1890s - 1970s
The late 19th to early 20th century was extremely developmental in the state of Colorado as railroads expanded the state and created towns and economic opportunities. The rise in transportation also led to the beginning of Colorado’s high peaks attracting people from all over the globe to see their natural beauty.



Estes Park

Denver Beautification

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Estes Park


The establishment and construction of major railroads expanded the state and created new towns and economic opportunities through now being able to transport goods and people.

Estes Park

The town home to Rocky Mountain National Park was established in the late 19th century, sparking the beginning of Colorado’s high peaks attracting people from all over the globe to see the mountainous region.

Denver Beautification

Mayor Robert Speer was fundamental in the development of the city of Denver, and his legacy continues to shape the future of the city that has devoted itself as a tourism destination full of modern architecture and a multitude of communities rich in culture.


Just like Colorado called the names of Americans in other parts of the country due to its natural beauty, mountain environment, and need for labor due to expanding industries. Colorado was also a hub for immigrants.

Interested in learning more? Read below!

City Beautiful Era: 1893 - 1941

Robert Speer “City Beautiful Denver”

The city of Denver realized from very early on that tourism was a huge asset to the state due to the beautiful nature setting, some even calling it the “Switzerland” in America because of the mountains. There is one individual who was exceptionally dedicated to the transformation of Denver and his name was Robert Speer, the mastermind behind the beautification of the city who created city layouts and constructed buildings that continue to define Denver, today. Speer moved to Colorado at 23 years old due to his diagnosis of tuberculosis, where at the time period thousands of people flocked to the thin, dry air as a way to cure their symptoms. After carrying out multiple city official positions, Speer was elected as mayor of Denver in 1904. His goal was to make Denver a beautiful city. This was in response to many Americans feeling their cities were growing old and unattractive. 

Robert Speer

Speer’s desire and inspiration for the look of Denver came from a visit to the 1893 Chicago World Fair, where there was an exhibit displaying a “model city” with Italian architecture and a Parisian street layout. The City Beautiful Era was sparked and Speer was inspired to transform Denver into a model city. Speer traveled to Europe and was inspired by the modern architecture and city layouts and wanted to incorporate styles in the city. 

Denver Civic Center

Speer’s central project to transform Denver was Civic Center Park, which also was the mayor’s most disputed project. The park was not favored by citizens, due to the fact it would completely wipe out an entire neighborhood to be replaced by an area centered around government buildings. It was imperative to Speer’s plan that all of the surrounding buildings around Civic Center Park would reflect the City Beautiful Era. Civic Center Park was added to the Federal National Historic Landmark list in 2012, with only 2,000 buildings bearing the same honor. 

Denver's Civic Center Park

Speer’s work to transform the city was heavily focused on the common man, and enacted multiple tourism aspects that would benefit Denver residents while also setting the foundation for Denver as a destination city that would call people from all over to visit this new urban mountain city. Of these projects was the completion of Municipal Auditorium, now called the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Speer’s altruism shined through in this project, as he instructed the auditorium to offer free concerts and theater events on Sundays to bring people into downtown Denver. 

Speer was also devoted to the greening of Denver, and held campaigns where Speer and his wife would give away thousands of trees each year to whoever was able to effectively plant them, and in total they gave away over 100,000 of trees in order to make Denver more green. Speer also doubled the amount of park space, expanded the public school system and library system, and established the Denver Zoo during his reign as mayor. He also transformed the now-upscale neighborhood of Cherry Creek, where Speer navigated a major project that channelized the Cherry creek with barriers to mitigate risk of floods. The project incorporated bike trails, with highways on each side to mimic something Speer would have seen in Europe. Speer also authorized the construction of the 17th Avenue, 6th Avenue, and Monaco Parkways that went to the edge of plains with nothing there. Speer knew that although nothing existed at the time, building these parkways was necessary in order to expand the state of Colorado which now lead to beautiful neighborhoods 

17th Avenue

Speer was fundamental in the development of the city of Denver, and his legacy will continue to shape the future of the city that has devoted itself as a tourism destination full of modern architecture and a multitude of communities rich in culture. 


Colorado Territory governor, John Evans, created Colorado’s first railroad in 1870. There was a landmark decision made by the Union Pacific Railroad company to create its next station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The town was favored over by the Colorado capitol of Denver which lays two hours south. Evans, among other Colorado business-owners and common people became jealous of the impact the transcontinental railroad had on Cheyenne.

The Union Pacific Railroad

In result, the citizens of Denver pushed for the creation of their own railroad. Shortly after the Union Pacific erected another major railroad that was established in the 1870s, calling itself the Denver and Rio Grande railroad. This rail connected the Union Pacific Railroad to run from Denver to the pre-existing rail in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This was a very significant event in Colorado history and the economy during this time-period. Many railroad companies were eager to become a part of Denver due to booming mining businesses and rising cattle industry. 

Rio Grande Steam Engine

In addition to the Union Pacific Railroad in Denver, William J Palmer, a private businessman, built the railroad that would be the first north to south running railroad in the state of Colorado. However, the federal government did not support the Denver Rio Grande’s necessity in the state’s economy, in addition to the fact Palmer had to break through mountain rock to build the rail. Therefore, leaving him with no funding from the government. So, Palmer had to go from town to town to convince town leaders of the economic push this north-to-south running railroad could bring; his efforts faced lots of rejection. Palmer decided to head to the city of Durango, where he was greeted by the land of what is now Colorado Springs and townspeople who agreed to have it be the end of the line and last station of the rail. 

The Rio Grande Rail Line

The Denver Rio Grande Railroad was a success, as its construction was deemed evolutionary to the development and landscape of Colorado. Railroads in this time were the only way to transport goods and people, and acted as “lifelines” to businesses and communities. The DRG created multiple towns as a result of its construction. He ended up paying for the railroad with the revenue brought in by the hundreds of towns born from the construction of the DRG. . These two railroads were central to the development of the Colorado economy, and acted as “lifelines” for communities and businesses as they transported goods. The establishment of a railroad in Denver was the beginning of an economic boom that would grow the state of Colorado and set the territorial lines that still exist today.  

Estes Park

The modern-day Estes Park land was inhabited by the Ute tribe until the late 1700s. This community flourished in the mountainous region, until they were forced out by Spanish explorers and French fur trappers pushing them out. The land was secured by white settlers through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. 

Early Estes Valley

However in 1859, Joel Estes took permanent settlement through a private purchase of the Estes Park valley. Estes was attracted to the area because of the gold rush that was going on in Colorado and decided to settle in with his family from 1860 to 1866. He was followed by other whites that led to the transition of the natural land including the over-hunting of the Elk population that led to their extinction in the park’s ecosystem. 

Joel Estes

The 1870s in Estes Park saw cattle ranchers come to the area, such as the MacGregor Ranch and Museum and the Elkhorn Lodge that still are a part of the town’s economy today. The ranches and lodges brought tourism from Denver. This tourism sparked efforts from the federal government to help preserve the nature and land of the Estes Valley.

In 1903, Estes’ most famous guest, F.O. Stanley arrived at the Elkhorn Lodge, seeking high elevation in efforts to combat his tuberculosis diagnosis. The air proved worthy, and Stanley settled in, building a private residence and the luxury Stanley Hotel. In 1909, the Stanley Hotel opened, sparking the beginning of resort business in the Estes Park valley.

The Stanley Hotel

Stanley was heavily involved in the preservation of the land of Estes, and worked closely with Enos Mills to campaign for protection of the  Rockies of Colorado. Enos Mills was devoted to creating the nation's 10th national park, “Rocky” and spent years lecturing across the country in addition to thousands of written letters and articles. He lobbied Congress to enact the park, with support from Denver Chamber of Congress and Colorado Mountain Club although local miners, lodgers and cattle-farmers opposed.His efforts were noticed and in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson officially established Rocky Mountain National Park. The official opening of the park allowed for the preservation of an ecosystem spreading 415 square miles.

The Opening of Estes Park


In 1870, the state of Colorado created a board of immigration to recruit individuals to work for reduced wages in the growing railroad and mining industry that demanded labor. Immigrants were not always constrained to these labor intensive jobs, as many risked their entire lives to achieve the American Dream which proved worth the risk through the founding of companies that are still alive today in the Denver area. Among these successes are Adolph Coors and Adolph Zang who founded Coors Brewing Company.  ⅛ of the 200,000 Denver population was from foreign descent by 1900. 

Colorado's Railroad Workers

Ethnic communities were created organically due to family members following their relatives, and these neighborhoods were formed with urban planning and organization in mind.

 Northwest Denver across from South Platte River, or Little Italy was made up by the Italians. The Italian workforce rode streetcars downtown to railyards, smelters and slaughterhouses in addition to growing produce outside of the city to fill their neighborhood markets.

Little Italy

In North Denver, or a community previously called “the Globe” was a melting pot of Polish, Russian, Slavanians and other central Europeans.

The Globe Smelter

This mix of language and culture was united by employment at The Globe, the area’s smelter where a high number of community members worked. West Colfax Ave was home to a Jewish community, one that flourished due to their kosher markets and large “mikvah”. These segregated communities were deemed “Pipeline” communities where immigrants could experience the new and old world. A working world with American values, who came home to a community surrounded with their old ways of life in their previous country. 

As more and more immigrants came to America and eventually Denver, there was more discrimination against these individuals. The Chinese ethnicity was especially targeted, due to their distinctive language, dress and facial characteristics. Other communities such as Italians, Greeks and Jews were subjected to prejudiceness and racism, however were protected by jobs in smelters and factories that would not run without them.

The Great Depression left 1⁄4 Coloradans without jobs, and there was backlash towards immigrant communities. Specifically, during this period discrimination was targeted towards Hispanics. High unemployment rates created tension and resentment towards the increasing immigrant population coming from Mexico. Colorado Governor Ed Johnson established a campaign to send Mexican Immigrants back to Mexico. Although never fully enacted, the attempt itself created a negative connotation towards Hispanics in the Denver Area. By 1980, the Hispanic population had nearly doubled in 30 years to 100,000.

One Denver neighborhood, Auraria, was named the Heart of Latino Culture. Latinos moved to Auraria due to the rise in the sugar beet industry which demanded labor in working in sugar beet fields and factories. Hispanic laborers became a preferred labor group due to the fact they agreed to work for lower wages than whites. There were concerns about the Latin concentration in this neighborhood due to overpopulation that was negatively affecting area residents. Yet, Auraria was rich in community and the neighborhood flourished until the South Platte River flooded the area in 1965 that led to the extinction of Auraria. 

World War II brought benefits of the war industry as new army bases and hospitals brought over 4 million service people to Denver and many relocated permanently to the area after the war. World War II also increased the city’s Japanese population, as many Japanese Americans were forced to relocate from the West Coast to inland states. Some were even forced into detention camps, one- Camp Amache, located in Colorado. These people were released and many moved to Denver, motivated by the current Governor Ralph Carr, who advocated for American citizens being displaced into these camps and saw it as a violation to the Constitution. Japanese Americans were still subject to discrimination, however with the help of multiple acts such as McCarren-Walter Act of 1952, allowing immigrants to become naturalized US citizens and the Hart-Celler Act of 1965, lifting immigration quotas. As a result, more Asian immigrants were granted visas to America due to their educational background and technical expertise. Now Japanese culture is integral to Denver, with Sakura Square that acts as a Japanese cultural center, and is home to several Japanese businesses and Denver’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival. 

The Great Migration of in the 1910s brought an influx of Black residents from southern states who worked as laborers in the city, and who were subjected to racial prejudice. Restrictive laws forced Black community members into older, lower quality housing in the Five Points neighborhood. By 1929, more than 75% of Black community of Denver lived in Five Points. 

The Five Points neighborhood was known as the “Harlem of the West'' in the 1950s, due to it being home to several well-known jazz clubs. However rich in culture, the Five Point neighborhood lacked structural integrity and quality streets and sidewalks compared to other neighborhoods in the city. The Denver Fair Housing Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 gave opportunity to the Black community of Denver. Being able to desegregate themselves and expand outside of Five Points. As a result of these acts, the Black population decreased in Five Points by more than half between 1950 and 1970, and was later replaced by the Latin community. The black-owned businesses shut down and the neighborhood went under urban renewal as a result. 

    Although many ethnicities have claimed sections of the city as their own, this result of racial segregation due to a discrimination against these certain communities. Immigrants came to Denver to pursue the American Dream and while they flourished they were subjected to racial prejudices and discrimination that disallowed them from pursuing their dreams. Finding freedom through legal changes federally and in Colorado, these communities began to change. With the help of federal housing and civil rights acts these individuals were able to define themselves as curators to the transformation and development of the city of Denver. Their culture is still dominant in the area, which remains a melting pot for different cuisines and events centered on the history and impact these communities had.  


Did you know that Colorado is the only state to ever turn down hosting the Winter Olympics? Colorado is also home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. There are tons of interesting facts and trivia about Colorado, can you guess them correctly below?


What percentage of Colorado’s population lives in the front range?

Not sure?

Answer: 70%

How many professional teams are there in Colorado?

Not sure?

Answer: There are six professional sports teams in Colorado.

How many NASA astronauts are graduates of the University of Colorado Boulder?

Not sure?

Answer: Eighteen!

Approximately how many days of sunshine does Colorado have per year?

Not sure?

Answer: 300

What Colorado 14er mountain inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write the song “America the Beautiful.”

Not sure?

Answer: Pikes Peak

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