Window to the Past, Door to the Future made its debut opening day, June 1993, and was made possible through a grant from the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities. This interpretive exhibit examines Elbert County’s rich history tracing the paths of the Plains Indians, trappers and traders, cowpunchers and sheepherders, homesteaders and merchants. The settlement of towns, railroads and schools are also included.
The story of early pioneers crossing the plains to the Rocky Mountain gold fields are depicted in a series of hand carved dioramas by Hank Gentsch. The beautiful and intricately carved panels were originally part of a larger collection that traced the miners’ harsh journey across the eastern plains to the mountains in search of their destiny and subsequent successes; or in many cases, disappointments and defeats. Ultimately, the collection was split into thirds – dividing the mining dioramas between the National Mining Museum in Leadville and the South Park City Museum in Fairplay, and the trail-travel to the gold field dioramas to the Elbert County Museum.
Stroll down main street in this typical turn-of-the century plains town. Take a couple minutes to window shop in front of the old mercantile before heading over to the bank. Check out the doctor’s office and one room school house while you’re here; and view the interior of the historic Elbert Post Office before heading home.
The Smoky Hill Trail was a wagon road opened specifically for the Colorado gold rush of 1859. The event was also known as the “Pike’s Peak” gold rush because the peak was one of the few named landmarks in the then western Kansas Territory. The road ran 600 miles from several Kansas and Missouri towns along the Missouri River to the new town of Denver. It followed up the Smoky Hill River to extreme eastern Colorado, then crossed the high plains to Denver and the Rocky Mountains. Follow the history of the trail and transportation in Elbert County from it’s early days up through the modern era in this one-of-a-kind interactive experience.