Our Building

McAdoo House

201 S Ridge St, Breckenridge, CO 80424

Designated on the National Register of Historic Places

Written by Dr. Sandra Mather

In the winter of 1881, M. Barndt constructed the original portion of this structure plus the addition to the north as well as an unfinished outbuilding to the south for a total cost of $900. The year 1881 fell at the beginning of the second gold boom in Breckenridge. The first boom of “easy gold” ended in the mid-1860s when many returned east to fight in the Civil War. Money for investing in hard rock gold mines became available in the early 1880s. New techniques for extracting the gold promised companies enticing profits. The population of Breckenridge boomed.

County records show that on August 16, 1881, Barndt sold the property, house and furnishings to saloonkeeper Luther B. Smart, whose saloon had been used as a polling place when the citizens voted to incorporate their growing town. Smart participated actively in the political life of the town. While living in the house, he served as a town trustee and as the fourth mayor of Breckenridge from 1883 to 1884. He served again as a trustee and as mayor from 1888 until 1890. Like other leading citizens of the town, he was a charter member of Breckenridge Lodge #47, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, which formed in September, 1882.

In 1884, Smart sold the property, buildings and furnishings to George Engle. George and his brother, Peter, both Masons, owned and operated the Engle Brothers Billiard Parlor and Saloon on the northeast corner of Ridge Street and Lincoln Avenue, where the Courthouse now sits. The brothers, who came from Switzerland, successfully ran the saloon and advertised a fire-proof safe for residents to store their valuables. People in town tended to trust saloonkeepers more than bankers, so the safe received plenty of use. Eventually tiring of the saloon business, George and Peter sold the saloon building, bought the vacant bank building across the street on the southeast corner of Lincoln Avenue and Ridge Street, and opened the Engle Bros. Exchange Bank in 1888. Peter also bought a ranch on the lower Blue River. George married Gertrude Briggle, a school teacher who taught in Montezuma and Breckenridge. They lived on the second floor of the bank building. Gertrude was the sister of William Briggle, a teller in the bank. William and his wife, Kathleen, owned the historic Briggle House at 104 N. Harris Street in Breckenridge.

George Engle, in 1888, sold his one-story, three-room house to William McAdoo, a carpenter who built many of the buildings in Breckenridge. McAdoo in 1885 had married Kittie Hardy. They purchased the home for their growing family. He and Kittie had 11 children. They built additions to the west and south sides of the building.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance map for 1886 shows the dwelling, still owned by George Engle, with an addition to the north side; the 1890 map shows an addition at the rear, on the west side; the 1896 map includes the new addition on the south side of the house.

Kittie Hardy McAdoo’s father, Charles Elzy Hardy, owned and published the Summit County Leader beginning in 1884. Kittie helped her father with the newspaper and became one of the first recognized newspaper women in the state of Colorado.

McAdoo originally came to Breckenridge as a placer (plasser) miner. He located his placer, which he called the Masonic placer, north of town and used hydraulic nozzles and sluicing techniques with water from Cucumber Gulch to extract the gold. When he realized that his property was “played out,” he offered it to the town and Masons in 1882 for use as a burial ground. Some of the ditches that brought water to the mining operations are still visible in the cemetery. Originally called the Masonic Placer Cemetery, it now bears the name Valley Brook Cemetery.

A number of owners have lived in or operated businesses in the McAdoo house since the turn of the twentieth century. Presently, the building is the home of Breckenridge Music.

Kittie Hardy McAdoo’s father and mother, Charles and Rachel Hardy, lived directly across the street in the building that now houses the Twist restaurant. The building was constructed in 1880 as the home of one of Breckenridge’s newspapers, the Summit County Leader, first published by the firm of Bishop and Caswell. It is interesting to note that citizens raised the $1450 cost to construct the building. The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps show there has been little change to the two-story building since 1880. By 1890, the small entrance appeared on the map; the 1896 map shows the addition of the bay window on the south side as well as a newly constructed shed to the rear of the building.

The Summit County Leader started publication July 31, 1880, nine days after the other major newspaper in town, the Daily Journal, started publication. The Journal offered papers for sale on July 22; the Leader on August 1. Charles E. Hardy became the editor in 1884 and operated the paper until 1892. After 1898, workers remodeled the structure for Mrs. Hardy to use as a residence.

Charles and Rachel both came from South Bend, Indiana where they had married in 1866. Charles died in 1910 and Rachel in 1919. Both are buried in Valley Brook Cemetery. The Hardy family included three children: Kate, born in 1867 and died in 1941; Estella, born in 1869 and died in 1941; and Lillian (called Mogi), born in 1875 and died in 1945. Mogi married Herbert Vogan, who served as marshal in Breckenridge from 1900 until 1902.

Newspaper editors filled the roles of booster and gadfly—praising when warranted but chiding if necessary. Notoriously partisan in their politics, they competed for readers and advertisers. While the Daily Journal, under the editorship of Jonathan C. Fincher, was Democratic, the Leader, under Hardy, was Republican. Fincher did not hide his dislike for the Leader. He felt that the Leader was “established to fleece the people of Summit County and it did its work well; it knifed its friends worse than its enemies.” He commented: “Our attention has been called to a copy of last week’s issue of the breech-clout from the cesspool on Lincoln Avenue. The editorial force has been increased. It now consists of a fool and a liar, both cowards.“ Not only words were exchanged in 1888: “Thursday afternoon the corners of Main Street and Lincoln Avenue were made a little lively by a rather unfriendly interview between the editors of the Journal and the Leader. Some very uncomplimentary remarks on both sides resulted in the Journal planting a light right hander among the whiskers of the Leader. The latter returned the compliment with a clip over the head from his cane. A second followed and a third on the side of the neck when the old one then applied the cane dodge and one blow on the Leader’s mug settled the business. The city funds were improved a little thereby.”

Rachel Hardy lived in the house until her death in 1919. When her daughters sold the house and property to W.B. Milne in 1925, it became known as the Milne House. Numerous individuals have owned the property since then.

In the late 1940s, the Theobald family bought and completed extensive renovations to the McAdoo House according to Robin Theobald. For several summers in the early 1950s, his grandmother occupied the southern apartment, one of two created during the renovation. A fire in 2001 precipitated another set of renovations. Theobald raised the buildings a few feet “straight up” and built a foundation with crawl space under the structure. During the renovations, the family found bone cupels (kuh pels’), used in the assaying process, and ore samples under the southern part of the house. Individual rooms feature a variety of wainscoting in each room:old doors in the front room; beaded ceiling from old Dillon in the east room; knotty pine paneling from the Barney Ford House in the southern room; and leftover cedar boards taken from the Theobald home.