Trinidad synagogue, Pinecliffe resort receive national historic landmark designations

(Courtesy of Denver Public Library)
Wendell “Wink” and his brother Clarence Hamlet pose by a car in the Lincoln Hills area in Pinecliffe, Colorado. Winks Panorama, (also known as Winks Lodge) was a hotel near Pinecliffe, Colorado that served African-American tourists during the early and middle 20th century. The lodge was built in the Lincoln Hills County Club area which was the only African-American mountain resort in the western United States. The lodge was built by Wendell “Winks” Hamlet in 1928. The Lodge is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Updated at 12:13 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2023

The federal government has picked two Colorado sites to add to the country’s list of National Historic Landmarks.

They include Temple Aaron in Trinidad and Winks Panorama in Gilpin County.

The temple is considered the country’s second oldest continuously-operating Jewish synagogue west of the Mississippi River. Winks Panorama, a historically Black resort community, became known as a safe retreat for African Americans facing racial segregation in the mid-1900s. 

Both sites will receive stronger protections against demolition through the designation, and a plaque commemorating their historic significance, according to the U.S. Interior Department. 

“NHL designation is the highest federal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance,” the department wrote in a release announcing the awards. 

Colorado preservationists worked for years to achieve the designation for both sites. The process requires an application and lengthy review from federal officials. 

Roughly 2,600 sites across the country have NHL status, including 28 in Colorado. It also gives sites direct access to preservation experts at the Interior Department, said Kim Grant, a Temple Aaron board member.

“It’s a big boost for our efforts moving forward to preserve the building for another hundred-plus years,” Grant said. 

Temple Aaron opened in Trinidad in 1889. The red brick, exotic-revival style building served as a hub for a thriving Jewish community.

In 2016, a foundation that owned the building almost sold it due to building disrepair and a shrinking congregation. Community members rallied and formed a new nonprofit to manage the building, and they have been pursuing preservation ever since. 

“It tells the story of the westward migration of the Jewish people across the United States,” Grant said. “So preserving it is really saving an important, tangible piece of our heritage in Colorado.” 

In Gilpin County, Winks Panorama served as a safe haven for the Black community during the mid-1900’s. Black travelers and families often couldn’t stay at hotels in Denver due to racial segregation, so they traveled an hour out of town to Pinecliffe 

Notable guests included musicians Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and Count Basie as well as writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, according to the National Park Service. The property remains open to visitors. 

“The story of Winks Lodge offers a window into an expanded view of the larger African American freedom struggle,” the NPS wrote on its website. 

Both Winks and Temple Aaron will receive federal plaques. Synagogue representatives said they would plan a commemoration of the designation for sometime next year.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Temple Aaron's age, and to correct an error about when its members formed their current nonprofit group.