City Spotlight: Golden, CO

Golden, CO

Erected in 1949 by Lu and Ethel Holland, the Golden Arch has welcomed visitors to town in classic neon style. It has been renovated several times. During its 1970s facelift, the motto was changed from “Where the West Remains” to “Where the West Lives” because “remains” sounded overly negative to many people. The Arch is now on the State Register of Historic Places, spanning Washington Avenue, Golden’s main thoroughfare, between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets. Reprinted from Golden, Colorado by the Golden Pioneer Museum (pg. 4, Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

Established on June 16, 1859, Golden, Colorado began as a small gold-rush town at the seat of Colorado’s Lookout and two Table Mountains. Although Colorado was not formally annexed as a state until 1876, the territory developed quickly in the decades prior, with Golden at the center. Originally named Golden City in honor of the minor Thomas L. Golden, Golden served as the elected seat of the Jefferson Territory from 1860 to 1862. The Jefferson Territory was an unrecognized area, organized by the miners of early Denver and Golden, which ultimately became the Colorado Territory in 1862.

“Golden City by daylight showed its meanness and belied its name. It is upgraded, with here and there, a piece of wooden sidewalk, supported on posts, up to which you ascend by planks. Brick, pine, and log houses are huddled together, every other house is a saloon, and hardly a woman is to be seen.” (Courtesy of Isabelle Bird, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.) Reprinted from Golden, Colorado by the Golden Pioneer Museum (pg. 19, Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

While Golden City remained the capitol of this new territory, the city lost a large amount of its population due to the American Civil War, and struggled to compete with the rapidly growing city of Denver. In an effort to revitalize and overtake Denver as the true center of Colorado’s industry and commerce, Golden City began an intense battle to be the first to build a railroad that would connect with the transcontinental railroad in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As a result, Golden attempted to build the Colorado Central Line to Cheyenne before Denver could finish the Denver Pacific Railway. The race between Golden City and Denver ultimately ended in 1870, when Denver finished their railroad to Cheyenne. Golden City did not finish their line until 1877.

Entrepreneur and war veteran William A.H. Loveland envisioned a town bustling with the life of the railroad. Using his own capital, Loveland broke ground for the Colorado Central line on January 1, 1868, with the first train reaching Golden in 1870. Reprinted from Golden, Colorado by the Golden Pioneer Museum (pg. 95, Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

Despite losing the railroad competition to Denver, Golden City went on to thrive after expanding the Colorado Central Railroad westward to silver mining towns in the Colorado mountains. As a result, Golden City became known as the “Lowell of the West,” serving as a regional trade, industry, and commerce center during the late 19th century. The town attracted several prominent businesses and industry to its borders, including several smelters and flour mills. Perhaps most distinctly, however, was the establishment of the Coors Brewing Company in 1873. The Coors Brewing Company, though having undergone many changes since its early days in Golden, has retained its headquarters in the city, and today operates the single largest brewing facility in the world.

Co-founded by Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler in 1873, Coors Brewing Company is the very essence of the American dream. The November 12, 1873 edition of the Colorado Transcript noted: “Another new and extensive manufacturey is about to be added to the number already in Golden. Messers J. Scheuler (sic) and Adolph Coors, of Denver, have purchased the old tannery property of C.C. Welch and John Pipe, and will convert it into a brewery. They propose making large additions to the building, making it into one of the most extensive works of its kind in the territory…” Reprinted from Golden, Colorado by the Golden Pioneer Museum (pg. 51, Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

While Golden retained a modest population well into the 20th century, the end of the Second World War brought with it an economic and population boom. By the 1960’s, Golden had nearly tripled in size by way of land additions, which included the Magic Mountain theme park, a Disneyland-esque carnival amusement park. This attraction was one of the earliest of its kind, and along with the brewing, porcelain, and mining industries, Golden rapidly expanded during the mid-20th century, until a recession in the 1980’s brought Golden’s commerce to a sudden halt. After revitalization efforts helped to improve the city’s downtown landscape at the turn of the 21st century, Golden entered a period focused on tourism, based on the city’s lengthy history.

As discussed in the introduction, Magic Mountain shifted west to a 600-acre site outside of Golden. This area was incorporated into Golden’s city limits in 1959. With the new location came a new prospectus for salesmen offering Magic Mountain’s stock. The rendering and sample page from this prospectus reflects Marco’s enginerring influence on the first stand-alone theme park in the United States after Disneyland. (Courtesy of Mike Diener.) Reprinted from Magic Mountain by Robert McLaughlin (pg. 18, Arcadia Publishing, 2016).

Today, Golden, Colorado is a bustling city which takes great pride in its mining and railroad heritage, but has also attempted to modernize itself for the public. The city also lays claim to a varied history, featuring figures and destinations like Magic Mountain (now known as Heritage Square), and the likes of William Cody, or “Buffalo Bill.” Home to many outdoor attractions, shops, and restaurants, Golden has become a modern tourist destination outside of Denver with a distinct historical vision.

Founded in 1920, the Golden Chamber of Commerce was organized by Golden’s businessmen to promote “the prosperity and general welfaire of the greater Golden area.” The chamber and its cooperate organization, the Golden’s Visitor Center, have always enthusiastically promoted the town’s many business and attractions. (Mission excerpt courtesy of the Golden Chamber of Commerce.) Reprinted from Golden, Colorado by the Golden Pioneer Museum (pg. 120, Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

If you’re interested in the full history of Golden, or visiting the “Gateway to the West,” check out our selection of Golden books, or our travel list to the area!