A history buff, I could spend hours looking at period clothing, artifacts and memorabilia from just about any era. But as a relative newcomer to the West (I moved to Colorado from New Hampshire nearly 20 years ago), I’m particularly enthralled with stories of the pioneers who homesteaded in the mountains and the prairies west of the Mississippi.
During my June visit to Grand Lake, Colorado, the Kauffman House Museum afforded me a walk back in time to the late 1800s. Ezra Kauffman arrived in Grand Lake in 1877 as a hunting guide and a miner. He opened a hotel in 1892 and ran it (and lived in it) until his death in 1920; his family ran the hotel until 1946. Now the two-story building is maintained as a fascinating museum by the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, with rooms–including a parlor, dining room, kitchen and several bedrooms–decorated in authentic antiques just like they would have been at the turn of the century.
Friendly volunteer docents introduce visitors to Ezra Kauffman, his wife and three daughters, with a brief talk and walk into the parlor, where the family would entertain guests. It’s completely adorned in Victorian style, with lace curtains, upholstered furniture, pull-down kerosene lamp and period wallpaper recreated from the original pattern — several layers of original wall covering are also displayed, as well as tin cans that were flattened and nailed to the walls to keep rough-hewn logs together.
The reconstructed kitchen is especially entertaining, with various baking tins and cooking utensils, turn-crank washing machine, wooden cabbage shredder (!) and old stove with a heart-shaped waffle maker on a burner.
Upstairs, we toured multiple tiny bedrooms, not only those offered to hotel guests, but those used by the Kauffman family, as well.
Finally, in the back of the house various pieces of historic Grand Lake memorabilia are on display, from maple-wood bowling balls used in the early nineteenth century at a local alley to old-timey swimsuits that residents once wore in the lake. Also, you’ll see real beads that mountain men used to trade with Native Americans centuries ago and fabulous old photos from vintage Grand Avenue goings-on.
It’s clear that Grand Lake is proud of its heritage as one of Colorado’s earliest tourist destinations. I do recommend this walk back in time at the Kauffman House Museum, as entry is only $5 per adult, and it offers visitors a wonderful glimpse into some local history.
I am one of three Colorado bloggers exploring the sights of Grand County, Colorado, this year, courtesy of the Grand County Colorado Tourism Board. See our adventures on Twitter with the hashtag #VisitGrandCounty.