The Grand County Historical Association, a non-profit organization, will educate, collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit artifacts, documents, and structures relating to the history of Grand County or other areas as they affect Grand County. Collections will be used as research and educational resources to preserve and promote Grand County community heritage.
GCHA originated with the Grand County Pioneer Society formed in 1919 to preserve documents and photographs of early settlers. In 1974, interested citizens, not of pioneer families, joined with the Pioneer Society to create a broader GCHA. Combining resources, GCHA obtained the original Hot Sulphur Springs school, dated 1924, and in 1976 began renovation of the building into GCHAs first, and primary, museum, and where GCHA headquarters currently reside.
Through a series of County, State Historical, and Humanities grants, and with an all volunteer force, GCHA upgraded the museum's operations with professional assistance in organizing, cataloging, and maintaining the museum's manuscript, photograph and artifact collections, creating exhibits and producing educational public programs.
By 1986, GCHA hired its first professional museum director. GCHA developed a slate of countywide programs: oral history recordings, exhibits, youth and adult educational programs, series of scholarly journals and historic treks, and a reference library.
In 1991, GCHA opened an auxiliary museum on the county's east end to further meet constituent needs with the population growth in Winter Park/ Fraser. The Cozens Ranch Museum was the first homestead in the area, founded in 1874. The refurbished twelve-room structure situated on its current 1 acre site, is listed on the National Historic Register. The museum houses history exhibits on Berthoud Pass, President Eisenhower's visits to Fraser, pioneer doctor Susan Anderson, and on the POW Camp in Fraser during World War II. Cozens frequently hosts art exhibits in a special gallery, featuring local artists, from emerging to professional. The museum has an updated Gift Shop featuring arts and crafts by local artisans.
In 1992, Daniel Ritchie, Chancellor of the University of Denver, donated his well-preserved log homestead, dated 1885, to GCHA. The Fitch Homestead became the cornerstone of GCHAs third museum site, Heritage Park, located in Kremmling. The Heritage Park Museum is open in summer only, on Fridays and Saturdays. On-going fundraising and volunteer efforts are focused on refurbishing the historic structures.
The fourth museum is in Granby. In 2016, the Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum was developed by Drs. William and Penny Hamilton in the airport terminal of the Granby Airport. The museum is open Friday and Saturdays in the summer and for special events. It is always free to the public and runs by volunteers. The Aviation Museum's educational programs have several free programs for area children of all ages.
Over the years, GCHA has received numerous awards for its work, such as two Certificate of Commendation from the American Association for State and Local History, and two Colorado Historical Society's Bancroft History Project Award, including a recent award for the Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum.
GCHA has acquired several historic buildings that had been endangered by development and the building of reservoirs. Most are listed on the Colorado State Historic Register.
GCHA is small organization with four museums, two full-time staff members and a few contract staff. The membership is stable with about 400-500 members. GCHA continues its important educational programming with the guidance of a devoted Board of Directors, and a cadre of volunteers. Since its early origins, GCHA has become a countywide, and even statewide, force in the fields of museum education, historic preservation and interpretation.
From 2017 & 2016 Museum & Event Evaluations:
"You have done an amazing job community-building in Fraser and Winter Park. Thank you for all the exhibits and art opportunities. The art exhibit of Trine Bumiller's work was beautiful"
"The new aviation museum is really interesting and different. Granby is proud to have it's own GCHA museum, thank you to Penny and Bill Hamilton for creating the museum"
"The Taste of History is so well done -- the best event in Grand County! Love the food and people"
"Thank you for having a Kid's Corner at the museum, we love to play in the pioneer costumes"
"The Quilt Trail is fantastic - it is really bringing the community together"
"The Go Grand book and tours show so much detail and love for history and art. Thank you for the effort"
"We love the programs at Pioneer Village, including Ray Sumner and learning about his family and the Powell expedition"
"Thank you for having a museum in Kremmling, I wish it was year-round"
"My kids will only come to your Santa, at Cozens Christmas"
"The Tenth Mountain Division Living History Group was fascinating and well done."
"The Art Out of Thin Air Show was the best ever, thank you"
"The Archaeology Chat by Dr. Jason LaBelle" was outstanding."
" Thank you for bringing the Native American dancers to Cozens Ranch Museum. It was a great and free program."
"Your programs are so educational and fun. We've met so many friends with the treks and chats. Keep up the good work."
"Exhibits exceed expectations. Would recommend to a friend."
"This is a very nice museum, very professional, well done."
"Keep up the good work!"