Get outside and see how Colorado’s early settlers worked and played in the late 1800s. The Park is ideally located along Clear Creek in downtown Golden. Our outdoor setting re-creates the look and feel of a late 1800s mountain ranch complete with gardens, a working blacksmith shop, schoolhouse and chicken coop (chickens included).
Clear Creek History Park is home to many of the original buildings from the old Pearce Ranch in Golden Gate Canyon (about fifteen miles away as the crow flies). When a housing development threatened the ranch buildings in the early 1990s, the community rallied together to save this piece of Golden’s history. Beginning in 1994, the buildings were moved to Golden, log by log, where they were lovingly reconstructed over the course of four years. Clear Creek History Park opened its gates to walk-up visitors in the spring of 1999. Since then, we’ve invited thousands to take a fresh look at the frontier.
From humble beginnings, the Pearce Ranch grew to become one of the largest in the canyon by 1912. While building his first cabin, Thomas Pearce lived in a dugout or a rough shelter formed by digging into the side of a hill. Like many settlers in the area, he was a hard rock miner who hailed from Cornwall, England. At the age of 19, he moved to Colorado with hopes for a better life. Arriving in 1878, he quickly found work in the gold and silver mines of Central City and Black Hawk, including the famous Bobtail Gold Mine.
In 1900, he homesteaded a beautiful valley between Central City and Golden. Thomas and his wife, Henrietta, raised eight children on their mountain ranch—that’s right, eight, all of whom were born at home. They were a hard-working bunch. When not toiling in the mines Pearce was farming and ranching. The family grew vegetables that thrived in the foothills like potatoes, carrots and peas, and they raised cattle, chickens and hogs. Everything extra they grew and raised was sold in the surrounding towns.
In failing health and nearly blind from a mining accident, Thomas Pearce turned the ranch over to his sons William John (pictured above goofing on the back of a cow) and Tom Jr. in the late 1920s and moved into Golden. The sons followed in the footsteps of their father, continuing to ranch together while raising their own families. More than 100 years later, members of the Pearce family still ranch in Golden Gate Canyon.
Even though many of these buildings were numbered, dismantled, moved, and then reconstructed onsite—sort of like a giant jigsaw puzzle—you’d never know it today. Clear Creek History Park looks and feels like it was always here. A visit to Clear Creek History Park will take you back to a time when people, not so different from us, worked and played in the frontier towns of Colorado.
You’ll want to be sure to see…
This baby is the real thing—all original, it dates to at least 1878. Five different families called this place home before it was purchased by the Pearce family in 1919. William John and Susie Pearce raised their four children here beginning in the early 1920s or early 1930s. It’s rather large for the times with a sizeable addition for a kitchen and pantry and a big loft for storage and sleeping.
You can see the pride the builder took in his work in the hand-tooled craftsmanship used to construct this cabin, especially in the distinctive dovetail notching on the corners. Inside the Pearce cabin is outfitted with period furnishings like a coffee grinder, a bathtub, a bootjack and a pump organ. There’s even a real working cook stove in the kitchen that turns out some tasty biscuits.
The Reynolds family operated their own 240 acre ranch next door to the Pearce Ranch. Annie Reynolds and her three daughters, Henrietta, Mary, and Elizabeth, lived in this cabin that dates to about 1873. Annie’s husband Adam was a miner who died from black lung. The Pearce family purchased the Reynolds Ranch in 1912. Today we hold education programs here.
This is an original two-seater from the Pearce Ranch. Use your imagination PLEASE! to see for yourself how this marvel of modern plumbing works. It makes a great photo opportunity.
Listen hard and you may hear the ringing of metal upon metal, especially if our resident blacksmith is around. Most farmers and ranchers had small shops for repairing tools and farm equipment. Blacksmiths were jacks of all trades with all things metal and a welcome addition to any frontier community. Our shop holds all of the tools needed for metal work including a forge, blower and anvil. Our blacksmith shop or smithy was built onsite using a style of construction common in the late 1800s.
Everyone loves the chickens; we’re sure you will too. Our one-hundred-year-old coop is home to seven historic chicken breeds (Dominiques, Buff Orpingtons, White Plymouth Rocks, Silver-laced Wyandottes, Golden Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, and Black Australorps). Chickens were common livestock kept by pioneers for meat, eggs, feathers and manure. Check out their beautiful plumage while listening for the rooster to crow. If you time it right, you may see the birds taking their afternoon dust baths to clean their feathers—ooh, la la!
Guy Hill Schoolhouse
Moved here from Golden Gate Canyon, this original one-room schoolhouse was built around 1876, the same year Colorado became a state. It served the needs of canyon locals until 1951. In addition to schooling children in grades 1-8, it was also a community center of sorts where dances and church services were held.
It was moved to Golden as a 1976 Colorado Centennial project sponsored by Mitchell Elementary faculty and students.
Even though our honey bees may not be as loveable as our chickens, they’re crucial to the success of our gardens, and yours too. Not to mention the sweet honey comb we, um, “steal” from them each fall (don’t worry, they make more). On average, our top bar hive is home to 30,000 bees. First carted to Colorado with the pioneers in 1862, worker bees have done their part to pollinate fruits and vegetables in our state ever since.
Community Heirloom Gardens
Vegetable gardens like ours were critical for producing enough food to live on throughout the year. All of the vegetables we grow come from seed stock that was available to pioneer families over one hundred years ago. Not only do these heirloom vegetables taste good, they often have memorable names like Turks Turban Squash and Bloody Butcher Corn.
No homestead was complete without a root cellar, the frontier combination refrigerator and storeroom. Ours was built onsite by dedicated volunteers. Root cellars are the ideal place to store everything from pickles to potatoes since the temperature stays constant year round. We’re never sure what you’ll find in this one.