Even though Colorado is considered to be one of the “newer” states (it was the 38th state admitted to the Union), several of its towns are still chock-full of fascinating history, including these 12, which are a few of the oldest in the state:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. San Luis
San Luis, the "Oldest Town in Colorado," was established on April 9, 1851 in Northern New Mexico territory by Taos-area settlers. Though the town originally started as a New Mexico territory, it quickly changed hands to Colorado after becoming an official territory in 1861.
I guess I need to brush up on my Colorado history, because this one came as a surprise to me. The city of Boulder was originally settled in 1858, with the next few years dedicated to laying out the town, building schools, and establishing the vital Denver and Boulder Valley Railroad. Boulder would become part of the newly established state of Colorado in 1876.
What is now a must-visit mountain destination was once a must-visit mining town that was thought to be full gold. Originally called "Oro City" (oro meaning gold), the area was settled during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, but was soon deserted due to the lack of gold veins. (Fun fact: "Oro City" became "Leadville" after prospectors discovered that the "heavy sand that impeded gold recovery was the lead mineral cerussite, which has a high silver content.")
The town of Breckenridge (which was named after then-Vice President John C. Breckenridge in hopes of gaining government favor) was created in 1859 as an area dedicated to serving the miners working in nearby towns.
5. Idaho Springs
Idaho Springs isn't just home to the delicious Beau Jo's; it is also home to the first big gold discovery of the Colorado Gold Rush! Today, you can still visit the famous Argo Gold Mine and Mill, which was built in order to drain surrounding gold mines and allow easier ore removal.
Named for coal miners who immigrated from Como, Italy, the area was originally settled in 1879 and became well known for its housing of a Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad depot. If you visit today, you can still see the old Como Roadhouse, which is the only narrow-gauge roundhouse still standing in the entire state.
7. Black Hawk
Colorado's first choice for gambling was once a gold miners first choice for digging, as it turned up numerous gold veins back in the day. The boom started (and the town was settled) in 1859, but soon fizzled out after miners ran out of places to dig. (The town's "gambling boom" didn't begin until 1991 and has remained popular ever since.)
8. Central City
Located just down the street from Black Hawk is the other gambling capital of Colorado which, coincidentally, is another historic mining settlement that once earned itself the nickname of the "Richest Square Mile on Earth."
Also founded in 1859 (during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush), the town is said to have been named by miners who were upset by the mining claims given to earlier prospectors. The town itself wasn't incorporated until 1872.
10. Cripple Creek
One of the newest old towns on our list is that of Cripple Creek; another mining town that was originally overlooked (due to its elevation) but later re-discovered when a miner discovered a rick gold ore in 1890. Cripple Creek is considered to be the location of the last great Colorado gold rush.
"North America's Highest Incorporated Town" (at 10,578 feet) is also one of Colorado's oldest, having been founded in 1873. Originally settled in the early 1860', Alma is thought to be one of Colorado's first gold rush towns, producing more than $1.5M in gold annually during its heyday.
One final historic mining town is Ouray, which was established by gold chasers in 1875 and produced a whopping 200,000 ounces of gold by 1902.