"Eddie went to Denver because the Catskills hadn't solved his lung problems, and Denver must have helped, for when they shot at him he leaped out of his car and outran the killers."
- William Kennedy - Legs
Denver, CO, USA
Area: 154.63 SQM
Population (2000 census): 554,636
Metro Area Population: 2,400,000 (est.)
Time Zone: Mountain Standard Time (Daylight Saving Time from April to October)
Nickname: "The Mile High City" (The 13th step of of the State Capitol building is 5,280' above sea level).
Capitol of the State of Colorado
In 1815 two French trading posts were set up at the confluence of the south Platte River (named by the French, and meaning shallow, which is highly appropriate) and Cherry Creek (named by the Arapaho--and later Anglicized--in reference to the abundance of wild cherry bushes along its banks). Then in 1851, the "Great White Father"[sic] forged the Fort Laramie Treaty (also called the Horse Creek Treaty) which delegated the land from the Platte River to the Arkansas River to the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes. Like all such treaties made between Native Americans and the expansionist United States Government, this one was not to last, nor end well.
In June of 1858, gold was discovered in the Platte River by a group led by William Greeneberry "Green" Russel from Auraria, Georgia.
In response to the discovery of gold, the City of Denver was founded on November 22, 1858 by the William H. Larimer Party of Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. The city was named for General James W. Denver, the governor of Kansas Territory. The discovery of gold triggered what can only be described as a stampede to the area. An estimated 100,000 people rushed to the area (in violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty) to find their fortunes.
The Arapaho greeted the incoming hordes with generosity and kindness. They called the white settlers "spider people" in reference to the webs of roads and fences these people constructed wherever they went. This friendly beginning was to come to an abrupt end on February 15, 1861, when the U.S. Government decided to revoke the Fort Laramie Treaty in favor of The Fort Wise Treaty, which pushed the Arapaho off of Denver land and into the Sand Creek Reservation. Many tribal leaders refused to sign it, which caused even more friction with the settlers. Not all of the disgruntled were Arapaho, though. Indian agent William Bent resigned his position to avoid being associated with the illegal treaty. During these events, Colorado was also declared a territory of the United States.
Connection with the U.S.
Following the ejection of the Arapaho, Denver stagnated. Between 1860 and 1870, Denver's population grew by a mere ten people. The 1870 census counted Denver at 4,759 residents. It was not until 1870, when railroads reached Denver, that it would see growth. In 1870 the Denver Pacific, Kansas Pacific and Colorado Central Railroads reached Denver, allowing commerce and ease of travel. This was to have a remarkable influence on the future, as Denver is still the main railroad gateway to the west.
Following the connection of Denver to the rest of the U.S, there was a population boom. In the 1890 census, Denver reported 106,713 residents. In twenty years, Denver had become the second most populous city in the West (San Francisco held the number-one spot).
The population boom came to an end in 1893 when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed, and the young city moved rapidly into a depression. The people of the city reacted by diversifying commerce to include agriculture and food processing. Farms and ranches sprouted in the outlying areas, while factories emerged in the city proper. Heretofore, Denver was primarily a mining city, and the powerful of Denver were mining barons. It is thanks to the railroads that the city began to flourish under the new areas of commerce, and it is because of the new commerce that the rails (and by association, Denver itself) survived this bleak time.
Denver was to undergo a serious facelift in the early part of the 20th Century, under Mayor Robert W. Speer. Speer's "City Beautiful" movement was inspired by his visit to the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. He wanted Denver to renovate, build, and beautify, and to that end, he did an incredible amount of work.
From landscaping Cherry Creek to founding dozens of city and mountain parks to attracting architects to build magnificent buildings, Speer did it all. Much of what Denver is today is due largely to Speer's fundraising and advocacy.
One of the primary legacies of the "City Beautiful" movement is the landscaped Cherry Creek, which is used today as a riverwalk, bike trail, and--at night--a homeless camp. Another of his triumphs is the Colorado Convention Center; the second largest convention center in the Americas.
On October 17, 1929 Denver Municipal Airport was opened by Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton against very verbal protest. It was alternately called "Stapleton's Folly" and "Rattlesnake Hollow" by critics of the airport, who said that it was nothing more than taxpayers paying for a toy for the rich. This was not the last time such an accusation would be laid upon a Denver Mayor. In 1944, the Denver Municipal Airport was renamed Stapleton Airport.
In the 1950's, Denver began a long courtship with oil companies to pump out Colorado's crude oil, and stimulate the Denver economy. This worked to great effect, primarily during the 1970's, when the city boomed like never before, expanding with suburban sprawl, shopping malls, and opening the Denver Tech Center, a satellite office village in the southeast of town.
Collapse, Rebirth, and Collapse
The oil collapse of the mid-1980's left Denver in a very bad situation. The city had overbuilt its downtown during the energy boom and in 1985 and 1986, the office vacancy downtown was the highest in the nation at 30%.
Real estate dropped to incredibly low prices, and downtown Denver became a run-down haven for crime. The future did not look well for the "City Beautiful"
Things started turning around in the early 90's, as Mayor Federico Pena and more importantly his successor Wellington W. Webb started a number of renewal projects, including turning the entire downtown strip of 16th street into a street mall, taking the staggering homeless population seriously by opening shelters and assistance organizations, expanding trade, and opening the controversial Denver International Airport.
The 90's were another great boom for Denver, as the population swelled and immigrants came from all over. I was part of this massive influx of population in 1994, the year that the the boom hit its peak, and the majority of the people I've met in my ten years here are from somewhere else. People flooded to Denver for technical jobs from California, Texas, and Illinois. Denver was one of the technological centers of the nation during the tech boom with such companies as U.S. West, Qwest Communications, TCI, EchoStar and others making huge ripples in the local economy and providing lots of jobs.
Following the tech collapse, Denver died the slowest. Of all major American cities which relied on the technology economy, it was the last to be devastated. To what extent it will recover remains to be seen, as real estate prices are only now starting to decline as a result of the exodus of people and capital over the last few years.
- Charles A. Cook (1861-1863)
- Amos Steck (1863-1864)
- H. J. Brendlinger (1864-1865)
- George T. Clark (1865-1866)
- Milton LeLano (1866-1868)
- W. M. Clayton (1868-1869)
- B. B. Stiles (1869-1871)
- John Harper (1871-1872)
- Joseph E. Bates (1872-1873)
- Francis M. Case (1873-1874)
- William J. Barker (1874-1876)
- Dr. R. G. Buckingham (1876-1877)
- Baxter B. Stiles (1877-1878)
- Richard Sopris (1878-1881)
- Robert Morris (1881-1883)
- John L. Routt (1883-1885)
- Joseph E. Bates (1885-1887)
- William Scott Lee (1887-1889)
- Wolfe Londoner (1889-1891)
- Platt Rogers (1891-1893)
- M. D. VanHom (1893-1895)
- Thomas S. McMurry (1895-1899)
- Henry V. Johnson1 (1899-1901)
- Robert R. Wright (1901-1904)
- Robert W. Speer (1904-1912)
- Henry J. Arnold (1912-1913)
- J. M. Perkins (1913-1915)
- William H. Sharpley (1915-1916)
- Robert W. Speer (1916-1918)
- W. F. R. Mills (1918-1919)
- Dewey C. Bailey (1919-1923)
- Benjamin F. Stapleton (1923-1931)
- George D. Begole (1931-1935)
- Benjamin F. Stapleton (1935-1947)
- Quigg Newton (1947-1955)
- Will Nicholson (1955-1959)
- Richard Batterton – 1959 -1963)
- Thomas C. Currigan (1963-1968)
- William H. McNichols, Jr (1968-1983)
- Federico Pena (1983-1991)
- Wellington E. Webb (1991-2003)
- John Hickenlooper (2003-present)