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This page outlines a history of the city of Denver.

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Denver, Colorado

Denver is a city located on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, in an area running north/south along the foothills known as the Front Range. The city itself is located about 42 miles from the Continental Divide, and about 18 miles from the mountains themselves. The Continental Divide is a divide in the Rocky Mountains that determines if a river flows east or west.  (Rivers west of the divide flow west; eastern rivers flow east).

Denver is the only major metropolitan area for about a 600 mile radius, making it the most isolated city in the 48 continuous states, and is therefore considered the commercial hub of the Rocky Mountain Region. Denver's location is approximately 5,280 feet above sea level, which earns it the nickname "Mile High City". It's location also allows it an extremely high level of sunshine, (300 days per year), and a dry climate which yields more mild feeling summers and winters. (Although it can get very cold in the winter for short periods of time).

The city was founded in 1858 during a gold rush in the Rocky Mountains, and was named after the Kansas territorial governor, which was because the state of Colorado didn't exist yet. The city did not become the capitol of the state of Colorado until 1881, 5 years after statehood because of rivalries with other towns for the position, including Golden, which is relatively tiny today compared to Denver.

In the early stages of its existence, Denver competed with Cheyenne, Wyoming for regional importance, and eventually won a railroad spur from its northern neighbour shortly after the transcontinental railroad was built, linking Denver to the rest of the country. Denver eventually became the obvious leader of the region after serving as a major destination and shipping point for the Rocky Mountains and the various commercial expeditions held there, most notably the discovery of silver near Leadville. People with silver fortunes invested their money in the town of Denver, building hotels, theatres, and other permanent masonry buildings, and the population of the town had therefore exploded to over 100,000 by 1890. Denver continued to grow into the next century, but more slowly than before because of the crash of the silver markets in the 1890s.

In the 1920s and 30s, Denver established itself as the cultural capitol of the region even further than it already had when many artists left New York and became part of an "artist colony" that was forming in Colorado at the time. Museums and galleries in the Denver area today therefore benefit from a disproportionately large amount of artwork, much of it from Colorado artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Cultural amenities in the region are now very notable; the Denver Performing Arts Complex is the second largest of its kind in the nation, and it sells more tickets than 3 out of the 4 major league sports teams combined, despite the city's reputation by some as a "sports city". The Denver art museum has also recently announced a plan to greatly expand its facilities.

Denver gained even more importance during WWII, when many federal offices relocated to the city in order to move inland away from the coastal threats. Because of this, Denver was heavily involved in WWII production, and is today has the second highest concentration of federal employees in the US, after Washington, DC.

In the 1970s and 1980s, an oil boom benefited the region's economy, and marked the transformation of Denver's skyline from mid-rises to skyscrapers. Denver can now claim the 10th largest downtown in the nation, even though it is only the 19th largest metropolitan area. Since the oil industry proved itself to be governed highly by boom-bust cycles, Denver was forced to diversify its economy after the '80s, and is therefore widely recognized today as having a very diverse and adaptable economy. The growth of telecommunications and other high-tech enterprises have encouraged many educated and skilled workers to relocate to the city, and that fact combined with the education system has given Denver the distinction of having one of the most highly educated populations and workforces in the country.

However, as the city enters the new millennium, it is forced to deal with contamination problems and the costly cleanup of lands such as the Rocky Mountain Arsenal that resulted from Denver's large amount of WWII production. However, this "burden" may actually be beneficial to the city, because cleaned up lands are now being designated as wildlife refuges in the outdoor spirit of Colorado. Denver can now boast to have large tracts of open spaces relatively close to the city for tourists and animals to retreat to.

Finally, Denver's future looks just as bright as its past. Besides the Art Museum expansion, Denver has plans going to voters to enormously expand its mass transportation system; it will build a new convention centre and has constructed a new airport, a new hockey/basketball arena, 2 major league stadiums, and a light-rail system all within the past decade. Organizations concerned with the welfare of downtown have also made their impact as well; there are many new shopping districts located there including the Pavilions, 16th Street Mall, and the Tabor Centre. The residential population in Denver is currently at an all-time high, and is still increasing, encouraged by many new residential and commercial projects downtown.

Now, in the 21st century, the metropolitan area of Denver is posting one of the fastest growth rates in the country, which provides the city with immense opportunities and challenges that will govern its future.

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