The Historical Significance Behind This Popular Colorado Site
People come from all over the world to hike the famous Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. At the base of the popular destination sits a National Historic Landmark that's been around for 125 years and continues to serve an important purpose today.
In the late 1890s, the Texas Board of Regents established a summer camp/school for teachers in Colorado. Doing so was part of a more significant educational and social effort sweeping the country known as the Chautauqua Movement. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, chautauquas were popping up throughout the nation. These educational assemblies brought entertainment and culture to the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, showmen, preachers, and specialists of the time.
The Texas Regents were seeking a favorable location with a cooler climate for the new Chautauqua, which is why Colorado was chosen. After bartering with Boulder's city leaders, the regents received 40 acres of land, plus the facilities and public utilities to establish what was originally called the Texas-Colorado Chautauqua. The Boulder location offered a spectacular mountain setting with a health-giving environment.
On July 4, 1898, more than 4,000 people gathered for the grand opening of the Colorado Chautauqua. The educational establishment promoted a six-week comprehensive, intellectual retreat in a scenic destination west of the Mississippi River. Small cottages were used to house visitors right on the grounds at the base of the Flatirons.
A dining hall, auditorium, community house, and academic hall were also built on-site to further accommodate guests.
People traveled from near and far to stay at the Colorado Chautauqua, and they continue to do so today. The Colorado Chautauqua is one of only a few remaining chautauquas in the country and the only site west of the Mississippi that has been in continuous operation since its founding. Its original structures have all remained intact and are still used for their original purposes.
The Colorado Chautauqua Association now provides a unique opportunity for travelers to stay in the some of structures on the premises. While 39 of the cottages are privately owned, the other 60 are rented out for traveler lodging. The cottages are reminiscent of the early 1900s, with vintage refrigerators and no TVs.
Whether it be for lectures, concerts, or vacations, the Boulder destination attracts more than a million visitors each year. Guests love strolling about the gorgeous grounds, which include gardens, a grassy field, a small park, and lots of history.
Much of the site's original character can be seen inside the dining hall. Guests are welcome to dine both inside and outside or pick up a snack from the general store.
The academic hall now acts as the main lobby and lodging office, but remnants of the past still exist, such as the lighting, flooring, and vintage mailboxes. The roads at Chautauqua are owned and maintained by the City of Boulder.
Colorado Chautauqua is one of only 25 National Historic Landmarks in the Centennial State. Visiting this special place is truly like taking a step back in time.
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