Your Destination Guide to Denver

Destination Guide Denver - Your Destination Guide to Denver, CO

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© Beverly

In due time we reach Denver, which city I fall in love with from the first, and have that feeling confirm’d, the longer I stay there. – Walt Whitman

Denver has weathered devastating fires, catastrophic floods, and ravaging Indian wars, but these days Denver is far from a dusty frontier town. Originally, Denver, in fact most of Colorado, was part of the Kansas Territory and was populated almost exclusively by the Plains tribes. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 conceded the land that makes up Denver to the Arapaho and Cheyenne, but that agreement was basically ignored when prospectors found flecks of gold in the Platte River in July 1858. The mere whisper of the word gold was enough to start a veritable stampede into the region, known as the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. The community grew to create various mining camps such as Denver City and Boulder City, and it wasn’t long before tents, tepees, wagons and log cabins lined the banks of the South Platte River as prospectors and fortune seekers poured into the area.

In the early years of Denver’s history, the town was the classic image of the Wild West, complete with saloons, brothels, and lawlessness. In fact, Denver was initially three separate towns on both sides of the South Platte River, but in 1859 over a shared barrel of whiskey, the smaller towns were convinced to become part of the larger city now known as Denver. General William Larimer laid out a city established with cabins and tents at what is now the site of Confluence Park, and in hopes of gaining political favor, named the city after retired territorial governor James Denver. However members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes clashed with the new settlers, and eventually the Native Americans were edged out – often in violent and bloody confrontations. A new treaty was drawn up in 1861 which gave Denver to the United States. Denver’s story doesn’t end there; after nearly two years of a severe drought, a fire in April 1863 left the main business section of the city in a pile of ash and rubble. The next year the rains returned with a vengeance causing a fatal flash flood, killing more than 20 people, and causing thousands of dollars in damages. From 1863 to 1865, Native American hostilities increased, resulting in the Colorado War. On November 29, 1864, a 700-man militia attacked and destroyed a friendly village of the Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment killing and mutilating about 200 of the Indians, two-thirds of whom were women and children.

At the close of the 1860s, Cheyenne Wyoming, 100 miles north, was selected to be a stop on the transcontinental railroad and it was assumed that Denver would become a dusty, forgotten ghost town. Instead, Denver reinvented itself as an attractive destination for business and tourists. The city added a spur line to the railroad, easing the transportation of people and freight to the city. The mile-high city also gained a new reputation for being a healthy destination as the dry thin mountain air helped tuberculosis patients, so infirmaries were built to care for the flocks that came for a cure. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting the state of Colorado to the Union on August 1, 1876. Throughout the next several decades the city evolved as industries such as silver mining, ranching, agriculture, and eventually federal government developed in the area while tourists came in droves to see the elegant hotels and spectacular mansions which flaunted the city’s wealth.

Like any city, Denver suffered its growing pains. World War I revitalized long-closed mines as demand for silver skyrocketed, but the post-war years and the Great Depression hit the region hard. The federal government established Lowry Air Force Base east of the city and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal among others – and many of these facilities became useful for research, so thousands of jobs were not lost at the end of the war. By the 1950s, middle class families were moving away from the downtown to larger houses and better schools, and soldiers from the local bases made the city their home. With recent population boom new highways were built to connect growing suburbs to each other and downtown. In the years following World War II, Denver mushroomed to become the largest city between the Great Plains and the Pacific Coast.

The 1970s were a time of urban renewal and uplift for the downtown skyline as many oil and gas companies headquartered their offices in Denver. Skyscrapers were added while historic preservationists fought to maintain the integrity of the city’s original structures. But then, Denver was hit hard by the oil bust in the 1980s and experienced setbacks for high tech companies. Denver International Airport opened in the late 1990s, resulting in a flood of new business, tourists and residents. By the turn of the 21st century, Denver began to slowly build an economy reliant on a wider variety of industries such as agriculture and manufacturing.

While Colorado is traditionally known as a conservative stronghold, it was the host city for the 2008 Democratic National Convention held at the Pepsi Center. This event clearly illustrates how diverse and wildly popular this city is. Population projections continue to grow with more people being expected to make Denver their home in the coming years. Additionally, Denver has one of the most highly educated workforces in the nation; according to the U.S. Census, 92% of the population in the metro area have a high school diploma, and 35% have at least a bachelor’s degree (the national average is 81.7% and 23% respectively), resulting in a higher-than-average household income.

Denver fought against all odds to build and maintain status as a major city, and these days the city is a unique blend of Old West with a touch of cosmopolitan hip, set against the brilliant Rocky Mountains. Denver has a natural appeal all on its own.


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