Breckenridge Sawmill Museum Development

wakefield 001Sept. 2014 wakefield constructionwakefield 004steam engine

History of the Wakefield Sawmill

The Wakefield Sawmill on Boreas Pass Road was built in about 1938 by Marion Wakefield and operated until the fall of 1959. "Wakey", as he was known to locals during that period, came west from St. Louis during the Depression with his wife Zella. He worked as a carpenter on the construction of the Green Mountain Reservoir and built the sawmill in the late 1930s. He also attempted to develop some small mines on the site. The mill closed down in 1959, shortly before Wakefield’s death. Within several hundred yards of the Wakefield site, another important sawmill - the Jacot mill - operated in the early 1900s.

Project Outline

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance is building a hands-on historical exhibit to interpret the history of sawmilling and its relationship to our local mining history. Nationwide, very few sawmill exhibits exist to tell the story of the vital (but nearly forgotten) part sawmills played in early frontier history, such as providing lumber for homes, commercial, and mining buildings, lumber for gold mining, sluice boxes, and flumes, and underground support timbers.

Phase one of the museum construction concluded in July 2015 with the completion of an interpretive sawmill exhibit. Historic equipment sourced locally and regionally was used to build the exhibit, which showcases how sawmills operated in western frontier mining towns. Visitors can pick up a numbered, self-guided tour brochure on site. The sawmill museum is open to visitors year round as weather permits. Limited parking is available on site. The sawmill museum is handicap accessible.

Phase two of the museum is currently underway.   The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance acquired a vintage Buckeye Steam Engine from Smith Lumber Company in Leadville in 2014. The engine was used to operate a sawmill in Leadville in the early 20th century and is in pristine condition. In the summer of 2015, the BHA built a foundation and shelter for the engine before it was transferred to Breckenridge. The steam engine will showcase one of the methods used to power sawmills.

In 2016, work will continue on an indoor museum exhibit, which will be located in an historic cabin on site. The exhibit will further explore the history of sawmilling in Summit County and include displays highlighting the ins and outs of sawmill operations.

The Breckenridge Sawmill Museum has been funded by the Town of Breckenridge, the Climax Community Investment Fund, the Jim Nicholls Memorial Fund and other individual donors. Thousands of volunteer hours have helped make this project possible.

For more information, contact Larissa at larissa@breckheritage.com or call 970-453-9767 x101.