, and a barbershop. He had a new, and very fine house constructed behind the restaurant by one of Breckenridge's finest contractors. He also invested in various mining ventures and "grubstaked" miners with equipment and supplies. Highly sucessful the Fords became the wealthiest family in Breckenridge.
But catastrophe struck again, and the restaurant burned to the ground. Barney borrowed funds and opened the Saddle Rock Cafe.
In later life, Barney and Julia returned to Denver as wealthy and prominent citizens. Barney became deeply involved in politics and the fight for the rights of African Americans in Colorado. Barney Ford succeeded as a businessman, respected member of society, and a friend to all people. His portrait in the form of a stained glass window is in the Rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver in recognition of being an outstanding citizen of Colorado and a pioneer of free enterprise in the American West.
Directions: The Barney Ford House is located directly across Main Street from the Blue River Plaza to the East in Breckenridge. The address is 111 East Washington St. . Proceed up Washington Street East for one-half block and the entrance to Barney Ford House Museum will be on your right.
More information can be found at www.BreckHeritage.com