Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado’s Most Endangered Places

Every February, Colorado Preservation Inc. (CPI) releases their annual list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places. The program brings awareness to historic buildings, landscapes, or archaeological sites around Colorado that are in danger of demolition, neglect, modification, or development. This year’s endangered places, highlighting the history of southern Colorado, are:

  • Adobe Potato Cellars of the San Luis Valley (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Rio Grande, and Saguache Counties)
  • Hose Company No. 3 Fire Museum (Pueblo County)
  • Iglesia De San Antonio-Tiffany Catholic Church (La Plata County)
  • McIntire Ranch and Mansion (Conejos County)
  • R&R Market (Costilla County)

The Culebra River Villages of Costilla County, Colorado, a Colorado Historical Society publication available from our library, mentions the history of the adobe potato cellars:

An important consideration involved storage. When Anglo growers first marketed potatoes they stored surpluses above ground in circular wire-frames encased with hay or in straw-covered trenches. However, the Rio Culebra farmers preferred to store potatoes in a large, underground cellars, or soterranos. Because Hispano[s] used earth, not sod, for walls, their structures maintain an even temperature that kept potatoes from freezing. Hispano subterranean structures were so efficient and cheap to fabricate that Anglo farmers throughout the San Luis Valley adopted double-wall adobe construction for their above-ground storage facilities.

Adobe potato cellars in Rio Grande County, Colorado, circa 1939. Courtesy Library of Congress.

A second Historical Society publication offers information about Conejos County’s McIntire Ranch. An Archaeological Inventory in the Pike’s Stockade Area, Conejos County, Colorado discusses the ranch site‘s historical and archaeological resources, including what remains of the large adobe ranch house. The ranch belonged to Albert McIntire, governor of Colorado from 1895 to 1897. You can read about adobe construction in Adobe as a Building Material for the Plains and Adobe Brick for Farm Buildings, two early-twentieth-century publications from the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station.

To learn more about historic preservation and its impact on Colorado communities, see Preservation for a Changing Colorado, a 2017 publication of CPI and History Colorado. Search our library’s online catalog for more Colorado history resources.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The WPA in Colorado

During the height of the Great Depression, as banks failed, unemployment soared, and farm prices dropped, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established as one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal projects. The WPA focused on creating and providing jobs rather than handing out direct relief. Most of the WPA jobs were aimed at civic improvements, such as public buildings and roads. Thousands of out-of-work artists and artisans, architects, musicians, writers, historians, and others who had previously been employed in creative or intellectual fields were given temporary work. Parks, trails, bridges, public buildings, artworks, and literary projects produced by the WPA continue to be enjoyed to this day.

Colorado’s division of the WPA issued The WPA Worker: A Monthly Pictorial Journal for Workers and Citizens of Colorado Interested in the Statewide Projects of Works Progress AdministrationIssues from 1936 and 1937 have recently been digitized by our library. Each issue of this amazing periodical highlights WPA projects in all corners of the state. These included many construction projects like public buildings, roads, bridges, stadiums, and parks, but also included such varied activities as

As Coloradans suffered from the effects of the Great Depression, the WPA enhanced life in every part of the state, and often undertook long overdue projects that in many cases would not have been otherwise completed. Many of the projects continue to enhance our lives today.

For more resources on the WPA in Colorado, see the following publications available from our library:

Aguilar’s city hall was constructed by the WPA.


The playground at Lake Junior High in Denver was also a WPA project.


Old infrastructure was replaced across the state.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: History of Aspen, Colorado

Today, Aspen’s riches come from the ski industry — but they used to come from silver mining. Aspen was founded in 1879, during the glory days of Colorado silver mining — the same era when mining boomtowns like Leadville and Georgetown were being established. With seemingly endless amounts of silver in the nearby Elk and Sawatch mountains, Aspen thrived until 1893, when economic disaster struck. That year, Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, under which the federal government had purchased millions of ounces of silver for coinage. Without a market for the silver, Aspen and the other boomtowns nearly became ghost towns.

Despite a steady decline in population, and area mines and railroads going bankrupt, Aspen managed to survive — but it needed something to sustain it. Tourism, and the newly fashionable sport of skiing, became the answer. In 1924, the Independence Pass Highway was completed, making travel to Aspen easier. Then, in 1936, Aspen’s first ski lodge was opened, ushering in the industry that would give rebirth to the town. Ski enthusiasts and wealthy vacationers descended on Aspen. In 1946, the area’s first chairlift opened, the longest in the world at the time, according to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia. New ski resorts opened, and Aspen continued to thrive.

It wasn’t just skiing that made Aspen famous, however. It became known as a center for arts and culture, hosting such notable events as the Aspen Music Festival, the International Design Conference, and the Aspen Institute. Today, Aspen is known as a playground for celebrities, with some of the most expensive real estate in the United States — a far cry from the Silver Crash days.

You can read more about Aspen in numerous publications from our library; many are available online. In 1958, William Wardell wrote a delightful article in the Colorado Historical Society’s Colorado Magazine, sharing his memories of childhood in Aspen before the Silver Crash. You can also read about Aspen during the mining years in Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893, which is available for checkout.

Over the past several decades the University of Colorado’s business school has prepared numerous studies on Aspen tourism, including:

The University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research also published several studies on Aspen environmental issues, including Quality Skiing at Aspen, Colorado (1975) and Landslides Near Aspen, Colorado (1976).

Other historical resources on Aspen available from our library include highway studies, air quality studies, a 1965 report on the Aspen general area plan, and, more recently, Climate Change and Aspen from 2006. Search our online catalog for titles. Finally, be sure to check out the Aspen Historical Society’s website for a historical timeline, digital archives, and more.


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado State Museum

Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Have you lived in Colorado long enough to remember when the State Museum was located at 14th and Sherman, in what is now the Legislative Services Building?

The State Historical Society was established in 1879 and its earliest museum exhibits were located in the State Capitol. By the early 1900s, however, the Society wanted its own home. Architect Frank Edbrooke — who had completed the designs for the Capitol — was hired to design a new structure, which would be located across the street. Built of native Colorado materials including Yule marble and Cotopaxi granite, the three-story Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1915. The museum was best known for its impressive archaeological collections and early Native American artifacts. Later, in the 1930s, WPA activities resulted in a great deal of historical research as well as the creation of the dioramas that became one of the museum’s most memorable features. In fact, the amazingly detailed WPA diorama depicting 1860 Denver can still be viewed at today’s History Colorado Center.

You can learn about the old museum building in Colorado Capitol Buildings, a 1951 publication highlighting the State Capitol and its associated architecture. In addition, a 1972 museum brochure digitized by our library might bring back memories, with photos and descriptions of the exhibits.

The State Museum continued at 14th and Sherman until 1976, when it moved to a new home at 1300 Broadway. That second building was torn down in 2010 and the current building, at 12th and Broadway, opened in 2012. The old museum building became legislative offices, due to its proximity to the Capitol, and is a part of the Denver Civic Center National Historic Landmark District.

The Colorado State Museum under construction, circa 1915. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.


Colorado State Publications Blog

Herndon Davis, Colorado Artist

You’re probably familiar with the Face on the Barroom Floor, the mysterious portrait of a dark-haired lady on the floor of the Teller House in Central City. But did you know that the same artist who painted this iconic image also used his paintings to document the Colorado he knew, before it vanished forever?

The Face on the Barroom Floor. Herndon Davis, 1936. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Herndon Davis (1901-1962) started his artistic career as a commercial illustrator in several midwestern cities. He moved to Denver in 1936, working for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. While in Central City to paint a series of murals for the Central City Opera House, Davis painted the Face, thought to be an image of his wife, Nita.

Over time, Davis began to notice how much Colorado, and Denver especially, were changing. Gone was the frontier West, which Davis set about to document in paintings of rickety frontier towns and old mine sites. He painted and sketched numerous portraits of notable Coloradans like Kit Carson, John Brisben Walker, and Helen Bonfils. He even painted Colorado dinosaurs.

But Davis is perhaps best appreciated for his paintings of old Denver and metro area buildings, often documenting them before they were lost. Davis painted the remaining homes of early Denver area settlers; fine Capitol Hill mansions; and famous nineteenth-century Denver buildings that had fallen into disrepair. Buildings that were the pride of nineteenth-century Denver are shown surrounded by parked cars, for sale signs, and empty lots. Yet each retains a dignified beauty that Davis was able to capture, even as the structures were about to be lost to the wrecking ball.

The Hallack Mansion, one of Capitol Hill’s largest homes, painted by Davis in 1940 shortly before the building’s demolition. It is now the site of the Cash Register Building at the corner of 17th and Sherman. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
The Tabor Grand Opera House, 16th and Curtis, painted by Davis in 1941 as the building fell into disrepair. Most Denver historians agree that the Tabor was the finest building ever built in Denver. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
This view of the Navarre building, which still stands on Tremont Street, shows the changing landscape of Denver in 1940. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

Davis and his art are featured in Herndon Davis: Painting Colorado History by Craig Leavitt and Thomas J. Noel (University Press of Colorado, 2016), a full-color book which you can check out from our library or on Prospector. Much of Davis’s art is now in the Collection of the Denver Public Library Western History Department, and you can view many more Davis paintings on their website.

Credit: University Press of Colorado.
Colorado State Publications Blog

The “Maverick” of Carpenter Ranch

Farrington “Ferry” Carpenter was a Harvard- and Princeton- educated rancher whose autobiography, Confessions of a Maverick, is one of the most frequently checked out items in our library collection. Today, his Routt County ranch, still a working cattle operation, has been preserved as a nature center.

Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Carpenter (1886-1980) spent time in New Mexico as a teenager, developing a lifelong love of the West. During his college years, he would spend summers in Colorado, where he began purchasing cattle. After obtaining his law degree at Harvard, he moved to Colorado full-time and became the town of Hayden’s first lawyer. He was most devoted to his cattle ranch, however. “He became one of the best informed men in the country on land and grazing laws,” according to his obituary. He served as the first director of the U.S. Grazing Service and was one of the primary authors of the Taylor Grazing Act. He also served in the State Legislature, as District Attorney for the Fourteenth Judicial District, and as the state’s first Director of Revenue.

Today, the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden, Colorado, is overseen by the Nature Conservancy as a research and education center focused on nature, agriculture, and conservation. Visitors to the ranch can explore the original house and barn. The site is also known as a hot spot for birdwatchers, and guided birdwatching hikes are available.

Carpenter told the story of his exciting life in Confessions of a Maverick, published by the Colorado Historical Society in 1984. You can check out a copy from our library or through Prospector. Also see the article Butting Heads: Farrington Carpenter’s Dramatic Role in the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934,” which appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of Colorado Heritage and is also available for checkout from our library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community

A recent news story discussed a new state audit report assessing the Fort Lyon residential facility – but the news report failed to actually link to the report. You can view the report here. The report provides a cost-benefit analysis of the facility and an assessment of success rates.

Fort Lyon, in Bent County, served as a U.S. Army fort from 1867 to 1897. In the twentieth century it was used as a veteran’s hospital, and then as a minimum security prison from 2001-2011. In 2013 the site reopened as a rehab facility for homeless persons. The facility includes not only housing, but programs to help residents overcome substance abuse issues. It is not a correctional facility – residents live there by choice.

Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community is run by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. To learn more, visit the facility’s website.

Residents of Fort Lyon get to live in the campus’s historic buildings. Photo courtesy DOLA.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Denver Landmarks & Historic Districts

Over the last few months you may have read the news articles about the proposed development of Larimer Square, Denver’s first designated historic district. This week, it was back in the news when the National Trust for Historic Preservation added Larimer Square to its annual list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

For the story behind Larimer Square, its buildings, and why it was preserved, check out Dr. Thomas J. Noel’s Denver Landmarks and Historic Districts (University Press of Colorado, 2016). This book takes a look at how, and why, Denver established its Landmark Preservation Commission in 1967 and has since designated over 50 historic districts – beginning with Larimer Square – and over 300 individual landmarks. Each of the districts and landmark structures is examined in the book. In our library you can also check out the first edition of the title, published in 1996 – which, in comparison with the new edition, can show how the program has grown in the last twenty years.

For more information about current issues in historic preservation in our state see Preservation for a Changing Colorado (History Colorado, 2017).

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Yule Marble

Lincoln Memorial.

Did you know that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. are constructed of marble quarried here in Colorado? The stone comes from the Colorado Yule Marble quarry in the Crystal River valley near Marble, between Aspen and Carbondale. Colorado Yule marble, named for nearby Yule Creek, is a special variety of marble found only in Colorado. Yule marble has been used in buildings and monuments across the United States. Here in Denver it’s also been used in many state government buildings, including the building that houses our library.

The Yule Marble quarry. Courtesy Colorado Geological Survey.

The Colorado Yule Marble Company was founded by Channing Meek in 1905, although marble had been discovered in the area as early as the 1870s. The town of Marble was founded in 1881. It was after the turn of the century, however, when marble became especially fashionable. With financial assistance from the Rockefellers, Meek spent $3 million establishing the quarry and building a power plant and a railroad to the quarry site through Marble, where the processing mill was located. During its first few years the operation employed nearly 900 workers, many of them Italian immigrants. “Colorado Marble and Building Stone is the Finest in the World,” proclaimed the 1909-10 report of the state’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in a profile of Yule Marble, which you can read online from our library.

In 1912 an avalanche destroyed the quarry, which is cut into a steep mountainside. It was soon rebuilt and back in operation. That summer, Meek, the founder and superintendent, was killed in a trolley accident in the quarry. The operation continued with new leadership, however, and between 1914 and 1916 supplied stone to Washington, D.C. for the Lincoln Memorial.

Over the next few years, fires, floods, the coming of WWI, and labor troubles tested the company. It was foreclosed and split into two companies and sold; however, in 1924 the two companies merged to form the Consolidated Yule Marble Company. It was sold again in 1928, and in 1930, it was chosen to provide the stone for the Tomb of the Unknowns. “The company was chosen because it had the only quarry capable of cutting a single block of marble large enough for the proposed design,” according to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A building in Los Angeles constructed of Colorado Yule Marble.

By 1941, demand for marble had decreased as cheaper building materials were being introduced and modernist styles favored steel and glass. The quarry was shut down in the fall of that year, just prior to America’s entry into WWII. During and after the war, the quarry site sat mostly vacant until 1990, when it was finally reopened. A series of different owners have operated the site since that time. In 2004, marble was declared the State Rock

If you’re out exploring the Crystal River valley this summer, you can visit the Colorado Yule Marble site. While the quarry itself is closed to tourists, you can still hike near the old Crystal Mill and see scattered marble remnants and rejects. The town of Marble also has a history museum.

Marble remnants can still be seen while hiking around the area. Photo by Alan Levine courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Colorado State Publications Blog

The Dent Archaeological Site

Near Milliken, Colorado is the Dent Site, one of Colorado’s oldest and most significant archaeological sites.  It was discovered in 1932 by a railroad foreman, who spotted some very large bones sticking out of the mud near the railroad tracks.  Construction of the tracks, combined with heavy spring rains, had exposed a site that had been covered since the last ice age.

After the discovery of the site in 1932, Professor Conrad Bilgery of Regis University and curator Jesse Figgins of the Denver Museum of Natural History studied the bones and determined them to be the skeletons of ice age mammoths.  They uncovered five adult female mammoth skeletons along with eight young mammoths. But the most important information yielded at the site was not about mammoths, but about people. Found nearby the mammoths were two Clovis spear points.  These spears were used by people now known as belonging to the Clovis culture, which existing approximately 12,000 years ago. The mammoth bones also showed marks consistent with having been butchered, showing that mammoth was an important part of these early peoples’ diets.

Research at the site resumed in the 1970s through the early 2000s, when new techniques such as radiocarbon dating were used.  Since its discovery, the Dent Site has offered fascinating information on the diets and hunting techniques of some of North America’s earliest human inhabitants, as well as on long-extinct animal species.

The artifacts uncovered at the Dent Site are now part of the collections of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (formerly the Denver Natural History Museum).  They along with the University Press of Colorado published a book, Crossroads of Culture, about the museum’s anthropology collections. A copy of this book can be checked out from our library.  Here you will find more on the story of the Dent Site discovery along with photos of the site in 1932 and of the Clovis points that were discovered there.

Another resource available from our library is Frontiers in Paleoindian Archaeology:  From the Dent Site to the Rocky Mountains, also a publication of the University Press of Colorado. 

Finally, for many more resources on archaeology and paleontology in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog or see this list of archaeology publications from History Colorado.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Historic Markers

Whether you’re on a road trip or exploring your own neighborhood, roadside markers and “point of interest” signs are a fun way to learn about our state’s history, and establish a connection with events that happened on a particular spot so long ago.

The mid-twentieth century was the heydey for the creation of historical markers in Colorado.  Many markers were installed in the 1930s as WPA projects, such as one in Lakewood near Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  Many other markers were installed in the ’50s and ’60s.  In 1972, the Colorado Historical Society published a guidebook listing all of the state’s historic markers.  This guidebook, Point of Interest, has been digitized and can be viewed online via our library.  It’s an illustrated listing, divided by county, with interesting facts about the marker and/or the event it commemorates.  This guidebook is also a good historical resource because many of the markers listed are no longer very visible, or even still in existence.  For example, the guidebook lists a marker having been placed at the site of Camp Adams, a military camp during the Spanish-American War (see page 28 of the guidebook).  The site is now Denver’s City Park Golf Course, and the marker is nowhere to be found (even before construction on the golf course began this winter).  Other markers still exist, but are quite hidden due to changes in landscaping, urban infrastructure, etc. 

Another fun thing about the old markers is that often times they commemorate events that have long been forgotten.  Where was the old stage stop known as “Fort Wicked?” Which Colorado county claims to have “the oldest oil field in the West?”  On which Denver block can you find the marker erected in 1950 to commemorate the city’s streetcar system, which was retired that year?  Take a look at Point of Interest to find these and hundreds of other interesting sites.

Finally, it’s not just the events these markers commemorate that make them so special.  Often the markers themselves are works of art — bronze plaques and sculptures, folksy wooden signs —
with their own historical and/or artistic significance.  The guidebook lists the medium for each marker, and identifies the parties responsible for creating, funding, or installing them.  So next time you’re out exploring, take a look at some of these markers (and the many that have been erected since), and get to know our state a little bit better.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Renovations at the Capitol

If you work or live near the State Capitol you have probably seen all of the scaffolding and construction work that has been going on this summer and fall.  According to Legislative Council, the exterior work includes roof work, gutter replacement, and the recreation — using old plans and drawings — of historic chimneys that were removed some time ago.  Inside, there is a great deal of work going on as well, including renovations of some of the committee rooms and the basement.  Historic mouldings and archways are being uncovered as part of the project.  For details on the work that is going on through 2018, see the Legislative Council’s LegiSource blog post, which includes some great pictures of the renovations.
The current renovations follow the highly-praised restorations of the House and Senate Chambers over the last several years.  Work on the chambers included removal of 1950s acoustic tiles, recreation of historic wall stencilings, and restoration of the huge chandeliers as well as the stained glass windows and skylights.  See the Capitol Building’s historic structure assessment here.
To learn more about preservation and restoration of the Capitol, see the webpage for the General Assembly’s Capitol Building Advisory Committee as well as the Office of the State Architect’s Capitol Complex Master Plan.  For the history of the State Capitol Building, check out the following books from our library:

  • Art of the House: Paintings in the House of Representatives, State Capitol, Denver, Colorado (1990)
  • The Colorado Capitol Building (1960)
  • Colorado Capitol Buildings (1951)
  • Colorado State Capitol (1983, 1992)
  • The Colorado State Capitol: History, Politics, Preservation (2005)
  • Visitor’s Guide to Colorado’s Capitol (1990, 1991, 1994, 2004, and 2005 editions)

The Colorado House Chambers following restoration. Photo by Tony Eitzel courtesy of Colorado General Assembly.


Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Lost Town of Caribou, Colorado

It can’t really be called a ghost town, because there’s almost nothing left to mark the location of Caribou, Colorado, a silver mining town once located in Boulder County near Nederland. Yet despite being nearly forgotten, the town of Caribou and its associated silver mines were a shining example of the boom-and-bust cycle of the mining West.
The silver mines at Caribou were established in 1869 and by the following year a townsite had been platted.  It was a cold, windy place to live, but nonetheless the miners and their families made it their home. Historian Duane A. Smith, in his highly readable Silver Saga: The Story of Caribou, Colorado, points out that the people of Caribou were civil and law-abiding; this was no rowdy Leadville or Deadwood.  Many of Caribou’s inhabitants were families, and the schoolhouse was one of the town’s most prominent and recognizable buildings.  A significant number of Caribou residents were Cornish miners who brought their mining and cultural traditions from their native Cornwall in Britain.
The silver mines that gave rise to the town were initially very productive, but as time went on, the best ore was tapped out.  A host of well-known individuals were associated with the ownership of the Caribou mines, including Jerome Chaffee and David Moffat.  One longtime owner was New York financier R. G. Dun, best known today as the Dun of Dun & Bradstreet.  By the time Dun died in 1900, he had experienced major financial losses from the mine.  The mine had already been decreasing in production by the time of the Silver Crash in 1893, and several times over the years it had been closed and re-opened.  Financial problems, water issues, and low-grade ore all contributed to the mines’ performing less than expected.
Caribou’s population, at its height in the mid-1870s, steadily dwindled as the decades passed.  In the mid-1880s, several especially hard winters and even an earthquake challenged the residents’ resolve.  After the 1893 panic, even more residents left.  Finally, in 1905, a major fire destroyed most of the town’s buildings, and the few that remained were abandoned.  The high winds and heavy snows eventually toppled these few reminders that a thriving town had once been there.
Even though the town was gone, mining at Caribou wasn’t completely dead.  The Biennial Report of the Bureau of Mines of the State of Colorado for 1917-18 reported that “in the Caribou mining district there has been a great revival in 1918.”  Apparently this “revival” didn’t last long, and there wouldn’t be another one for several decades.  The 1952 report noted that “Boulder County’s production of silver, the largest since 1917, came mostly from the Consolidated Caribou Mines, Incorporated.”  The district saw a second, smaller revival in the 1970s when a gold mine was opened but, in keeping with its history, troubles still plague the mine today.
Smith’s Silver Saga, which can be checked out from our library, tells the whole story of the ups and downs of the mine and the town.  Ghost town enthusiasts should also read Waldo R. Wedel’s “Visit to Caribou, 1963,” in the Summer 1964 issue of Colorado Magazine.  In the 54 years that have since passed, very little of what Wedel describes can still be found.  And while human inhabitants may have long since left the area, Caribou is still home to a number of species of rare plants and animals, as detailed in a 1999 report from Colorado State University’s Natural Heritage Program and Boulder Open Space.

The town of Caribou, Colorado circa 1880s. Courtesy Denver Public Library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

The Buildings of Auraria

The Auraria Higher Education Center (or Auraria Campus, as it is often known) is quite unique among Colorado’s college campuses.  This inner-city campus is home to not one, but three separate higher education institutions: the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Denver.  Auraria is also unique for its history, as more than a century before the campus was built, Auraria was a separate town that competed with Denver.  Eventually, it became a middle-class Denver neighborhood that was home to many diverse ethnic groups.  Today, a few of the buildings from the old Auraria neighborhood remain to tell the story of the people who made Auraria their home.

The Auraria Campus is a prime place to experience the evolution of Denver’s architectural styles, because the historic buildings that have been preserved coexist with forty years of evolving campus architecture.  Among the repurposed historic buildings on campus are several churches, the old Tivoli Brewery, and the 9th Street Park, one street of old Auraria homes and businesses that was preserved to commemorate the pre-campus neighborhood.

You can learn more about Auraria’s architecture in the following resources, available from our library (publications without hyperlinks can be checked out in print):

The Auraria Neighborhood:

The Auraria Campus:

Old and new coexist on the Auraria Campus.  Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Amache Relocation Center and Colorado's Japanese Americans

In February 1942, during the height of WWII, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ordering the relocation and internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry.  Many believed that Japanese Americans were loyal to their ancestral home and would be a security risk.  This attitude can be seen in the remarks of Dr. Heber R. Harper, a federal health official in Colorado:  “in Japan…the cause is more closely allied to religion and a unique religious fanaticism.  Whether Nazi Germany or Japan is our great enemy, the morale of the Japanese may be much harder to break than that of the Germans.”  Harper’s remarks, and others that attest to the attitudes of the times, appear in Civilian and Community Morale Through Understanding and Participation, a report of an assembly held at the Colorado State Capitol just two days prior to the issuance of the President’s Executive Order.

As a result of the order, Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to ten internment camps set up across sparsely-populated areas of the American West.  One of these ten camps was Amache (officially the Granada Relocation Center) near the town of Granada in extreme southeastern Colorado.  Forced to live in military-style barracks, relocatees faced a difficult life.  Cold in winter and hot in summer, the camps were surrounded by fences and armed guards.  Although children and teenagers were given the opportunity to attend school, most adults had to work in low-paying, labor-intensive jobs.  The government encouraged farming, but due to the arid conditions of the area, this proved difficult. (See Land Types in Eastern Colorado, published in 1944, for a description of farming in the area during that time period).  You can read about life in Amache in this 1964 article from Colorado Magazine.  Other articles about Amache can be found in the Spring 1989, Winter 2005, and Autumn 2007 issues of Colorado Heritage, available for checkout in print from our library.  History Colorado, the publisher of Colorado Heritage, has also produced an online exhibit about Amache.

A 1943 report on public welfare in Colorado, available online from our library, takes a look at the internment’s effect on social services in a section called “The Japanese Problem.”  However, not everyone in government believed in the Japanese relocation concept.  Colorado’s Governor Ralph Carr is remembered as one who stood up for the Japanese.

Today, very little physical evidence is left of the Amache site, but it has not been forgotten.  Descendants hold an annual pilgrimage to Amache.  The site contains a museum and a cemetery, and visitors can take a driving tour with podcasts to guide them.  Numerous archaeological investigations are being undertaken on the site, and for more than 20 years students at Granada High School have done projects to assist with the preservation of Amache.

Japanese Americans have a long history in Colorado.  To learn their story, check out the book Colorado’s Japanese Americans (University Press of Colorado, 2011) from our library. 

Historical photos of Amache/Granada Relocation Center courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Moffat Tunnel

Getting trains through the Rocky Mountains has always been a challenge — steep grades, rocky cliffs, and tall snowdrifts are among the many obstacles that early Colorado railroad officials and designers had to contend with.  However one man had a vision for a tunnel that would ease travel through the Continental Divide.  Although he did not live long enough to see it, construction on that tunnel was completed ninety years ago and the tunnel is still in use today.

One of Colorado’s early pioneers, David Moffat arrived in Denver as a bookseller in 1860.  A few years later, he took a job as cashier of the First National Bank, rising through the ranks and eventually becoming president of the bank in 1881.  His influence in the banking community allowed Moffat to pursue his real interest, railroads.  He helped organize the Denver & South Park Railroad in 1872 and then, after overcoming fierce competition from the larger railroad companies,* established the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway in 1903.  Moffat’s goal had been to create a route from Denver to Salt Lake City that was shorter than the route available via the transcontinental railroad.  His new route would ever after be known to Coloradans as the Moffat Road.

As early as 1902, Moffat realized that what would really make the Moffat Road successful would be a tunnel to shorten the trip through the Continental Divide.  He never got to see this happen — Moffat died in a New York hotel room in March 1911, a death many speculated was suicide because he had been under great financial pressure at that time.  It would be more than a decade before the Moffat Tunnel plan was finally financed by the State Legislature in 1922.  (The Act providing funding for construction of the Moffat Tunnel can be viewed online via the digital Colorado Session Laws).  It took nearly six years to construct the 6.2 mile-long tunnel at a cost of nearly $24 million and with 28 lives lost.  The first train passed through the tunnel in February of 1928; today, you can ride through the Moffat Tunnel on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, and it is also used for freight trains.

History Colorado

Construction of the Moffat Tunnel was just being completed when James Baker and Leroy Hafen published their five-volume History of Colorado for the State Historical Society.  Volume II of this series contains a great deal of information on the Moffat Road as well as the funding and building of the tunnel.  Also published in 1927 was an article in the Colorado Magazine, A Glimpse of Moffat Tunnel History,” which begins on page 63 of the March 1927 issue.  Finally, be sure to search the Colorado State Library’s Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection for articles about the construction of the Moffat Tunnel and much more.

History Colorado

*Moffat’s competitors, the Union Pacific and Western Pacific railways, blocked Moffat’s railroad from using Denver’s Union Station, so Moffat was forced to build his own small railway depot, which still stands in Lower Downtown.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Bent's Fort

If you’re looking for a fun and educational place to take your kids this summer, they will surely enjoy Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.  Here visitors can learn about early frontier life, including trade and commerce as well as cultural intersections, by exploring a reconstruction of the fort originally built in 1833 by George and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain.  At the fort, white settlers and fur traders, Native Americans, and Hispanos from nearby Mexican settlements exchanged goods and culture, and with its location on the Santa Fe Trail, the US Army used the fort as a staging area during the Mexican War in 1846-48.  A combination of disruption from the Army, a terrible cholera epidemic, and the waning of the fur trade led to the closure and abandonment of Bent’s Fort in 1849 — a full ten years before the founding of Denver.  Bent’s Old Fort was reconstructed on its original site in 1976 as part of Colorado’s Centennial-Bicentennial celebration.*

Being such a significant site in Colorado’s early history, Bent’s Fort has been the subject of numerous articles and publications.  Some of the resources available from our library include:

  • The entire Fall 1977 issue of Colorado Magazine explores Bent’s Fort, including articles on life in the fort as well as the story of the reconstruction and accompanying archaeological investigations.  See also “The Excavation of Bent’s Fort, Otero County, Colorado,” Colorado Magazine, v.33, n.3, July 1956.
  • “Bent’s Fort:  Outpost of Manifest Destiny,” by David Lavender, was originally published in 1987 in the Colorado Historical Society’s Essays and Monographs in Colorado History and has recently been reprinted in Western Voices:  125 Years of Colorado Writing, also from the Colorado Historical Society.  Both publications are available for checkout from our library.
  • Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas and Bent’s Old Fort are two books from the Colorado Historical Society which can be checked out in print from our library.
  • The use of Bent’s Fort in the Army during the Mexican War is examined in Edgeley W. Todd’s article “Bent’s Fort in 1846,” Colorado Magazine, v.34, n.3, July 1957.
  • Some letters and articles from a St. Louis newspaper regarding Bent’s Fort in the 1840s were republished in the November 1934 (v.11, n.6) issue of Colorado Magazine.
  • The journal of Elias Willard Smith, a fur trader who visited Bent’s Fort in 1839, has also been reprinted in Colorado Magazine (v. 27, n.3, July 1950.) 
  • The Colorado Historical Society’s 5-volume History of Colorado (1927) has been digitized by our library and contains information on the history of Bent’s Fort.
  • History Colorado (formerly the Colorado Historical Society) also produced an episode of The Colorado Experience on Bent’s Fort.
  • A mini-biography of William Bent is available at the Colorado Virtual Library.

In addition to being a historical site, Bent’s Old Fort is also an important natural ecosystem.  See Biological Survey of Bent’s Old Fort Historic Site; Survey of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site for Breeding Birds and Anurans; and Vegetation Map of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site for information on the area’s plants and animals.

For further resources, search our library’s online catalog.

*Bent’s Old Fort near La Junta is actually the second reconstruction of the adobe fort.  The Fort Restaurant in Morrison, in Jefferson County, is also a replica.  It was originally built in 1963 as a residence.

Photo courtesy National Park Service

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Gilpin County

During the Colorado Gold Rush, Gilpin County was one of the leading areas attracting miners and prospectors to attempt to strike it rich.  Today, as home to Central City and Black Hawk, two of the Colorado towns that allow gambling, people are still heading to Gilpin County to try to strike it rich.

In 1920 Thomas Maitland Marshall, a history professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, put together a lengthy volume of Early Records of Gilpin County, 1859-1861.  This wonderful resource has now been digitized by our library.  It contains a history of the Gold Rush in Gilpin County and reprints of hundreds of articles of correspondence, meeting minutes, mining district legal documents, and much more.  If you are researching an early Gilpin County mining district, you can now find all in one place the records you might have had to visit numerous libraries and archives to view.  This is a terrific resource for learning about the mining business in early Colorado.

For more resources on the history, geology, etc. of Gilpin County, search our library’s web catalog.  Also be sure and check out Riches and Regrets:  Betting on Gambling in Two Colorado Mountain Towns, by Patricia A. Stokowski (University Press of Colorado, 1996) for a history of gambling in Gilpin County.  Among the recipients of gambling funds is the State Historical Fund, which preserves historic sites around Colorado, including many of the historic buildings in Gilpin County itself.  For more on the State Historical Fund, see Guide to Colorado Historic Places:  Sites Supported by the Colorado Historical Society’s State Historical Fund, also available for checkout from our library.   

1860s views of Black Hawk and Central City.  Photos courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Department.
Colorado State Publications Blog

All About Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak as seen from Garden of the Gods.  Photo courtesy Colorado Tourism Office.

Without a doubt, it’s Colorado’s most famous mountain.  And while it’s neither the tallest mountain in Colorado nor the most difficult to scale, Pikes Peak is famous for its visibility from the plains, its use as a symbol of the 1859 Colorado Gold Rush, and for the legendary explorer for whom it is named.

Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a U.S. Army soldier, arrived in present-day Colorado in 1806 to explore the lands that were now a part of the United States as a result of the Louisiana Purchase.  Pike and his men were assigned to search out the source of the Arkansas River.  While on this expedition, Pike spotted what he described as a “small blue cloud” in the distance.  This “cloud” turned out to be the peak that would be named in his honor.  Pike and his men wintered in the area at what came to be known as Pike’s Stockade, and during the long winter Pike set out to explore the peak that had captured his interest.  Perhaps due to the heavy snows, Pike never did climb his peak; fourteen years later, a member of Stephen Long’s Expedition named Edwin James became to be the first to climb it, so the mountain became known as James Peak for a time.*  However, when settlers began pouring into Colorado in the 1850s in search of gold, the mountain was renamed for its early admirer and became a symbol of the Gold Rush.  In fact, “Pike’s Peak or Bust” became the rallying cry for the gold seekers.

According to official rankings, Pikes Peak is Colorado’s 30th highest mountain, at 14,110 feet.  Colorado has 53 “fourteeners.”  The spelling of the name can be confusing.  Since 1890 Pikes Peak has officially been spelled without the possessive apostrophe.  The U.S. Board of Geographic Names has removed nearly all apostrophes from place names for uniformity and ease of signage.  Colorado’s Longs Peak also lacks the apostrophe.

Pikes Peak is also a major tourist attraction.  Visitors not only can hike up the mountain, but also have the option of driving up or taking the famous Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  Pikes Peak and nearby mining towns also make up the Gold Belt Tour Scenic & Historic Byway.

In our library you can find many resources relating to the history, geology, and biology of Pikes Peak.  Resources listed below without hyperlinks can be checked out in print.

For biographical resources on Zebulon Pike, see the following:

  • The Death of Zebulon Pike,” by Robert M. Warner, Colorado Magazine, April 1955.
  • “Pike and His Peak,” by Judith Gamble, Colorado Heritage, Issue 3, 1989
  • Where is Zebulon Montgomery Pike Buried?” by Albert W. Thompson, Colorado Magazine, July 1936.
  • Zebulon Montgomery Pike,” by LeRoy R. Hafen, Colorado Magazine, July 1931.
  • “Zebulon Pike in Southern Colorado:  A Photo Travelogue,” by Michael Wren, Colorado Heritage, Winter 2006.   

For resources on the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, see

To learn about the natural resources of Pikes Peak the surrounding area see

For resources on Pike’s Stockade, see

    For other historical information, see

    • History of Colorado, by LeRoy R. Hafen, State Historical and Natural History Society, 1927.
    • The Naming of Pike’s Peak,” by Raymond Calh
      oun, Colorado Magazine, April 1954.
    • “Through a Glass Sharply:  Edwin James and the First Recorded Ascent of Pikes Peak, July 13-15, 1820,” by Phil Carson.  Essays and Monographs in Colorado History, n. 14, 1994.

    Additionally, mini-biographies of Zebulon Pike, Julia Archibald Holmes (first woman to summit Pikes Peak), and Daniel Cheesman Oakes (goldseeker and Pikes Peak guidebook author), are available from Colorado Virtual Library.  Also be sure to check the Colorado Encyclopedia for articles.

    *The Arapaho Indians called it Long Mountain, and Spanish explorers knew it as El Capitán.

    Colorado State Publications Blog

    Main Street Revitalization Act

    In 2014 the Colorado Legislature passed HB14-1311, the “Colorado Job Creation and Main Street Revitalization Act,” which provided tax credits for Colorado communities to use to boost economic development — including job creation and tourism — while preserving the community’s unique historic commercial structures.  So how has it been doing so far?  According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), which administers the Colorado Main Street Program, the Act led to the creation of “266 full-time jobs, 111 part-time jobs and 98 new businesses throughout the 14 Colorado Main Street communities.”  In addition, “The Colorado Main Street program helped reinvest in physical improvements from public and private sources during 2015. These improvements included 17 façade updates and the rehabilitation of 98 buildings in all of the 14 Colorado Main Street communities.”

    Are you interested in getting your town involved in the Main Street initiative?  Check out these resources from DOLA, including the official manual and a downtown planners’ guide. When your community has decided to join, go to the Join Main Street page to sign up.

    Colorado State Publications Blog

    Denver's Most Haunted House

    The Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion, a turreted sandstone castle at 11th and Pennsylvania in Capitol Hill, is often considered to be the most haunted house in Denver. Built in 1891 for Thomas Croke, a state legislator and landowner who has been called the metro Denver area’s “father of irrigation,” Croke sold the house after only living there six months.  It is likely that he moved out during his grief over the death of his wife, but storytellers like to say that ghosts pushed him out.  He traded the mansion to Thomas Patterson in exchange for some land near Standley Lake.
    Patterson is one of Colorado history’s most notable characters. He represented Colorado in the United States Senate and owned and edited the Rocky Mountain News. He is also considered by some historians to have inadvertently been responsible for Rutherford B. Hayes’s presidency.  When Patterson died in 1916, his daughter Margaret and her husband, Richard Campbell, lived in the mansion until building their own in the 1920s.
    Over the years the old mansion was used for apartments, offices, and other uses. Most of the ghost stories were started in the 1970s when the house was used as office space.  The most famous story is about two guard dogs who jumped out of the 3rd story turret, said to be pushed out by demons.  Other tales include stories of crying babies and a body buried in the basement.
    The ghost stories of the Croke-Patterson-Campbell mansion can be found in numerous places on the internet and have become the mansion’s claim to fame. I always felt, however, that the house’s true history outshined the ghost stories, so for the Spring 2005 issue of Colorado Heritage I told the story of the house’s history — and debunked a few ghost stories along the way. The magazine is available from our library, as are several Colorado Magazine articles that tell the story of Thomas Patterson’s colorful political career (Winter 1974, Spring 1976, Winter 1977). A full biography, Colorado Crusader for Change, is also available for checkout from our library. Written by Patterson’s granddaughter, Sybil Downing, it was published by the University Press of Colorado.
    Happy Halloween!