Local boosters named the frontier mining camp on the South Platte River “Denver” after Kansas Territorial Governor James Denver in hopes of gaining political favor. Unfortunately, Denver had retired by the time they named the town.
There were originally three separate towns, with three separate names, where Denver now stands. In 1859, the other names were dropped in return for a barrel of whiskey to be shared by all.
Fittingly enough, the first permanent structure in Denver was a saloon.
Despite being warned by Indians not to build there, early settlers didn’t listen. In its first few years, Denver was destroyed twice, once by fire and once by flood.
Denver is one of the few cities in history that was not built on a road, railroad, lake, navigable river or body of water when it was founded. It just happened to be where the first few flakes of gold were found in 1858.
The mountainous area of Colorado is six times the size of Switzerland, containing 9,600 miles (15,449 km) of fishing streams, 2,850 lakes, and more than 1,000 peaks two miles (3,218 km) high.
The road to the top of the 14,260-foot (4,346 km) peak of Mount Evans is the highest paved road in North America and is maintained and operated by Denver City Parks Department.
In 1893, while on top of nearby Pikes Peak, Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write the words to “America the Beautiful.”
Central City, located about 45 minutes west of Denver, is known as the “Richest Square Mile on Earth” due to the half billion dollars of gold that was mined there.
The Pikes Peak Railway, located about an hour and a half south of Denver in Colorado Springs, is the highest cog railway in the world, traveling 8.9 miles from 6,571 feet to the summit at 14,110 feet.
The Colorado Trail is a 500-mile-long hiking trail, stretching from Durango to Denver, and crosses eight mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and five river systems.
In 1935, the world’s first “cheeseburger” came off the grill at Louis Ballast’s Humpty Dumpty drive-in restaurant in Denver. The restaurant is gone now, but a small memorial to this historic dining event can be found at 2776 North Speer Blvd., in the parking lot of Key Bank.
The dome of the State Capitol in Denver is covered with 200 ounces of 24K gold. But the real priceless material is inside the building, where the wainscoting is made of Colorado onyx, a rare stone found near Beulah, Colorado. The entire world’s supply was used in this building and no more has ever been found.
Denver City Parks Department grows 240,000 flowers a year in their own greenhouse and plants them in 506 flowerbeds throughout the city. That’s over seven acres of flowers that, if laid out end to end, would stretch for 56 miles (90 km).
Denver is a popular setting for many authors, with at least 25 novels where the action takes place in the Mile High City, including Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan and Jack Kerouac’s classic, On the Road.
One of the best sports towns in the country, Denver is home to seven professional sports teams, including the Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets, and Avalanche. Denver is the only city in America to open three new stadiums in 10 years.
A few of the famous people who attended high school in Denver include Golda Meir, a future Israeli prime minister, who attended North High School, and Douglas Fairbanks, who was expelled from East High School before attaining fame as one of the biggest silent movie stars of all time. Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Academy Award for her performance in “Gone with the Wind,” also attended East High School.
Denver isn’t just called the Mile High City, it truly is a mile high. The 13th step on the west side of the State Capitol building is 5,280 feet (1,609 m) above sea level.
The Denver Zoo is the fourth most popular zoo in America (based on those with paid admission fees) and has the 7th most diverse animal collection. The zoo has 3,500 animals, representing more than 685 species, including 157 that are classified as threatened or endangered. It costs $38,000 a day to care for the animals and operate the zoo.
Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the top five botanic gardens in America, with more than 32,000 plants, representing over 2,000 species, including seven that are classified as endangered.
On the northern edge of the city is a section of Denver the locals call “LoDo,” or lower downtown, where refurbished Victorian and turn-of-the-century buildings and warehouses are home to an eclectic array of restaurants, art galleries, offices, and shops.
The Colorado Rockies opened at home on April 9, 1993 in front of 80,277 fans, the most ever to witness an opening game in baseball history. The team went on to break 11 Major League Baseball records, including the most single-season fans, 4,483,350, a figure that still stands today as the most to attend any American sports team’s games in a single season.
Colfax Avenue is the longest continuous street in the United States and hosts an annual marathon.