National and State Register
Historic Resources of Downtown Denver
This multiple property submission provides a historical context for evaluating the significance of historic resources associated with the commercial development of Denver’s Central Business District during the period 1880-1973. The oldest identified historic building in the area dates to 1880. The historical context extends from that year to 1973, when events impacting the local economy resulted in a new era of development.
The City of Denver, Colorado’s capital and largest city, is located on the South Platte River at its confluence with Cherry Creek, some twelve miles east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The search for gold brought the area’s first permanent settlement in 1858: Auraria was established on the west side of Cherry Creek, Denver City was founded on the east, and the townsite of Highland was created on the bluffs to the north. The communities were united in April 1860, selecting the name that honored Kansas Territorial Governor James Denver.
Formally incorporated in 1861, Denver became the county seat of Arapahoe County in the same year and capital of the territory in 1867. The city’s link to a transcontinental railroad in 1870 ensured Denver’s continued regional dominance and it became the state capital in 1876. The riches extracted from Colorado mines fueled a major period of growth, during which the city became an agricultural supply center and a focus of industrial, manufacturing, and financial activity for the Rocky Mountain region.
A 1902 constitutional amendment established Denver as a city and county. During the twentieth century, Denver’s economic base expanded with the growth of tourism, enlargement of the service sector, exploitation of energy resources, and the attraction of numerous federal agency offices. As a major regional center, a number of historically and architecturally significant buildings were erected in Downtown Denver. (Cover documentation accepted for the State Register 9/8/2004, accepted by the National Register in 2004.)