History Colorado gets grant for African American Green Book sites

The state’s official historical society will use a $75,000 grant from the National Park Service to investigate and preserve Green Book sites in Colorado where Black travelers could find safe places to stay during the era of segregation in the U.S.

History Colorado’s State Historic Preservation Office will also nominate at least one of the locations to both the National and State Registers of Historic Places, officials said this week, opening the site up for grants and tax credits.

“There’s an incredible, rich history here, and we need to and will learn more about it,” said Patrick Eidman, chief preservation officer for History Colorado. “This is a recognition at the federal level that this is an important project.”

The oases of motels and hotels that catered to African American travelers in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, for example, were joined by unofficial spots known as “tourist homes.” Black travelers also moved frequently between Denver and Gilpin County’s Wink’s Panorama, a nationally rare Black lodge that hosted legends such as Duke Ellington and Zora Neale Hurston.

Still, the “bible of Black travel during Jim Crow,” as The Washington Post once called it, has all but been forgotten in many historical corners. And chances to preserve that history are fading fast.

“This is just one of the first phases of the project,” Eidman said of the funding. “We’re doing surveys, and we’re going to be doing community engagement and collecting oral histories.”

“I think a lot of building owners will even be surprised that their private homes hosted Jim Crow-era travel for African Americans,” he added.

History Colorado’s survey is part of a larger effort by the State Historic Preservation Office to make up for the severe lack of historic preservation in marginalized communities. As of 2020, only 8% of all locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places represented communities of color and/or women, officials said, and only 5 percent of properties listed in Colorado’s State Register of Historic Places were related to women and people of color.

The Colorado State Historical Foundation began an effort in 2019 — with funding from History Colorado — to catalog Green Book locations across the state, such as Lamar’s Alamo Hotel, Pueblo’s Coronado Motel, Durango’s Strater Hotel and the Chipeta Café in Montrose.

The latest award is History Colorado’s third grant from the Underrepresented Community Grant from the National Park Service, following support in 2021 and 2017 for sites associated with the women’s suffrage movement across the state and Hispano communities in the San Luis Valley, respectively. The total for all three grants is $167,201.

Including Colorado, the National Park Service over the last 8 years has awarded $5.75 million through the Underrepresented Communities Grants program. See the full list at bit.ly/3hRz6fU

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