A Brief History of Denver

It’s been a while since ACHA visited Denver for our Annual Meeting. Over 30 years in fact! The last time we visited this city was back in 1988. While networking and continuing education will always be the primary focus of our meetings, it’s always fun to travel to new and different cities around the United States. Today’s blog will be a very brief history of ACHA 2019’s host city.

Located on the banks of the South Prarie River, close to – but not quite in – the Rocky Mountains lies the city of Denver, Colorado. Prior to the 1850s, the area now known as Denver was sparsely settled. It was part of the Territory of Kansas and was only visited occasionally by prospectors looking for gold. They didn’t have much luck, until 1858 when Green Russell and Sam Bates found a small gold deposit near the mouth of Little Dry Creek. This marked the first significant gold discovery in the Rocky Mountain region and subsequently brought in a huge wave of miners. The city that sprung up was named Denver after James W. Denver, a politician, soldier, and lawyer who served as governor of the Kansas Territory.

Denver struggled in the 1860s. During this time, Denver was technically part of Arapahoe County, Kansas. However, because the county was never truly organized, there was a lack of government services that resulted in vendettas and vigilantism. The same year  Colorado officially became a U.S. territory, the American Civil War broke out. Resources were quickly diverted away from city development to be used in the war, so Denver was at a standstill. In 1863, the city suffered a massive fire, and a vast majority of wooden buildings in the heart of the city were destroyed. One year later, melting snow mixed with heavy rainfall which caused severe flooding.

This new city’s future was precarious, but hope endured thanks to the Transcontinental Railroad. Denver residents took it upon themselves to ensure the railroad would pass through their city, and urged lawmakers to make this a top priority. Politicians agreed and saw Colorado without rail as worthless. Several rail companies were locked in a fierce competition to build links between the Rockies, California, and the east. The “winner” would ultimately determine which cities flourished and which crumbled. In August 1870, the Kansas Pacific completed its line to Denver from Kansas. This link became integral to the first transcontinental line between the east and west coasts of America, securing Denver’s status as a transportation hub. This remains true to this day.

One thing that has changed drastically from its humble beginnings is Denver’s skyline. Fast forward from the Transcontinental Railroad days to the 1960s and 1970s. After WWII, gas and oil companies flocked to the city, thus increasing its population. During this time, the price of oil and gas rose, fueling a skyscraper boom in downtown Denver. As more people moved to the city, it expanded at a rapid pace. What once was a relatively small city, Denver transformed into a blooming downtown area flanked on all sides by suburbia.

Today, Denver retains much of it’s Wild West beginnings and 20th-century modernization, while still reinventing itself as it always has. Today, Denver boasts a thriving cultural scene, diverse neighborhoods, and natural beauty combine for the world’s most spectacular playground.

We can’t wait to experience it all for ourselves at ACHA 2019. If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time. However, the early bird deadline is less than a month away, so don’t delay in order to get the best deal!

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