History of Boulder, Colorado

Early History and Settlement

The area that is now Boulder, Colorado has a long history going back over 10,000 years. Native American tribes like the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute occupied the land and used Boulder Valley as their hunting grounds.

The first Europeans arrived in the area in the late 1700s. In 1858, miners looking for gold founded the Boulder City Town Company. The town was named after the abundance of granite boulders in the creek bed of Boulder Canyon.

Early Pioneers and Growth

In 1871, Boulder became an official city with about 350 residents. The beautiful landscape and climate attracted many pioneers looking to settle in the west. By 1880, the population had grown to over 3,000 people.

Some key events and developments from Boulder’s early history:

  • 1861 – First log cabin built in Boulder Canyon
  • 1864 – First public schoolhouse erected
  • 1871 – Boulder County established, Boulder designated county seat
  • 1874 – University of Colorado founded in Boulder
  • 1875 – First bank and newspaper established
  • 1876 – Railroad connection completed to Boulder
  • 1886 – First electric lights installed

The late 1800s saw Boulder’s early boom years with the arrival of the railroad bringing more settlers, businesses, and expansion.

20th Century Developments

In the early 1900s, Boulder’s population exceeded 10,000 helped by the growth of the University of Colorado. Key events in the first half of the 20th century included:

  • 1902 – Flagstaff Mountain trail completed
  • 1909 – Carnegie Library opened
  • 1919 – First radio station (9ZAF)broadcasted from CU campus
  • 1923 – Boulder Canyon Highway completed
  • 1947 – National Bureau of Standards (NIST) established in Boulder

Post-WWII Growth

After World War II ended, Boulder saw another period of rapid population growth and development.

  • 1950s – Population grew over 20,000. More annexation and expansion.
  • 1961 – NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) opened.
  • 1968 – Historic preservation ordinance passed. Pearl Street Mall pedestrian zone created.

The 1960s and 70s saw Boulder emerge as a nationally known center of science and technology, as well as a hub for environmentalism and progressive politics.

Major Tech Developments

Some major technology organizations founded in Boulder during the post-war decades:

  • 1955 – Ball Aerospace
  • 1956 – IBM opened Boulder labs
  • 1957 – Federal Center constructed
  • 1965 – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Earth System Research Laboratory
  • 1969 – Storage Technology Corporation (StorageTek)

Boulder’s high concentration of tech companies and innovations led to its nickname “Silicon Mountain”.

Environmentalism and Lifestyle

Boulder’s beautiful natural landscape and progressive spirit has attracted environmentally-minded individuals since the 19th century. Here are some key events related to Boulder’s culture:

  • 1898 – Chautauqua Park established
  • 1907 – Craftsman-style cottages built in Chautauqua
  • 1967 – First Earth Day celebrated in Boulder
  • 1968 – Open space tax approved to preserve land

Recreation and Wellness

Outdoor recreation and healthy living are important parts of Boulder.

  • Boulder is surrounded by over 45,000 acres of open space and 100 miles of hiking trails.
  • It has been ranked America’s #1 foodie city with a thriving restaurant scene emphasizing locally sourced organic ingredients.
  • Yoga, pilates, running, cycling, and rock climbing are very popular activities.

Boulder truly has an idyllic lifestyle combining nature, fitness, and eco-conscious values. That’s why it frequently tops rankings of best places to live.

21st Century Boulder

Boulder’s population exceeded 100,000 by 2010 making it a mid-sized city, while still retaining its charming small town character in many ways.

Business and Technology

Innovation and tech firms continue thriving in Boulder including big names like:

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Oracle

Over the last decade, small startups have also proliferated, especially in fields like natural foods, biotech, clean energy, aerospace, data science, and software engineering.

Culture and Diversity

Boulder today still has a very educated and progressive populace. However, it faces challenges associated with growth and change.

  • Housing costs have skyrocketed pricing many longtime residents out. Efforts are ongoing to improve affordable housing availability.
  • Like many places in America, Boulder grapples with issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity. The population remains over 80% white with a need for more representation.
  • Balance between development and preservation continues to be debated as Boulder evolves.

Historic Places and Events

Here are some of the top historic landmarks and annual happenings that reflect Boulder’s heritage:


  • Chautauqua Park
  • Hotel Boulderado
  • Boettcher Mansion
  • Dushanbe Teahouse
  • Fox Theater
  • Macky Auditorium


  • Bolder Boulder (annual 10K race)
  • Pearl Street Stampede (summer rodeo)
  • Boulder Creek Festival
  • Farmers Market
  • Conference on World Affairs

From its early pioneer days to high-tech present, Boulder retains a distinct identity shaped by its stunning natural backdrop, independent spirit, and vibrant lifestyles. The history of Boulder is an inspiring story of the Colorado frontier.

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  • From Downtown Boulder: Head northwest on Pearl Street toward 28th Street. Turn left onto 28th Street and drive for 2 miles. Make a right onto Valmont Road and continue for 1 mile. Turn left onto 33rd Street, and 1950 33rd St will be on your left.
  • From Denver International Airport (DEN): Take Pena Boulevard to I-70 W, then merge onto I-25 N. Take exit 217A onto US-36 W toward Boulder. After 20 miles, take Foothills Parkway exit, merge onto Foothills Parkway, and drive 2 miles. Turn right on Valmont Road, then left on 33rd Street. 1950 33rd St will be on your left.
  • From University of Colorado Boulder: Head southeast on University Avenue, which becomes Baseline Road. Turn right onto 30th Street and drive for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Valmont Road and continue for 1 mile. Finally, turn right onto 33rd Street, and 1950 33rd St will be on your left.