Compass

Oct. 29, 1858: Denver’s first building constructed

Compass

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(Denver in 1859, Collier & Cleveland lithograph. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)

It was in 1858 that Colorado’s great frontier city began its transformation into the metropolis it is now. General William Larimer, a land speculator from Kansas, erected the first house in what is now Denver. Made from round wood logs and with a dirt roof, the building was situated on the east bank of Cherry Creek near what is now Larimer Square, a downtown landmark.

Early buildings quickly led to streets and more buildings. Though it was not the first settlement in the area, Denver became the dominant one after Larimer used bribery, force and force of will to convince nearby towns to surrender their claims. In an attempt to curry favor, the city was named Denver after then-Governor James Denver.

While Denver began as a mining town and profited from the gold rush, it struggled in the 1860s to establish itself and find footing amid the wild west of the Colorado Territory. The Pacific Railway’s completion in the 1870s connected Denver to both coasts and turned it into a hub for the middle of the country. The train reportedly brought 100 new residents to the city each day.

Today, Denver has more than 600,000 people, with nearly 3 million in the metro area. The city also gets more than 20 million visitors a year — many of whom enjoy touring sites of the region’s historic beginnings.

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