Clear Creek is the historic heart of the
Golden community. In the late 1850s gold was discovered in
Colorado. Prospectors often looked for gold in the streams
coming out of the mountains. When they found it, they
followed the streams until they found the source of the
gold. In 1859, gold was discovered in Clear Creek. The
miners followed the Creek into the mountains and eventually
found large deposits in Central City and near Idaho Springs.
Meanwhile, Golden benefitted from its
position as the last "flat place" before entering the Rocky
Mountains. The town became a commercial and agricultural
center where people could stock up on the food and equipment
they needed to venture into the mountains.
19th Century Downtown with South Table Mountain in the
Soon Golden had industry as
well—smelters to process the metal mined in the mountains,
flour mills to grind the wheat grown on the plains, brick
works to form the local clay into building materials, and
coal mines to help power it all.
Golden - a 19th Century Commercial Center
Courtesy of Golden History Museums, City of Golden
During the 1860s, before Colorado became a state, Golden was
the Territorial Capitol. The building where the legislature
met still stands at 12th and Washington. Local outrage ran
high when Denver snagged the honor of becoming the permanent
Our local newspaper, the Golden
Transcript, was established in 1866 by George West,
one of the town’s founders, and is still in publication
The Colorado School of Mines was
established in 1870, to help train the geologists and mining
engineers who supported the Colorado mining industry. Over
the years, the school has expanded its programs as new
technologies arose, beginning with mining in the 19th
century, adding petroleum exploration in the 20th, and
becoming a leader in renewable energy in the 21st.
19th Century Golden Industry
Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, X-9833.
Historic Brick Coors Brewery
Adolph Coors arrived in Golden in
1873, and the brewery he founded is still going strong.
Coors is a major employer in the area, and their
bring more than 250,000 visitors to Golden every year.
The National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL) was established during the
1970s “energy crisis.” NREL brings a highly educated
workforce to Golden and exerts a strong local influence for
Clear Creek remains a central element
in the life of our town, providing us with both drinking
water and recreation. Most community events take place near
the Creek, and the Clear Creek Whitewater Park is a popular
spot for kayaking and tubing.
Historic Downtown Golden served as the
regional supply center for well over a century, serving not
only the city itself but the surrounding farms and ranches
in the mountains west of town. By the 1980s, our historic
downtown was experiencing the decline that was common to
most historic town centers. In response, we established the
Golden Urban Renewal Authority
(GURA) and charged it with stimulating business,
improving the appearance, and making downtown a popular
gathering place once again.
The results have
been spectacular. The historic buildings have been preserved
while the streets and sidewalks have been enhanced with
planters, trees, and benches. Residents and visitors alike
gather downtown for shopping, dining, and lingering.
12th Street Historic District
|Golden also has three residential Historic Districts. The
12th Street district, just west of downtown, includes a
number of fine, upper-middle class Victorian houses. The 8th
and 9th Street historic district, on the north side of Clear
Creek, includes more modest Victorian homes—good examples of
working-class houses. The East Street historic district,
just east of downtown, includes a mixture of Victorian and
early 20th century Craftsman-style homes.
|Golden has always welcomed tourists. In the early 1900s
visitors took the trolley out from Denver, then hiked or
rode a mule up South Table Mountain to enjoy the views. A
few years later, a funicular railway carried passengers up
to the top of Castle Rock, which welcomed visitors with a
restaurant and dance hall. You can still see the scar from
the tracks running up the mountainside.
By the 1920s, automobiles were coming into
wide use. Denver established its Mountain Parks system, and
pleasure trips to the mountains became popular. Golden was
the gateway to the mountains, and was once again the place
to get outfitted before heading into the hills.
Courtesy of Golden History Museums,
City of Golden Collection
“Welcome Arch” was added in 1949. This was the dawning of
the “westerns” era in Hollywood, and Golden was justifiably
proud of its status as an authentic western town.
The late 20th century saw the founding of
several of our museums – the Quilting, Mountaineering,
Railroad, and Art museums joining the long-established
Geology, History, and Buffalo Bill museums. Outdoors
enthusiasts have also discovered Golden, and the City is a
popular spot for hiking, biking, kayaking, fly-fishing, and
Golden continues to thrive in the 21st
century. Our historic mining and smelting industries have
given way to high tech and “green” industries. The National
Renewable Energy Laboratory has joined Coors and the
Colorado School of Mines as major influences in the
community. Clear Creek still flows through the town,
supplying excellent Rocky Mountain drinking water and
providing a place to play year round. While you visit
Golden, we hope you’ll enjoy both our past and our present!
Downtown Golden – 1941 and Today
Left side of the photo:
Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, Call
"A Brief History of Golden" was excerpted by permission
to Golden Colorado by Barb Warden.
To learn more about Golden's history, check
the following books. Most of these are available for
purchase at the Golden History Center or for check-out at
the Golden Library.
Black, Robert C. Railroad Pathfinder:
The Life and Times of Edward L. Berthoud. Cordillera
Press, Evergreen, Colorado. 1988.
Brown, Georgina. The Shining
Mountains. B&B Printers, Gunnison, Colorado. 1976.
Eckley, Wilton. Rocky Mountains to
the World: The History of the Colorado School of Mines.
The Donning Company Publishers, Virginia Beach,
Lomond, Carole. Jefferson County
Colorado – A Unique & Eventful History! Views
Publishing Company, Golden, Colorado. 2009.
Lowther, Todd. Castle Rock and the Ku
Klux Klan. Gypsey Publications, Golden, Colorado.
Norman, Cathleen. Golden Old & New: A
Walking Tour Guide. Preservation Publishing,
Lakewood, Colorado. 1996.
Ramstetter, James K. Life in the
Early Days. Alameda Press, Denver, Colorado. 1996.
Wagenbach, Lorraine, and Jo Ann E.
Thistlewood. Golden: The 19th Century: A Colorado
Chronicle. Harbinger House, Littleton, Colorado.
Wagenbach, Lorraine, Editor. A
Woman’s Life in Golden. Written by the Members of
the Pioneer Delphian Study Club. Golden History Museums,
Golden, Colorado. 2010.
Golden celebrated its 150th birthday in June
of 2009. Many, many people worked hard to make the
celebration a success. We had a
downtown and capped the evening with a laser light show
and a slide show of Golden's history in photos. You can buy
the DVD that was shown that night at the Golden Visitors
Center (10th and Washington) or watch it online, by clicking
on the pictures below.
You can learn more about Golden's history at
Golden has a Historic Preservation Board.
Its members are volunteers. They must apply for the job and
are interviewed and chosen by the City Council. The Board
is consulted on a variety of issues regarding preservation
of historic structures within the city. Learn more about
the HPB by
visiting their page on the City's web site. The page
shows the current board members, describes their charter and
responsibilities, and includes links to a number of
interesting documents. If you're interested in keeping
track of what this group is doing, you are welcome to attend
their bi-weekly meetings.
The Ronzio collection is comprised of
approximately 350 photographs. The collection includes the
first laws published in Golden for the Colorado Territory.
It is considered one of the more comprehensive photographic
collections of Golden.
Address: 1019 10th Street
There are a lot of good websites covering
Golden history. These are direct links to some of our
favorite pages within those sites: