Denver is a consolidated city-county located in the South Platte River Valley on the High Plains. Denver is nicknamed the "Mile-High City" because its official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 feet) above sea level. Denver has also been known historically as the "Queen City of the Plains" because of its important role in the agricultural industry of the plains regions along the foothills of the Colorado Front Range.
In the summer of 1858, a small group of prospectors discovered gold at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Although not much gold was found, the mere whisper of the word “Gold” was enough to start a veritable stampede into the region. This was the first settlement in what was later to become the city of Denver. The site faded quickly and was later abandoned in favor of Auraria and St. Charles City.
William Greeneberry Russell and fellow settlers from Georgia founded the town of Auraria on November 1, 1858. The town was named for the gold mining settlement of Auraria, GA. Auraria declined when Russell and many of his party returned to Georgia at the start of the Civil War in order to fight for the Confederacy.
On November 22, 1858, General William Larimer, Jr., a land speculator from Kansas, placed cottonwood logs at the center of a square mile town plat to stake a claim on the hill overlooking the junction of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, across the creek from the existing mining settlement of Auraria. Larimer named the town site Denver City to gain favor with Kansas Territorial Governor James W. Denver. Larimer hoped that the town's name would help make it the county seat of what was then Arapaho County, Kansas Territory. Ironically Governor Denver had already resigned from office. The location was accessible to existing trails and was across the South Platte River from the site of seasonal encampments of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Confluence Park in downtown Denver sits on the site of these first towns. Larimer, along with associates in the St. Charles City Land Co., sold parcels in the town to merchants and miners, with the intention of creating a major city that would cater to new emigrants.
By the spring of 1859, there were cities on both sides of the South Platte. The situation was tenuous and filled with confusion, as tensions between the cities grew and nearly led to bloodshed. Finally, a meeting was held on the one bridge over Cherry Creek. All other names were dropped and the whole settlement came to be known as Denver. Auraria officially ceased to exist on April 6, 1860 when it was incorporated into Denver, and was referred to as West Denver. An Act of Congress organized the Colorado Territory in 1861. Arapahoe County was formed on November 1, 1861, and Denver City was incorporated on November 7, 1861. Denver City served as the Arapahoe County Seat from 1861 until consolidation in 1902. In 1865, Denver City became the Territorial Capital. Then Denver City was shortened to just Denver. Colorado was admitted to the Union on August 1, 1876 with Denver as the State Capital.
In 1862, a Confederate army from Texas marched on the territory in hopes of seizing the gold fields. A volunteer army was hastily formed in Denver. Although hardly trained and outnumbered, they defeated the Rebels from Texas at the Battle of Glorita Pass, saving Colorado for the Union.
In 1863, fire burned much of Denver’s business district to the ground. In 1864, a flash flood swept down Cherry Creek, killing 20 people and causing a million dollars in damage. Shortly after that, an Indian war broke out, cutting stage stations and supply lines and leaving Denver with just six weeks of food.
In 1887, religious leaders founded the Charity Organizations Society, the first "United Way" organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fund-raising campaign for 22 agencies.
In 1901, the Colorado General Assembly voted to split Arapahoe County into three parts: a new consolidated City and County of Denver, a new Adams County, and the remainder of the Arapahoe County to be renamed South Arapahoe County. The Colorado Supreme Court, subsequent legislation, and a referendum delayed the creation of the City and County of Denver until November 1902. Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1908 and then again 100 years later in 2008.
When the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Colorado on its transcontinental route, Denver residents raised $300,000 and built their own railroad to meet the Union Pacific in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Soon after, the Kansas Pacific Railroad crossed the plains to Denver.
Denver was selected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics to coincide with Colorado's centennial celebration, but Colorado voters struck down ballot initiatives allocating public funds to pay for the high costs of the games, so the games were moved to Innsbruck, Austria. The movement against hosting the games was based largely on environmental concerns and was led by then State Representative Richard Lamm. Lamm was later elected to 3 terms (1974-1986) as Colorado governor.
At the time of the 2000 census, the city of Denver had a population of 554,636 living in 239,235 households. The median age was 33.1 yrs.
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