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Safe Haven Vacation Site for Blacks Wins National Recognition

PHOTO: A Colorado landmark that provided a safe-haven vacation site to blacks during segregation received national recognition this week. Winks Lodge hosted middle-class families as well as noted artists such as Duke Ellington and Lena Horne. Photo credit: Hustvedt/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: A Colorado landmark that provided a safe-haven vacation site to blacks during segregation received national recognition this week. Winks Lodge hosted middle-class families as well as noted artists such as Duke Ellington and Lena Horne. Photo credit: Hustvedt/Wikimedia Commons.
June 19, 2015

DENVER - Summertime means vacation for a lot of Coloradans. If you've got the cash, you can go anywhere you like. But that hasn't always been true for all of the state's residents.

During the last 40 years of segregation, if you were black there weren't many options - but you could take a vacation safely at Winks Lodge.

The land surrounding the lodge was added to the National Register of Historic Places this week. Steve Turner, vice president for preservation at History Colorado, said Winks Lodge was a mountain oasis for people of color.

"This was a place where they could go, could camp, fish, do all the things that we take for granted," he said, "and not have to worry about all of the issues that came with living in a segregated society."

In 1925, Obrey Wendell "Winks" Hamlet bought a parcel of land in Gilpin County's Lincoln Hills. At the time, it was the only black-owned resort area west of the Mississippi. Completed in 1928, Winks Lodge was three stories high and had six bedrooms. Over time, additional facilities were added, including a honeymoon cabin, an orange cabin, a tin house, a three-plex cabin and Winks Tavern.

Turner said Winks Lodge was one of only a handful of resorts in the nation that allowed blacks. He said the site hosted many of America's most famous artists, who would visit before or after performances in Denver's Five Points jazz venues.

"Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Count Basie, there were writers, Langston Hughes," Turner said. "They would give impromptu performances and readings, and it was just really a cultural center."

Winks Lodge operated until Hamlet's death in 1965 and was added to the National Register in 1980. Turner said this week's amendment to increase the boundary in the official registry demonstrates the site's national importance to ethnic and American heritage.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO