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Coloradans Work To Preserve Lincoln Hills, Resort That Was Welcoming To African-Americans 100 Years Ago

GILPIN COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Colorado's historic Lincoln Hills celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The landmark was a resort for African Americans during segregation, welcoming guests like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong who couldn't stay in Denver due to Jim Crow laws. Coloradans today are working to preserve the area, making sure its history doesn't get forgotten.

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At a cabin hidden in the Rockies, Gary Jackson is restoring a piece of the past.

His family built their cabin Zephyr View in 1926, in one of the few places Black people could.

"Lincoln Hills was that special place between the Mississippi and California. It was the only Black-owned recreational area from about 1920 until 1965," said Jackson. "I can remember the days that we would go down to South Boulder Creek and go fishing. I can remember the days that we just roamed the mountainside."

In the past it was called the Lincoln Hills Country Club Development, and it was the only Black owned and operated resort for hundreds of miles.

"This was an area that Black people from across the country could come to Colorado to recreate. But more importantly, they could come to buy property and build cabins," said Jackson. "The American Dream is the ownership of property. So this is a part of our family's American Dream."

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Upkeep is a responsibility and a joy, but Jackson has help preserving the land's history.

Down the road, Denver-native and billionaire Robert F. Smith purchased the historic Wink's Lodge, built by Wink Hamlet. He also had a tavern and served as a deputized sheriff for Gilpin County.

Nextdoor to that is the Honeymoon Cabin, a cozy option for guests who wanted more privacy. The century-old cabin now belongs to Shelly Catterson, a writer from Gilpin County.

"I came here for a writing workshop and I didn't know about the lodge or anything. I was just completely in awe and I felt very strongly about it being preserved. I wanted to make sure that it was taken care of," said Catterson.

Catterson bought the property in 2007 -- giving history a new chapter.

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She comes there to write, and is inspired by guests who've checked in and enamored by their strength through adversity.

"I heard that Zora Neale Hurston was here and I fell over. That was amazing to me. Lena Horn was as well. I was able to see her when I was quite young on a school trip and she was just incredible," said Catterson. "When I stay here, I just try to soak that up, as much as I can with my humble self. It's very inspiring. They're just such amazing women."

When Crow laws ruled Colorado, the county she calls home was breaking barriers.

"Everything happening here locally, so close to where I live, I was so grateful to hear the local area was so tolerant and open even in the 20s when the governor was a known member of the KKK," said Catterson. She has added décor like books written by authors who've stayed there.

Lincoln Hills was a light in our dark history and people today won't let it be forgotten. For Catterson, that means taking time to dust off old covers. And for Jackson, it's building on memories for generations to come.

"I'm doing this restoration so this cabin will be in my family for another one hundred years," said Jackson.

This Black land of opportunity remains in Jackson's family, and in the hands of new friends, who would've loved to be neighbors -- 100 years ago.

LINK: Lincoln Hills Cares

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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