DENVER (CBS4) – The Black American West Museum & Heritage Center in Denver has won $150,000 in funding from a national contest. The money will be used to preserve the building that tells the story of Dr. Justina Ford and other African American pioneers from Colorado.
“Denver has a site that is so significant to women’s history and the history of our city, that we made it into that,” said Alison Saultz, director of community programs for Historic Denver. “The story of Dr. Ford, her work here in Denver and her community, stood above other sites and allowed us to receive that funding.”
The museum was one of 13 winners in the 2019 Partners in Preservation campaign, which awarded $1.8 million in grants. The money will be used to repair windows, cover masonry work related to the bricks that the house was built with, and analyze the paint to find the original cover of the home.
“This is so critical to the history of the Five Points neighborhood that we share Dr. Ford’s story,” said Terry Gentry, who is part of the all-volunteer staff for the museum located on 3091 California Street.
Dr. Ford became the first licensed black woman doctor in Colorado — and delivered more than 7,000 babies during her 50-year career.
Despite receiving a medical license, she was not allowed to practice at a hospital. Ford purchased the home on California Street in 1911 and invited patients to visit her there.
“Denied access to local hospitals, Colorado’s first licensed female African American doctor Justina Ford instead treated patients at her home office, helping circumvent the racial and economic barriers to their medical care,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation website states.
She helped patients from 35 different nationalities and knew almost a dozen different languages and dialects.
“There aren’t a lot of folks like Dr. Ford who persevered and pursued her their dream of becoming a physician,” Gentry said. “There were a lot of folks who said you are not allowed to do any of those things and she did anyway.”
Work will begin as early as within the next year and the museum will remain open for part of the week to visitors throughout the restoration project. Support is always needed to continue the mission of the museum and membership can help fund future preservation of the house.
“By keeping this home in as good of condition as possible and keep it standing, we can keep telling this story,” Saultz said.