the capital of Colorado, was established by a party of prospectors on
November 22, 1858,
after a gold discovery at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South
Platte River. Town founders named the dusty crossroads for James W. Denver,
Governor of Kansas Territory, of which eastern Colorado was then a part.
Other gold discoveries sparked a mass migration of some 100,000 in 1859-60,
leading the federal government to establish Colorado Territory in 1861.
the great Colorado gold rush, the Rocky Mountains offered little to attract
settlers, except "hairy bank notes," the beaver pelts
prized by fur trappers, traders and fashionably hatted gentlemen in Eastern
America and Europe. The gold rush changed that, as the rudely dispossessed
Cheyenne and Arapaho soon discovered.
Mile High City’s aggressive leadership, spearheaded by William N. Byers,
founding editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Territorial Governor
John Evans, insisted that the Indians must go. After dispossessing the
natives, Denverites built a network of railroads that made their town
the banking, minting, supply and processing center not only for Colorado,
but for neighboring states. Between 1870 when the first railroads arrived
and 1890, Denver grew from 4,759 to 106,713. In a single generation, it
became the second most populous city in the West, second only to San Francisco.
founded as the main supply town for Rocky Mountain mining camps, Denver
also emerged as a hub for high plains agriculture. Denver’s breweries,
bakeries, meat packing and other food-processing plants made it the
regional agricultural center, as well as a manufacturing hub for farm
and ranch equipment, barbed wire, windmills, seed, feed and harnesses.
depression of 1893 and repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act abruptly
ended Denver’s first boom. Civic leaders began promoting economic diversity—growing
wheat and sugar beets, manufacturing, tourism and service industries.
The Denver Livestock Exchange and National Western Stock Show confirmed
the city’s role as the "cow town" of the Rockies. Denver began growing
again after 1900, but at a slower rate. Stockyards, brickyards, canneries,
flour mills, leather and rubber goods nourished the city. Of many Denver-area
breweries, only Coors has survived, becoming the nation’s third largest
headquarters of many oil and gas firms in the Mile High City fueled much
of Denver’s post-World War II growth and an eruption of 40- and 50-story
high-rise buildings downtown, during the 1970s. Denver’s economic base
has come to include skiing and tourism, electronics, computers, aviation
and the nation’s largest telecommunications center. As the regional center
of a vast mountain and plain hinterland, Denver boasts more federal employees
than any city besides Washington, D. C. Since the 1940s, the large federal
center, augmented by state and local government jobs, has somewhat stabilized
the city’s boom-and-bust cycle.
on high plains at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver has
a sunny, cool, dry climate, averaging 15 inches of precipitation a year.
The sun shines 300 days a year, and the usually benign climate and nearby
Rocky Mountain playground have
tourism one of the Mile High City’s economic mainstays. Warm Chinook winds
warm the winters between snowstorms.
Denver is notable for it predominance of single-family housing and its
brick buildings. Good brick clay underlies much of the area, while local
lumber is soft, scarce and inferior. Even in the poorest residential neighborhoods,
single-family, detached housing prevails, reflecting the Western interest
in "elbow room" and a spacious, relatively flat, high plains site, where
sprawling growth is unimpeded by any large body of water or geographic
1970s energy boom spurred a proliferation of suburban subdivisions, shopping
malls and a second office core in the suburban Denver Tech Center. Denver’s
traditional dependence on non-renewable natural resources returned to
haunt the city during the 1980s oil bust. When the price of crude oil
dropped from $39 to $9 a barrel,
Denver sank into a depression, losing population and experiencing the
highest office vacancy rate in the nation.
institutions include the Denver Museum of Natural History, the Denver
Public Library, the Colorado History Museum, the Denver Art Museum and
the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, as well as the U. S. Mint and
major league baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer teams.
Gun violence and crime, as well as smog, and traffic congestion are among
the principal problems.
of the most isolated major cities in the United States, Denver always
has been obsessed with transportation systems. Fear of being bypassed
began early when railroads and later, airlines, originally avoided Denver
because of the 14,000-foot-high Rocky Mountain barrier just west of town.
To secure Denver’s place on national transportation maps, the city opened
a new $5 billion airport in 1995. The 55-square-mile Den
ver International Airport is the nation’s largest in
terms of area and capacity for growth, prompting boosters to call it the
is a sprawling city in a state of long distances and mountainous obstacles.
To tackle long distances and tough terrain, Coloradoans have become auto-dependent.
Denver has one of the highest per-capita motor vehicle ownership rates
in the country—with an average of one licensed vehicle for every man,
woman and child. In the 1990s, Denver built an outer ring of freeways
that immediately became over-congested. Even after the Regional Transportation
District began building a light-rail system, highway congestion remained
the number-one complaint of many Denverites.
the metro area reached a population of 2.1 million, three-fourths of whom
live in the suburban counties—Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas
and Jefferson. Roughly 20 percent of the core city population is Spanish-surnamed,
13 percent African-American, two percent Asian and one percent Native
American. Denver has elected
Hispanic (Federico Peña, 1983-91) and African-American (Wellington Webb,
1991-2001) mayors in recent years and has enjoyed relatively smooth race
Rocky Mountain metropolis boomed during the 1990s, as the eastern suburb
of Aurora became Colorado’s third-largest city and the western suburb
of Lakewood became the fourth-largest. Even the core City and County of
Denver gained population in the 1990s for the first time since the 1970s,
climbing once again beyond the 500,000 mark. Thanks to landmark districts
preserving venerable business and residential areas, as well as the 1990s
opening in the core South Platte River Valley of Coors Baseball Field,
Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, Ocean Journey Aquarium, Pepsi Athletic
Center and many new housing projects, downtown Denver is booming as well
as its suburban fringe, at the dawn of the 21st century.