During the 19th century, several explorers, including Zebulon Pike, Stephan Long, and later John Fremont, were commissioned to explore the Boulder area. One of Fremont’s men named William Gilpin, who later became the first governor of the Colorado Territory, reported that there was gold to be found in Boulder, sparking interest in an area formerly considered unfit for settlement.
In the early years of Boulder, mining played an extremely important role in Boulder’s development. It continued to bring settlers into the area who were both involved in mining itself and in supporting facilities, such as hardware and mining supply stores, transport businesses, room and board houses, and gambling and drinking establishments. Soon a strong agricultural industry, including grain milling, began to develop.
Boulder’s roots in education began in 1860, when the first schoolhouse in Colorado was erected at the southwest corner of Walnut and 15th Street. Also in 1860, Boulder’s prominent citizens lobbied strongly with the State Legislature to have the State University located here. They succeeded, and on November 7, 1861, legislation was signed to that effect. It was not until 1872 that six Boulder citizens made an actual site available, due to their generous donation of 44.9 acres
The first building to be constructed with this money still stands today, and is called Old Main, which housed the entire University, including classrooms, a library, auditorium and the President’s living quarters. Old Main was built on the southern end of town, in an area known as “The Hill.” The University of Colorado opened its doors in September of 1877, to one building, forty-four students, one professor and a President.
Boulder was now well on its way, and was taking on the features of an established town. In 1871, dog control was initiated, in addition to a tree-planting program (Boulder was virtually treeless when first discovered).
In 1898, one of Boulder’s crowning jewels, Chautauqua, was created. A group of Texans chose Boulder in 1897 as a retreat to escape excessively hot Texas summers. They decided on Boulder, and built one of the nations most beautiful vacation spots. One of only three remaining in the country today, Boulder’s Chautauqua was completed July 4th, 1898. Chautauquas at the time were well respected family retreats, focusing on culture, music, nature, family activities and often religion. This Chautauqua was particularly important for the area, because it really began Boulder’s parks and open space preservation. The day after Chautauqua’s grand opening, the city of Boulder purchased the eastern slope of Flagstaff Mountain from the United States Government. Purchasing land for preservation became one of Boulder’s top priorities, and still is today. The Boulder County Open Space program has over 54,000 acres dedicated to Parks and Open Space today.
In the 1950′s, 60′s and 70′s Boulder began to boom with big business. Companies like IBM and Ball Aerospace (a subsidiary of Ball Corporation) moved to Boulder and created many new jobs for Boulder’s growing population. Celestial Seasonings was started in Boulder by Mo Siegel, and has become one of the world’s largest producers of tea. The Naropa Institute, founded by Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and the Boulder School of Massage Therapy made their debuts in the 1970′s.
Today, Boulder has 103,000 residents, in addition to 29,000 University of Colorado students. Many things in Boulder have changed since its humble beginnings, however there is much that has not. Boulder is as beautiful now as ever, and due to well-thought-out planning and preservation, Boulder has not lost its individuality or uniqueness as a beautiful place to work and play.