Boulder History Museum
1206 Euclid Avenue
Boulder, CO 80302
ph: 303.449.3464

A Boulder Timeline


Gold is discovered in Dry Creek [Englewood], stimulating the Pikes Peak Gold Rush.
First permanent Anglo-European Settlers arrived at mouth of Boulder Canyon.

A party of gold prospectors led by William Russell entered eastern Kansas territory and set up camp at the confluence of the Cherry Creek and Platte Rivers. They founded the town of Auraria which was comprised of a few log cabins. After initial failure they finally struck gold in the Dry Creek, an offshoot of the South Platte. The site was just northwest of the modern highway intersection of U.S. 285 and Interstate-25. 30,000 prospectors quickly followed in their footsteps.


First reported gold discovery in mountains of Colorado at Gold Run [Gold Hill area].

The Boulder City Town Company was formed on February 10, 1859. A.A. Brookfield, one of the first settlers in the area, was named president and was joined by 60 other shareholders. The land along Boulder Creek was parceled out between them while the rest was divided into lots that sold for $1000 each. The town grew slowly however, with a population of only 324 by 1860.


The first irrigation ditch in Boulder County dug.

Coal discovered in Marshall area southeast of Boulder.

Jim Baker mined surface coal near Lafayette and sold it in Denver.


The Wellman brothers planted the first wheat crop in Boulder County.

The first schoolhouse in Colorado built strictly for educational purposes was erected in Boulder on the southwest corner of 14th and Front [Walnut]. Schoolteacher and carpenter Abner Brown arrived in Boulder and noted the lack of a schoolhouse for the number of children that lived there. With help from locals, Brown began building a one room schoolhouse on the southwest corner of 15th and Walnut Street. The building was finished by October and became the first structure in Colorado designed specifically for education. It served as Boulder’s schoolhouse until 1872 when a larger school was built. The original frame was relocated to 11th and Walnut and converted to a private residence before being destroyed by a fire in 1890.


The Ward Mining District was formed; named after Calvin Ward.

Andrew J. Macky erected the first frame building in Boulder on the northeast corner of 14th and Pearl.


Congress voted to create the new Colorado Territory in February of 1861. This decision was the continuation of a vote taken by Colorado settlers in 1859 where they decided to become a territory rather than a state. This meant that the administrative costs of governance would be handled by the federal government until the territory became a state. The admission of new territories was a contentious issue in the House of Representatives until the Civil War began, which cleared the way for the admission of the free Colorado Territory.


Boulder County was formed on November 11, 1861.

Treaty of Fort Wise signed with leaders of several bands of Arapahos and Cheyennes "extinguishing their land title" in Colorado except for a reserve in Southeast Colorado.


Congress passed the Homestead Act in May of 1862, intending to open up public lands in the West to individual farmers. Adults over the age of 21 were eligible to claim 160 acres of land provided they cultivated the land and improved it with structures. After five years the land was theirs to own for a small filing fee. The act was part of the federal government’s efforts to encourage settlement of the west, but was only nominally successful as it proved extremely difficult for individuals to create productive farms on these small plots of land.



Joseph Marshall erected a small blast furnace and produced pig iron from the local hematite southeast of Boulder.

Boulder and Longmont’s Company "D" of the 3rd Colorado Volunteer Cavalry involved in the November Sand Creek Massacre.


The town of Valmont [contraction of "valley" and "mountain"] platted; it soon rivaled Boulder in size and commercial activity.


Boulder County’s first newspaper, the Valmont Bulletin, began publication on New Years Day.

The first Congregational Church in Colorado was formed in Valmont in 1864. In 1866 they began building a new church in Boulder on 11th and Pine Street, at the site of what is now the Carnegie Library. The hillside spot was chosen so that the bell tower would be visible to residents for miles around. Construction was completed in 1870 and featured the first church bell tower in Boulder County.


Valmont Presbyterian Church built.


Boulderites entice editor of Valmont Bulletin to move his newspaper to Boulder where it was renamed the Boulder Valley News.


The Boulder County Pioneer succeed the Boulder Valley News, only to be succeeded by the Boulder County News.

The town of Ryssby formed.

The first county fair in Colorado Territory opened in Boulder on October 12, 1869.

Silver discovered at Caribou re-igniting the mining boom.


Boulder City is incorporated.

Longmont settled by the Chicago-Colorado Colony.


Railroad extended to Boulder.


The first mill and smelter [Boyd Mill] erected in Boulder

Martha Maxwell opened her Rocky Mountain Museum on Pearl Street. Her taxidermy collection became centerpiece of Colorado’s exhibit at 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.


Niwot platted.


The first high school graduation class in Territory of Colorado was in Boulder.

Colorado became the 38th state in the Union on August 1, 1876 with a proclamation by President Ulysses Grant. The process took a number of years as their petitions for statehood were continually vetoed by President Andrew Johnson during his time in office. The statehood bill was ratified by Colorado voters early in 1876 and had passed both the House and the Senate the previous year. Colorado became known as the Centennial State as it was incorporated exactly one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.



The University of Colorado opened.

State Preparatory School founded as part of University because of a lack of adequately prepared high school graduates.


Mary Rippon appointed first woman professor at CU.


The Boulder telephone exchange opened with 25 subscriptions.


The University’s first graduating class consisted of six members.

The cornerstone for the old Boulder County Courthouse on Boulder’s old town square was laid on July 4, 1882.

Pine Street School [Whittier School] opened.


The Greeley, Salt Lake, and Pacific railroad completed between Boulder and Sunset; extended service to mountain communities.


Joseph B. "Rocky Mountain Joe" Sturtevant began to record the early history of Boulder county by taking photographs between 1884 and 1910.


The Simpson Coal Mine was opened in 1887 on the land of Mary Miller. Lafayette and Mary Miller were homesteaders who moved to Boulder in 1874. Lafayette died in 1878 and Mary moved back to their farm east of town. Coal mining in the area began on her property in 1887 and Mary designated 150 acres of her land for a new town which she named after her husband Lafayette. The Simpson Mine became the largest in northern Colorado until its closing in 1927 and the area’s population grew rapidly as mining brought wealth to the area.



"Old" Broomfield began to develop when railroad depot and post office were relocated after standard gauge replaced narrow gauge tracks one mile to the east.

Mapleton School in Boulder opened.


New Boulder train depot dedicated at 14th and Water St [Canyon Blvd].

The Boulder Camera was founded by Frederick P. Johnson and Bert Bell. The newspaper covered local news and became a daily in 1891. The paper’s name was changed to The Boulder Daily Camera the same year and today it is known simply as the Daily Camera.



Mount Saint Gertrude Academy opened.


The Boulder Creek "100-year" flood damaged the town. In May of 1894, 60 straight hours of warm rain combined with a rapid snowmelt to create a 100 year flood that ravaged Boulder. The floodwaters covered most of the town, inundating the area from Walnut Street to Arapaho and from 9th Street to the city limits in the east. In addition it washed out many houses as well as the bridges on 6th street and 12th street. The town was split in two as transportation and communication services were knocked out. Reconstruction began soon after the flood but proved an arduous process.



State Preparatory School moves into its own building at 17th and Pearl.


Colorado Sanitarium, a branch of Dr. J.H. Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, dedicated in Boulder.


Boulderites approved $20,000 bond election for Texas-Chautauqua Auditorium opened on July 4, 1898.

The Colorado & Northwestern Railroad route between Boulder and Ward named "The Switzerland Trail of America" by a Greeley man.


Tungsten was discovered in the mountains west of Boulder. Extending in a 9.5 mile strip from Arkansas Mountain to Nederland, it was one of the most productive veins in the region. The discovery coincided with the rising demand for tungsten and a number of eastern financiers began investing in the region. The ore, which sold for $2 per unit in 1901, reached $16 per unit by 1916 as the United States’ entry into World War One greatly increased the demand. By that time Boulder County was the world’s leading producer of tungsten ore.


Boulder’s request for 1,800 acres of mountain backdrop/watershed extending from South Boulder Creek to Sunshine Canyon approved by U.S. Congress.


The first automobile seen in Boulder was in June, 1900. By 1906, there were 26 registered auto cars, or "mankillers".

Summer home of John and Kate Harbeck completed; now a Boulder landmark, present-day home of the Boulder Museum of History.

Disastrous fire destroyed central Ward.

Lafayette business district burned.


City ordinance made it "unlawful for any person to ride or drive within Boulder at a rate of speed in excess of 6 miles per hour".


The Carnegie Library was built with money donated by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie. Located at 1125 Pine Street the building was modeled after Greek architecture, reflecting Boulderites opinion of themselves as the “Athens of the West.” Originally the Boulder Public Library, the building was renovated in 1981 and became the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, housing the collections of the Boulder Historical and Genealogical societies.


Ed Tangen took the first of his 16,000 photographs capturing the history of Boulder County from 1906 to 1951.

Curran Opera House opens at 1132-34 Pearl Street.


Boulder passed anti-saloon ordinance.

Three were killed and the Boulder freight depot blown up when a union brakeman set fire to burn out scab switchmen asleep in a caboose. Fire spread to a freight car loaded with 2,400 pounds of dynamite.


First run of electric Interurban train from Denver to Boulder.

Adolph J. Zang’s 4,000 acre ranch occupied a large percentage of what is now the City of Broomfield and Jefferson County Airport.

World’s largest tungsten mill built north of Nederland.

Ivy Baldwin made a record breaking high wire walk on a cable stretched 565 feet high across Eldorado Springs canyon.

Ten thousand pumpkin pies, thirty thousand sandwiches, and 75 barrels of coffee were served at Longmont’s Annual Pumpkin Pie Days.


The Boulderado Hotel opened for business on New Years Day.

"Baseball Billy" Sunday, the "World’s Greatest" Evangelist, held a crusade in Boulder.

The Union Pacific Railroad introduced a self-contained forty-two passenger rail car on the Denver-Boulder route.

The 78 foot car was powered by a six cylinder gasoline engine, had seats of "unusual width", oval windows that could be opened for fresh air, and a compartment for smokers.


3,000 coal miners in Boulder County go on strike; lasted five years.


The Boulder Canyon Road was completed in 1871, but it wouldn’t be until 1911 that the first car, a Stanley Steamer, made the difficult trip up the canyon from Boulder to Nederland. The Steamer replaced the daily stagecoach which had made the 18-mile trip for the last 40 years. Nearly abandoned by 1890, Nederland’s population grew to 3,000 in the early twentieth century with the discovery of tungsten in the area.


Western States Cutlery and Manufacturing Company founded in Boulder.


Charles C. Buckingham family donated Boulder Falls site to the City of Boulder.

US Army occupied Louisville during coal miner's strike.


William F. Cody met with old friends in Boulder while in town with the Sells-Floto Circus/Buffalo Bill’s Original Wild West Show.

Enos Mills, Father of Rocky Mountain National Park, succeeded in stimulating legislation that resulted in establishing Park.


The Colorado Chautauqua Bulletin reported "We Call it the Colorado Chautauqua, but it might as well be called the Colorado Music Festival".


The University of Colorado faculty voted to approve one of the first Reserve Officer Training [ROTC] programs in the nation.

With the automobile becoming commonplace, the process of paving Boulder’s streets began in September, at the corner of 18th and Pearl. The paving quickly spread down Pearl Street, the commercial center of town. 15-foot-wide concrete sidewalks were also added on either side of the street, replacing the flagstone walkways.



Boulder Day Nursery founded as one of the earliest day care centers in the nation.

Spanish influenza resulted in 41 deaths in Nederland and a quarantine in Boulder.


Switzerland Trail train scrapped.

Lions Club erected Panorama Park Shelter House on Flagstaff Mountain and donated it to the City of Boulder; this began a half-century of the Club’s providing park facilities to the city.


Boulder Boy Scouts, led by Ralph Hubbard, performed Indian dances before the British Royal Family, King Albert, and the Olympics in Antwerp.


Hellems was the first building completed in the "Rural Italian" or "Tuscan" style [sandstone and red roof tiles] on the University of Colorado campus.


Florence C. Molloy and Mabel N. Macleay operated a taxi and touring company in Boulder.


KKK paraded down Pearl Street.


Construction began on the Lakeside [Valmont] Power Plant, the "largest industrial project in the history of Boulder

County". It is still considered one of the most efficient plants in Public the Public Service Company [now EXCEL].
Police officer, Elmer Cobb, was murdered. Case remains unsolved.

Hygienic Swimming Pool [Spruce Pool] opened using warm water produced from the manufacture of ice at adjacent Hygienic Ice Company.


The University of Colorado Stadium [Folsom Field] completed in time for Homecoming.


Fire destroyed Bleecker and Company plant at 3rd and Arapahoe in Boulder. Plant manufactured luminous paint and "Zero Hour Bombs".


Fred C. Smith of Boulder set a worlds record for continuous automobile driving of 104 hours and 8 minutes.


Former President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union arrested for selling homemade intoxicants to university students. She led movement that closed Boulder saloons in 1907.


The last run of Boulder’s electric street cars. Begun in 1901, the streetcars ran the length of Pearl Street, from 12th street all the way to 31st. Pedestrians could hop on and off the cars as they traveled downtown. The streetcar service was even extended to Denver. By 1931 however, many residents had acquired personal automobiles and the streetcar was becoming increasingly obsolete.



Old Boulder County Courthouse burns down.


The largest still "ever found in Northern Colorado" uncovered on Gunbarrel Hill east of Boulder.


CCC boys finish Flagstaff Mt. amphitheater

First Pay Dirt Pow Wow celebration


On January 20, a stray spark caused a large explosion at Monarch Mine No. 2, a part of Colorado’s northern coal field. The explosion occurred at 6:20 A.M, killing eight miners who were working the graveyard shift. Had the explosion occurred an hour later, over 100 dayshift miners would have been working in the mine. As it was two miners survived, but debris and poisonous gases prevented rescuers from reaching the other victims in time. The mine was permanently closed and a granite gravestone was erected at the current site of the Flatirons Mall.


The Curran Opera house was renovated and turned into the Boulder Theater. The interior was updated and expanded to make the theater more suitable for film screenings. A number of art deco style changes were also made including the addition of colorful murals and exterior decoration. The theater became a historic landmark in 1980 and incorporated musical acts, making it a national attraction and a staple of Boulder’s entertainment scene.



First traffic light installed in Boulder at the corner of 12th (Broadway) and Pearl.

New WPA-built Boulder High School opened. Nude sculptures of "Wisdom and Strength" [Minnie and Jake] over entrance allowed to remain despite controversy.


Byron "Whizzer" White, later Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, became CU’s first All-American football player.


Glenn Miller's plane went down.

Boulder Historical Society organized. History museum proposed in new Municipal Building.


The Denver-Boulder turnpike was completed and opened to traffic in 1952. The highway was the first of its kind in Colorado and preceded the introduction of the Interstate system. It cost 25 cents for a trip from Denver to Boulder and provided a pleasant drive through rolling green farmland. Boulder’s population began to explode around this time and traffic volume so far exceeded expectations that the turnpike fees paid off the $6.3 million in bonds in 15 years. As a result the toll road became a free public road in 1967, becoming the first in the country to do so.


National Bureau of Standards broke ground for Radio Propagation Laboratories in Boulder.

Construction of CU’s $3,000,000 Student Memorial Center began.


Engine #30 of Switzerland Trail RR placed in Central Park.

Secret Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Factory opens 8 miles south of Boulder.


Water bond issue for $2,000,000 was passed to build Boulder Reservoir in the northeast part of town. It was a part of the Colorado-Big Thompson trans-mountain water diversion project.


Construction of Boulder’s first “skyscraper” began. It was the 9-story $1,000,000 Colorado Insurance Group building at 14th and Walnut.

The $2,000,000 Boulder Canyon highway, an all-paved mountain road between Boulder and Nederland, was officially dedicated.

Dial phone service was inaugurated in Boulder by Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph at a cost of $2,000,000.


Railroad passenger service closed to the old depot in downtown Boulder. It then became a bus depot until 1972 when the city made plans to demolish it at its location on 14th and Canyon. The building was saved by a number of concerned citizens and was relocated to 30th and Pearl Street. Now a historical landmark, the depot was used as an event center until acquired by the city in 2008 and moved to Boulder Junction, near the Northern and Santa Fe railroad. Built by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1890, the structure is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture, something that has helped it survive numerous relocations.



Boulder became first city in Colorado to have Direct Distant Dialing service enabling customers to dial calls throughout the nation without operator assistance.

PLAN-Boulder organized and secured passage of "Blue Line" to prevent development along mountain backdrop.

Martin Acres subdivision was developing and homes were offered for $700 down FHA and no down G.I. loans.

The average cost of new homes in Boulder soared to a record of $12,755.

Boulder voters adopted a dog-leash law.


A new instrument - the atomic clock - is introduced at the National Bureau of Standards. It is accurate to within a second every 1,000 years.

Skiing at Chautauqua using a rope tow was free for elementary school children.

The Boulder-Longmont Diagonal road (Hwy 119) completed.

Construction begins on the new Boulder Public Library on Canyon after Boulderites pass a library bond.

The Chamber of Commerce estimates the population of Boulder to be at 42,000; more than doubling in size over a ten-year period.


The state of Colorado purchased 565 acres below the flatirons with the intent of turning it over to the federal government for the construction of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. An exception was added to Boulder’s "Blue Line", a city policy which controlled settlement in the foothills west of Boulder by denying water to these houses. With that out of the way, construction began on the Mesa Lab in 1964. The structure was modeled after the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in southwest Colorado and the sandstone building material was designed to blend into the flatiron landscape that surrounded it. Today NCAR works closely with the University of Colorado and conducts cutting edge research in the field of atmospheric science.


A new combined Department of Parks and Recreation was formed and approved in a special election.

Universal water meters monitoring water usage for residents use was proposed.

Traffic code amended to give bicyclists rights as well as obligations under Motor Vehicle regulations.


Valverdan Park renamed Scott Carpenter Park in honor of Scott Carpenter, a NASA astronaut, from Boulder, who manned the Aurora 7.

Orbiting Solar Observatory satellite, that was built and developed in Boulder, was launched.

The annexation of the 575-acre Table Mesa subdivision was approved by the City Council.

Representatives were sent to Washington D.C. to present Boulder’s bid for an All American City award.


Crossroads mall built.

Boulder city council enacted an ordinance requiring city licenses on all bicycles ridden in Boulder whether owned by residents or non-residents.

Enchanted Mesa subdivision condemnation process begins. Although $105,000 was approved by taxpayers for purchase, owners want $876,000.


Building permits worth $3.3 million were issued for 300 new dwellings in Table Mesa. First residents moved into area in May of 1963. Construction for Southern Hills Junior High School also begins.

Boulder’s water was treated fully for the first time in its 92-year history. The new $2.3 million filtration plant capable of treating water from Silver Lake and Barker Reservoir is the first stage of a $7.5 million water improvement system.

The space industry, with the importance of the National Bureau of Standards and Beech Aircraft Corporation in the launching of the Saturn I rocket, had a direct impact on Boulder’s growth. In the last 13 years, population and employment figures doubled while there was a tripling of retail sales and a 400% increase in total assessed valuation of the city.

Blue and white 6 by 24 inch street signs mounted on 7-foot poles began replacing old concrete obelisk markers to facilitate drivers finding their way around the growing city of Boulder.


The IBM plant along the Boulder-Longmont Diagonal triggered growth that is ongoing.


Boulder voters approved the nation’s first tax to preserve open space in the community. The tax increase was used to purchase land around the town and protect it. This has prevented urban sprawl from occurring in Boulder and in turn has raised the quality of life in town. The county now owns 99,000 acres of open space and leases some to local farmers while other land has been turned into public parks for the enjoyment of all.


Boulder votes approved sale of intoxicating beverages after 60 years.

Regularly scheduled railroad passenger service ends in Boulder.

Denver-Boulder Turnpike became toll free; the debt was paid off early.


Boulder's Central Park declared health hazard because of transients.

Mount Saint Gertrude Girls School closed.

Celestial Seasonings, now a worldwide tea company, was founded by Mo Siegel of Boulder.


CU's Regent's Hall occupied by youthful anti-war demonstrators.


Boulder adopted a fifty-five foot height limitation for new buildings.


Demolition of Central School stimulated growth of Historic Boulder, Inc. and the adoption of a City Landmark Ordinance.

Turnpike interchange at 28th Street occupied by antiwar demonstrators.


Boulder's Flatirons School bombed.

Bomb explodes in car at Burger King in Boulder killing three.

Bomb explodes in Chautauqua killing three.


Red Zinger Bicycle Classic Race, started by Celestial Seasonings, first raced through Boulder. Lasted 5 years until it became sponsored by Adolph Coors Co.


Boulder votes approved a 2% growth limitation referendum, know as the Danish Plan.

Pearl Street is closed to automobile traffic and the pedestrian mall is opened. With Boulder’s population explosion in the 60’s and 70’s, Boulder’s downtown area was becoming an afterthought as shopping centers sprung up on the outskirts of town. Local architect Carl Worthington proposed the idea of a pedestrian mall modeled after European walking plazas. The city received a grant from the federal government and a number of local organizations worked together to make the plan a reality. The mall revitalized downtown Boulder and is one of the most successful walking malls in the country.



The forty-five year old Pow Wow Days are held for the last time in Boulder. Moved to Longmont and Louisville before its demise in 1982.


The Bolder Boulder was run for the first time on Memorial Day through the streets of Boulder. 2700 participants competed in the inaugural 10k race which finished at North Boulder Park. In 1980, it concluded at Boulder High School. The finish was switched to Folsom Field on the campus of the University of Colorado in 1981 due to the increasing popularity of the race. This helped facilitate the growth of the event, and today over 50,000 people participate in one of the premier running events in the country.


Kinetics Conveyance Race first held at the Boulder Reservoir


Tom Czech, a CU professor, and Sidney Altman, a CU graduate, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry


The Dushanbe Tea House was erected on 13th street. Beginning in 1987, forty artisans from the city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan constructed the exquisite building in traditional style. It was then disassembled and shipped to Boulder in 200 separate crates in 1990. A lack of funds and arguments over the best location delayed the project over the next seven years. These problems were finally ironed out and construction began on the tea house in 1997 before it opened to the public the following year.


Mount Saint Gertrude Academy reopened as a retirement community.


27.5 square miles (71.2 km2) of Boulder County's southeastern corner and its approximate population of 40,000 became part of the City and County of Broomfield.


The Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) is held each February by the Colorado Film Society, a nonprofit organization founded by local filmmakers Kathy and Robin Beeck. BIFF is dedicated to providing the urban, film–hip audiences of the Denver/Boulder metro area with an early look at the best new films in international cinema. There also are conversations with directors, producers, and actors; world–class food and parties; and an opportunity to rub elbows with filmmakers in a winter wonderland. BIFF has hosted over 150 filmmakers from around the world since the Boulder–based Beeck sisters led the inaugural event in 2005.


Boulder, Colorado host its 150th anniversary celebration. Check out this video for little history about Boulder over the past century and a half.


On Labor Day a wildfire broke out in Four Mile Canyon northwest of Boulder. A dry August and wind speeds up to 60 mph created conditions ideal for the fire which ripped through the canyon. 6,000 acres were ablaze by the end of the day, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 residents in the area. Firemen contained the blaze a week later but not before 169 homes were destroyed, making it the most destructive fire in Colorado history at the time.


The 25th anniversary of the Boulder Farmer’s Market occurred. In 1986 a group of local farmers decided to organize a farmer’s market to combat the pricing out of small farmers. Markets had occurred informally in the preceding years but had met with little success. This time the farmers secured a permit from the city and set up in Central Park. The following year the market became a non-profit corporation and began collecting a small percentage of food sales to offset operating costs. The market continued to grow and today it is a popular community event in Boulder that helps promote local agriculture.


A number of athletes with Boulder connections competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Boulder natives Timmy Duggan and Taylor Phinney competed in cycling events, with Phinney coming in fourth in the Men’s Individual Road Race and the Men’s Time Trial. Boulder resident Laura Bennet competed in the Women’s Triathlon while current CU student Emma Coburn finished 9th in the Women’s 3,000 Meter Steeplechase. Former Buffalo Jenny Simpson competed in the Women’s 1,500 Meters. In total eleven athletes with Boulder ties competed in the London Olympics.