150 Years of Boulder History

snow-flatirons.jpgBoulder, CO is about to celebrate its 150th year as a city in 2009. The last time Boulder celebrated this big it was 1959 and Alaska had just become the 49th state. Boulder has many unique landmarks and highlights since the mid-1800’s.

Planning is now under way for the sesquicentennial celebration. Boulder’s early days started as a mining supply camp for regional mining endeavors throughout the suburban foothills west of Boulder.

Earlier celebrations in 1909 and again in 1959 included a parade down the center of town on Pearl Street. Now that Pearl St. is a pedestrian mall, the plans will have to change. Boulder’s pedestrian mall was built in 1977, just two years before I came to town.

Here are some historical time line highlights:


  • The first permanent Anglo-European Settlers arrived at mouth of Boulder Canyon.


  • The first reported gold discovery in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado at Gold Run [Gold Hill area].
  • Boulder City Town Company formed 10 February 1859.
  • The first irrigation ditch in Boulder County dug.
  • Coal discovered in Marshall area southeast of Boulder.
  • Jim Baker mined surface coal near Lafayette, Colorado and sold it in Denver.


  • Andrew J. Macky built the first frame building in Boulder on the N/E corner of 14th and Pearl. A ‘first’ in Boulder real estate development!


  • Boulder County is formed.
  • Congress passed the Homestead Act.


  • The town of Valmont [a contraction of the words “valley” and “mountain”] is platted; it soon rivaled Boulder in size and commercial activity. (now’s the time to invest in Boulder real estate; while the attention is on Valmont!)


  • Boulder City is incorporated.


  • Railroad line extended to Boulder.


  • The University of Colorado opened.
  • State Preparatory School was founded as part of the University because of a lack of adequately prepared high school graduates.


  • The Pine Street School [now currently knows as The Whittier School] opened.


  • Joseph B. “Rocky Mountain Joe” Sturtevant started to record the early history of the Boulder County area. He began by taking photographs and continued this during the years between about 1884 and 1910.


  • The Boulder Creek “100-year” flood damaged the town. Time to rebuild as many folks who owned Boulder real estate now find that they have none.


  • State Preparatory School moves into its own building at 17th and Pearl. Another Boulder real estate landmark.


  • Boulderites finally approved a $20,000 bond election for the Texas-Chautauqua Auditorium which was opened on July 4th 1898… Who knew then how much this would affect the prices of Boulder real estate on the hill way back then?


  • The summer home of John and Kate Harbeck was completed; it is now a Boulder landmark, it’s now the present-day home of the Boulder Museum of History.


  • Another remarkable example of Boulder history, the Carnegie library opened at 1125 Pine Street in Boulder and is still there today.


  • The Boulderado Hotel, another famous Boulder landmark, opened for business on New Years Day and is still open for business today.


  • The United States Army occupied Louisville, Colorado during coal miner’s strike. Louisville real estate development hasn’t quite taken off yet compared to what’s going on today!


  • Hellems was the first building completed on the University of Colorado campus in the “Rural Italian” or “Tuscan” style [sandstone exterior finish and red roofing tiles] setting another Boulder architecture trend.


  • A remarkable example of Boulder construction, the Old Boulder County Courthouse burns down. The building was soon replaced with a new structure.


  • Denver-Boulder Turnpike opened.


  • Railroad passenger service to old depot in downtown Boulder ends


  • The new PLAN-Boulder was organized and it secured passage of the “Blue Line” to prevent development along the beautiful mountain backdrop west of Boulder. It seems that given what we’ve seen in recent residential development, some of us wonder where that blue-line exists.


  • Crossroads mall built, gets renovated about 20 or so years later in the early ’80’s but gets luke-warm reception and eventually falls nearly totally vacant by the early 2000’s… about 44 years later, Twenty Ninth Street replaces Crossroads.


  • Boulder voters were first in the nation to approve a tax to purchase and preserve open space for a greenbelt around the community.
  • Denver-Boulder Turnpike became toll free; the debt was paid off early.


  • Boulder’s Central Park is declared health hazard because of transients. Boulder still struggles with transients and beggars on the Pearl Street mall and nearby businesses; and like many cities, is subject to professional pan handlers on many street corners.


  • In an effort to preserve, among other things, the views of the foothills and back ranges, Boulder property development is changed and Boulder adopted a fifty-five foot height limitation for new buildings.


  • The Red Zinger Bicycle Classic Race, started by Celestial Seasonings, first raced through Boulder. The race lasted five years until it became sponsored by Adolph Coors Co. and became known as the Coors Bicycle Classic.


  • Boulder voters approved a 2% growth limitation referendum, named after Boulder County Commissioner Paul Danish, the author of the referendum. It consequently became known as the Danish Plan.


  • The Bolder Boulder, a newly formed 10 kilometer road race, ran for the first time through the streets of Boulder on Memorial Day and started an incredibly well known world class running race.


  • The Kinetics Conveyance Race was first held at the Boulder Reservoir after original sponsors Ray Imel owner The Wano Company (the local Coors beer distributor) and Hobart Brown from California.


  • A Tea House, sent from Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, was erected on 13th Street east of Central Park. There was much discussion as to where it should be placed before ending up next to the creek and a local art museum.

1999 through 2003:

Boulder real estate prices appreciate at quarterly double digit rates attracting massive amounts of real estate transactions and real estate development; at the same time forcing many middle class wage earners to move into the “L” towns surrounding Boulder sparking a boom in real estate purchases and new construction in the towns of Louisville, Lafayette, Superior, Erie and Longmont and Niwot.


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