Boulder is celebrating its 150th anniversary but one wouldn’t expect there to be many opportunities for archeology. It’s not quite Pompeii, but current construction on Broadway just a few blocks north of Pearl Street have revealed trolley tracks running under a quite few layers of asphalt.
Thanks to the kind librarians at the Carnegie Branch of the Boulder Public Library who pointed me in the right direction, here is the history of those tracks. The Boulder Railway and Utility Company was founded in 1898 with the idea of bringing an electric streetcar system to Boulder. The initial plan was to provide transportation between downtown and the newly built Chautauqua.
The headquarters for the line was located on the SW corner of Arapahoe and Broadway where Whole Foods (Alfalfas) now stands. A coal fired power house was built on the site as well as storage for the four cars. Rails were put into place along with the electric poles during the first half of 1899 with the idea of opening in time for the 4th of July at Chautauqua.
On June 24th, 1899 the Daily Camera headline stated “She Starts, She Moves”. The 3 mile loop was completed in time for the festivities. The original loop ran from downtown to Chautauqua by way of Broadway, College Ave, and 9th Street and returned via 10th, Aurora and Broadway. It was reported that the desirability of the plateau that is now the Chautauqua neighborhood greatly increased with the installation of the line. The line also provided transportation for the students at the University of Colorado.
The line soon opened a North Boulder loop that served the Colorado Sanitarium (now Boulder Community Hospitals Mapleton Center) and the Newlands neighborhood along Broadway, Maxwell, 5th St. and Evergreen.
In 1914 the line was purchased by the Public Service Company. Boulder’s trolley line closed for good in 1931 when it was replaced by a bus line. Obviously, they opted to pave over the tracks rather than remove them.
Source: Tracking Down Boulder, Colorado’s Railroads by Silvia Pettem, 1996.
Photos: Willie Culkin and the Carnegie Branch Library website.