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 and four full time 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.