Washington Hall is the oldest continuously used municipal building in Colorado…
William Z. Cozens built the hall of hand hewn square logs. The jail (west side) was completed in February 1862.The entire building was completed in its present form when clapboard siding was installed in 1864. In 1868, the County bought the building from Cozens for $10,000.
The building served the county as courthouse and jail until the present courthouse was completed in 1900. It was also used for church services, political conventions and other community meetings. During the summer of 1868, a Reverend Adams was preaching in the hall and warned evil doers to flee from the wrath to come. The prisoners in the county jail below took his advice and fled the jail. They were soon recaptured. 8
On March 18, 1871 a Republican convention was held on the second floor. During the meeting, the floor collapsed and deposited more than 200 men in the Recorder’s Office on the first floor. Fortunately no one was seriously injured. When repairs were made, the floor was greatly strengthened. It can now support twice as many people as can physically be placed on it. 9
When the present courthouse was built in 1900, the City bought Washington Hall from the County. It was used as City Hall from 1900 to 1991, when activity caused by limited gaming required larger quarter for the city staff. The city still uses it for municipal purposes. In addition, the Gilpin County Arts Association uses the west half of the first floor (jail) and the second floor (courtroom) as an art gallery.
Source: Mining Gold to Mining Wallets, Central City, Colorado 1859 – 1999 by Alan Granruth.
Gilpin County Arts History
The Gilpin County Arts Association (GCAA) formed in 1947 and held its first art show opening July 4, 1948. Among the board members were Mr. William M. Tanner, (president), Mrs. Morgan Gray* (treasurer), Mrs. Donato L. Russel, (recording secretary) and Vance Kirkland **(trustee).
Their stated goals were to provide, “yearly exhibitions of the work of Colorado artists, Gilpin County artists, Gilpin County art students, and to provide weekly art discussions; and to purchase 2-3 paintings each year for a Central City permanent art collection.”
The first exhibit included work by Vance Kirkland and Frank “Poncho” Gates. Vance Kirkland, director, school of art, University of Denver, did a painting demonstration on July 11. A historic house tour was a fundraiser for GCAA. August 8th to 28th was the first showing of the of Gilpin County Artists. A 10 percent commission of on sales went GCAA.
1949, annual exhibit opened on Sunday afternoon, July 3rd. On Friday, July 8th Vance Kirkland was the moderator of a panel discussion on modern art which included Otto Bach, Director of the Denver Art Museum; Max Beckman, Director of Art, Washington University in St. Louis; Julio Diego***, guest artist; and William Johnstone principal, Central School Arts and Crafts, London.
*Morgan and Maxine Gray both resided in Gilpin County all of their lives. Maxine Gray taught school and was principal at the school on two occasions. Her first term as principal was in 1934 -1936 then again in 1967 – 1969.
Morgan Gray’s grandfather helped build Clark School in 1901.
**Vance Kirkland was a painter and educator. The Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art had its grand opening on March 10, 2018 after moving into a new building.
***Julio Diego was a Spanish born American artist who married Gypsy Rose Lee.
Washington Hall and its continued mission
The GCAA serves the Rocky Mountain arts community through its 501 (c)(3) non-profit gallery located in Washington Hall in historical Central City, CO.
2019 Mission Statement: To expand the appreciation and understanding for art and to provide Rocky Mountain artists with the opportunity to present, display and sell their works, and to provide financial assistance to the RE-1 Gilpin County School Art program.
Joining the GCAA: Are you a current member of the Gilpin County Arts Association or have you considered becoming a member of the longest continuously operating arts association in the state of Colorado?
If you are a current member or thinking of becoming a member, know that you are supporting our mission of bringing awareness and appreciation of the fine arts in Central City, Colorado, a mission that the Gilpin County Arts Association has successfully fulfilled with your continued support for the past 70 plus years.
We thank you for your interest and support!