City and capital of Colorado, in Denver County, on the South Platte River; population (2000 est) 554,600. At 1,609 m/5,280 ft above sea level, it is known as ‘Mile High City’ and is situated on the western edge of the Great Plains, 24 km/15 mi from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Denver is the commercial, manufacturing, and transportation centre for the central west region of the USA. It has major sheep and cattle markets, and is the headquarters for several US government agencies; industries include aerospace, the manufacture of rubber products, processed food, electronics, and building materials. Mining and tourism are also important to the economy. Denver was incorporated in 1861 and was made capital of Colorado Territory in 1867, and capital of the new state of Colorado in 1876. It became a city in 1902.
Denver was settled in 1858 following the discovery of gold in the area and was named after James Denver, the governor of Kansas Territory. It developed as a transportation centre and was combined with the settlement of Auraria in 1860. It was badly damaged by fire in 1863 and by flood in 1864. The Plains Wars discouraged settlement but Denver boomed after 1870 when the railway arrived. The population grew from 4,800 in 1870 to 106,700 in 1890. The area was an important mining centre in the 19th century. Silver and gold were mined in the 1870s and 1880s. Gold was a significant industry until 1880 and silver generated much wealth until the crash of the silver market in 1893. Coal is still mined nearby.
Features The Denver branch of the US Mint (1906) is the second-largest gold depository in the USA, and produces 75% of the country's coinage. The State Capitol (1895), with its gold dome; the Brown Palace Hotel (1892), containing Tiffany stained glass; and the Molly Brown House Museum (1890), devoted to Molly Brown, the ‘unsinkable’ heroine of the Titanic, are all located here. National monuments include the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, and Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Among its many museums, the most interesting include the Trianon Museum and Art Gallery, with 18th and 19th century European furniture; The Denver History Museum, which is located in the Byers-Evans House (1883), and the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center (1971). The Denver Art Museum has important collections of Asian, pre-Columbian, and Spanish Colonial art, and the Buffalo Bill Museum includes the grave of the US scout and performer William Cody. Denver International Airport opened in 1995 and is one of the world's largest in area.
Educational institutions Denver is the seat of several colleges including the University of Denver (1864), Regis University (1877), the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (1883), Iliff School of Theology (1889), Saint Thomas Seminary (1907), the University of Colorado at Denver (1912), Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary (1950), Colorado Institute of Art (1952), Metropolitan State College of Denver (1963), and Yeshiva Toras Chaim Talmudical Seminary (1967).