For centuries, Native American tribes of Utes, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Comanches, and others occupied the area known as Park County. There was plenty of water and game to sustain them, and stone and petrified wood for making tools and weapons. Long before the natives arrived, there is significant evidence of the Ice Age and prehistoric animals that inhabited the area. Evidence of such can be found in the Florissant Fossil Beds and Porcupine Cave.
In the late 1700s mountain men came to trap beaver for their pelts, which were traded to merchants in the East. And some just wanted to explore the West. These men were rugged individuals who lived off the land leading solidtary lives; some took Indian wives, but most only came in contact with others during a rendezvous held in the spring where they sold and traded their wares, replenished their supplies and socialized.
In 1859, Pike’s Peak Gold Rush was on and the area was swarming with those seeking to make their fortunes. Mines and boom towns sprung up all over the region. In 1886, George Washington Frost of Boston and John Dwyer came to the region.
Frost first tried his hand at cattle ranching, but it was a dismal failure. He built a dam at the end of Granite Canyon, which we know today as ElevenMile Canyon, and formed George’s Lake. In 1891 a post office was established, and lake and the area was instead named Lake George.
The railroad came through; the first passenger train came to the canyon July 16, 1887. Frost then began cutting ice from the frozen lake to refrigerate the fruit and vegetables from the Western Slope. Frost’s partner John Dwyer died, and his brother Bill Norton came out and took the body back to Boston, but later returned to help Frost.
The main economy at the time was timber and ranching. Gold enticed many to the area, but when that dwindled, many realized other potentials and homesteaded. Charles Quist (changed name from Broquist) came from Sweden with his wife Augusta for gold, but ended up working for the Colorado Midland Railroad. He and his family homesteaded between Lake George and Florissant. Their oldest daughter, Alma, married Bill Norton and became the first postmistress for Lake George.
Frost built a large mansion on the east side of the lake. When he died in 1906, Alma and Bill Norton turned it into a hotel. In 1910, JM Kellogg bought the ice houses storage and other parts of the town owned by Frost. He modernized the ice business and hired 100 men to work the machinery.
In 1914, Quist lost a leg working on the railroad and opened a small grocery store on the north side of the lake. Soon after, Ernest Knisley opened a blacksmith shop and Lake George Auto Shop. Quist had to close the grocery store a few years later due to bad health. A Mr. Wymore opened a general store, which was later purchased by Henry Rocket.
The little town of Lake George originally lay where the library is today, but was moved to either side of U.S. Highway 24,. most likely to be more accessible to travelers. Henry Rocket came to Lake George to settle the estate of Grubheiser, who had purchased most of Kellogg’s property. Rocket took over the general store and post office and was named postmaster.
The Colorado Midland Railroad went out of business in 1918, and so did the ice business. The railroad was dismantled, and in 1921, the Frost Hotel burned down. Charles Quist died in 1921, and his nephew, Carl, inherited 68 acres of the town of Lake George. Charles Quist had a home at the upper end of the lake and a liquor store on the north side of Highway 24. Carl opened a service station in 1937 on the other side.
A large flood took out the dam in 1921, and the lake was gone until 1937, when CE Stevenson revised Frost’s dream of a resort and purchased most of the land around where the lake had been; he rebuilt the dam and refilled the lake. Lyle Johnson purchased the rest of the property and continued to develop the subdivision known as ElevenMile Ranch.
Jim Ryan purchased the store and post office from Rocket and became postmaster. In 1937, he sold it all to Lawson Sumner. Sumner was then the local postmaster and realtor. Sumner was quite the entrepreneur, and took the Cattleman’s Trading Post and built an addition and operated a movie theater, a roller rink, and a dance hall.
He also opened The Pioneer Gold Days Museum, which contained mostly mining, pioneer, Indian artifacts and relics. The museum had some unique items, including a stuffed eight-legged calf from eastern Colorado, a Mexican side-saddle claimed to be from the stable of Empress Carlota of Mexico, and a four-and-a-half-inch bone said to have been part of an arm of Zebulon Pike.
In 1947 Art Eckland built Ye Olde Lake George Inn as a restaurant, bar, and dance hall on the north side of Highway 24. During the fifties and sixties, there was a restaurant named Imboden’s, which later became the Mountain Shadows restaurant, that remained for about twenty years. In 1973, Lynn and Kathy Gay purchased Lawson Sumner’s business. In 1974 Lake George Fire Protection District was established, and in the mid-1980s land from Abels-Etheridge was purchased and is now the Lake George Community Park.
Today, Lake George is somewhat similar to what George Frost envisioned as a resort. The lake itself is private, but there are several cabins, RV parks and motels.
There are also nearby state camping areas, dude ranches and even a couple of glamping resorts. Summer visitors enjoy the closeness to Eleven-Mile Canyon, ElevenMile Reservoir, South Platte River, Spinney Reservoir, and others. Hunters come in the fall, and skiers come through in the winter.
There’s still a general store, restaurant, and gas station, as well as other businesses. Camp Alexander Boy Scout camp is just a few miles up ElevenMile Canyon, and there is Lake George Charter School for pre-school through eighth grade, a public library, a couple of churches, and of course the post office.
Lake George Fire Protection District has expanded with strategically located stations throughout the district; the main station is on CR 90 just off Highway 24 in Lake George, and substations are at Wagon Tongue, Tarryall, ElevenMile Reservoir and Wilkerson Pass.
The Community Park has grown and offers a tennis court, basketball court, playground, picnic tables, a hiking trail through the park, disc golf, and an arena that hosts America’s Mountain Barrel Racing and Lake George Outfitters and Gymkhana.
In 2001, a pavilion was added, and historical items from the area have also been added. Lake George census says the population is around 700 (year-round), and others estimate you need to multiply that figure about eight times during the summer.