Like any other American family, Black families enjoy the tradition of the summer vacation. But that was an increasingly difficult thing to do during the Jim Crow era. Thanks to the savvy of a pair of Black businessmen, Lincoln Hills County Club served as a refuge for Black families in Colorado, around the country and abroad.
Lincoln Hills was the brainchild of Robert Ewalt and Edwin Reginer, who purchased several acres of land in Gilpin County, just around 40 miles west of Denver. The club’s chief attraction was the full-service resort Winks Lodge. A summer program for girls, Camp Nizhoni, was organized by the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YCWA.
The club was like the handful of other destinations for Black families such as Michigan’s Idlewild, Martha’s Vineyard’s Oak Bluffs, and Florida’s American Beach. However, it was the only club resort for Black families west of the Mississippi River at the time. Lincoln Hills opened in the 1920’s, and enjoyed an immense number of visitors well into the ’60’s.
What made Lincoln Hills a unique and vital part of the African-American landscape was that while Colorado didn’t observe Jim Crow, the state had the second-largest number of Ku Klux Klan members and they essentially ran things. Yet Lincoln Hills remained untouched from the racist hate group and families from all over enjoyed the mountain scenery.
The park’s reign ended for relatively good reasons: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did away with racial segregation across the nation so many club members elected to join clubs closer to their respective areas and homes. In 1980, Lincoln Hills was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
PHOTO: Lincoln Hills
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