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The Evolution of a City

By Silvia Pettem

Publication Year: 2006

"A comprehensive, chronological, architectural perspective of Boulder, including photography worthy of inclusion in university history classes. . . . the softbound book presents a meaningful overview of how Boulder has grown. . . . Boulder: Evolution of a City is as gripping a page—turner as anything you'll find on the mystery shelves. For leisure readers or for history buffs, Pettem's work is genuine, relevant and absorbing."— Boulder Daily Camera

"[Boulder] is a delight. It provides a welcome experience in nostalgia for old—time Boulderites and is a fascinating introduction to the city for newcomers."— Jane Valentine Barker, author, Boulder, Colorado

"Photographer and historian Silvia Pettem's book, Boulder: Evolution of a City, offers an interesting look at Boulder as it was in its early days, how it's changed over the years, and how it hasn't. . . . Each photograph, whether it be old or new, is accompanied by thoughtful and detailed descriptions that provide context to the images."— Five Magazine

"The heart of this book is the numerous pages of historic photographs presented next to contemporary shots of the same site. Pettem has scoured the photo archives for pertinent images, sometimes providing several successive pictures of a single site."— Janet Ore, Colorado State University; New Mexico Historical Review

Boulder: Evolution of a City has captivated newcomers, tourists, and longtime residents for years with its dramatic visual and narrative presentation of the birth and development of Boulder. In this updated edition, 322 photographs — more than 90 of them current — capture landmarks, buildings, major events, and quiet moments from the 1860s to 2006. Photographs showing the same locations at several intervals in history reveal Boulder's continuum from past to present.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Boulder received its start in the late fall of 1858 when gold rush participants erected log cabins for shelter just below the mouth of Boulder Canyon. In January 1859, these newcomers ventured 12 miles farther west and 3,000 feet higher up to locate the...

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pp. xi-xii

arious locations in Boulder are shown in two, three, or sometimes four different time periods. It’s tempting to refer to these views as “then and now” photographs, but history is a continuum and is always changing. This process is evident in some of the recent photographs, which are already outdated. Note...

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pp. xiii

Many people were involved in this book’s first edition, published in 1994. Of everyone previously acknowledged, I particularly wish to thank, once again, former Carnegie Branch Library for Local History manager Lois Anderton. In the intervening years, Carnegie Library’s current team...

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1: Early Boulder Photographers

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pp. 1-6

Early-day photographers didn’t have an easy time. Exclusive of darkroom supplies, they carried around a big camera, a heavy wooden tripod, and a box of glass plates. Their outfit weighed about 75 pounds. The excellent record we have of Boulder today is due to the skill and perseverance of Boulder’s early...

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2: Downtown Business District: The Pearl Street Mall

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pp. 7-46

A. Brookfield, one of Boulder’s first prospectors, wrote in a letter to his wife, “We thought that as the weather would not permit us to mine, we would lay out and commence to build what may be an important town.” On February 10, 1859, shortly after gold was discovered near present-day Gold Hill, fifty-four...

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3: South-Central Boulder: Floods, Minorities, and the Railroads

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pp. 47-71

The 100-year flood hit Boulder in 1894. Most of Boulder’s “red light district,” which covered the area along Water Street (Canyon) between the current Municipal Building and the Boulder Public Library auditorium, was destroyed. Madams blatantly moved their girls to upstairs rooms in the downtown...

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4: North-Central Boulder: Culture and Religion

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pp. 73-99

The early part of the twentieth century was a turning point for Boulder as it grew, changed, and became a sophisticated city. Safely away from the floodplain, a number of prominent buildings were erected during this era. They include the Physicians Building, the Elks Building, and the second...

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5: West-Central Boulder: At the Foot of the Mountains

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pp. 101-120

In the summer of 1859, a reported $100,000 worth of gold, at $20.67 per ounce, was panned and sluiced from a creek named Gold Run, near present-day Gold Hill, 12 miles west of Boulder. At the same time, miners began the harder task of prospecting for primary-source gold deposits underground. The...

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6: East-Central Boulder: The Working Man’s Neighborhood

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pp. 121-133

Like the north-central area, the east-central neighborhood had numerous churches. Amos Bixby, an attorney, postmaster, and journalist, wrote that even before the churches were built, children were organized into Sunday schools. One was held at the home of Mr. Goss and Mr. Pell and, appropriately...

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7: North Boulder: Vanishing Farmlands

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pp. 135-148

When homes were being built on Mapleton and University Hills, there were still farms on the north, east, and south sides of Boulder. By 1918, however, expansion had begun to creep north as Boulder gradually outgrew the central downtown area. At first, “North Boulder” was the small area north of Mapleton Avenue, east of 12th Street...

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8: University of Colorado: Alone on the Hill

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pp. 149-165

When Jane Sewall, daughter of the university’s first president, saw Old Main for the first time, she noted, “It loomed before us gaunt and alone in the pitiless clear light. No tree nor shrub nor any human habitation was in sight. Vast expanses of rock and sagebrush were its only...

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9: University Hill and Chautauqua: Becoming Established

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pp. 167-187

When Marinus G. Smith was asked by Professor J. Raymond Brackett if he would live to see the tree he was planting bear fruit, Smith replied, “Old men plant trees; young men can’t wait.” Smith, whom everyone called “Marine,” donated part of his University Hill acreage to the University...

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10: South Boulder: Postwar Growth

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pp. 189-197

Viele homesteaded south of Boulder but spent most of those first years taking his thresher from farm to farm to harvest wheat, barley, and oats. Five horses were hitched to each of two strong beams radiating from a vertical shaft. As the horses walked around and around in a circle, the shaft...

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11: End of an Era: The City Matures

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pp. 199-202

Boulder is growing and changing every day. In the early years, Boulder struggled for an economic base, demanded the university and the railroads, developed a culture, and entered confidently into the twentieth century. In 1909, the surviving original fifty-niners were honored at Boulder’s semicentennial...

Further Reading

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pp. 203-204


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pp. 205-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780870818806
E-ISBN-10: 0870818805
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870818318
Print-ISBN-10: 0870818317

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 322 b/w photographs, 1 map, 1 table
Publication Year: 2006