To understand the history of Winter Park, one must first begin with the history of Tabernash and an adventurous family named the Graves.
Tabernash is a small mountain community just 12 miles north of Winter Park on U.S. Highway 40. It was created in the early 1900s as a railroad town, and it is where Linus Oliver “Doc” Graves first moved with his family in 1922 to open a drug store business. Business was booming in Tabernash at the time, thanks to the railroad industry; tracks were built over the top of Rollins Pass in 1905 with a series of switch back loops with steep grades and severe snow conditions. Tabernash became a railroad town, and boasted the largest population of any town in Grand County – just less than 1,000 people.
But in 1928, the Moffat Tunnel was built, and the route that ran over Rollins Pass was no longer needed. Railroad production in Tabernash all but came to a grinding halt, so the Graves dismantled their shop and moved to Fraser where they opened another drug store on Main Street. The family was forced to move again, however, when plans to build the Victory Highway (U.S. Highway 40) were made – a new highway that would run straight through the town of Fraser (and straight through Doc’s drug store).
Establishment of Hideaway Park
Not giving up on their dream to live in a mountain community, Doc and his wife Helen decided to purchase 10 acres of land on April 20, 1932 in what is today known as Winter Park. Tucked against the western slope of the Continental Divide, they named the area, “Hideaway Park,” and built 10 small tourist cabins which were rented nightly, mostly to hunters and fishermen. Soon the number of cabins began to grow, and a café and service station were built, called “Doc’s Place.” Within a few years the village added 3 more businesses and nearly doubled its population.
Doc’s son, Chuck, who was born in Tabernash in 1924, was 6 years old when his family moved to Hideaway Park, and he still thinks of the area as one of the most beautiful places on earth.
“I remember one time when my friend Jimmy Waugh and I were lying on our backs, looking up at the sky at night…” Chuck once wrote, recalling an early childhood memory. “Hideaway Park was about 70 miles from Denver, but was a thousand miles closer to the stars. The stars were so bright and clear you thought you could reach up and touch them. I don’t ever remember a prettier sight.”
Incorporation of Winter Park
In 1978, the village of Hideaway Park was incorporated and renamed Winter Park. According to Penny Rafferty Hamilton, a longtime local and author, the name change was influenced by the city of Denver. When Denver became interested in developing a mountain park system to promote winter sports to tourists and residents, it started the development of the neighboring Winter Park Ski Area at West Portal. With the assistance of Denver Mayor, Benjamin F. Stapleton, the town changed its name to Winter Park. (Colorado Place Names, by George R. Eichler).
Later, the town’s main park - Hideaway Park – was named as a tribute to the original village. A plaque commemorating the Graves Family is located in the park at an area affectionately referred to as ‘Helen’s Spot’.
Although a lot has changed since Doc and his family first settled in Winter Park, the Town still maintains its unique, small-town charm and natural beauty. What once was a community with a few mountain cabins is now adorned with shops, restaurants and lodging facilities, its close vicinity to Denver making it a popular destination for tourists and Front Range residents.
The Community of Arrow
Another interesting piece of Winter Park history includes Arrow, another small community that came into existence because of the railroad. Arrow was located along the Corona Pass Road between what is now Winter Park and the Continental Divide, and had an elevation of 9,585 feet. Rails were laid down in 1904 and Arrow, or Arrowhead as it was initially called, was incorporated on December 29, 1904.
Before the railroad tracks were extended westward in 1905, more than 2,000 people from nearby construction camps received their mail at Arrow. The town also had a restaurant, or eating house, and since the town was incorporated, it was able to sell liquor legally.
When the Moffat Tunnel was built, Arrow became a ghost town. The former town site and surrounding area, made up of 688 acres, was annexed into Winter Park in 2006.