Boulder, Colorado, is one of the most beautiful cities in America today. It has been rated the nation's Best Town for Startups by BusinessWeek (2010); fourth-best city to live in for the next decade by Kiplinger (2010); America's Foodiest Town by Bon Appetit (2010); Healthiest, Happiest City in the U.S. by a 2010 Gallup Poll; Most Educated City by Portfolio.com (2010)…the list goes on and on.
Back in the 1850s, Boulder was nothing more than a gold mining supply town with one mud thoroughfare running through it: Pearl Street. Whenever rain or snow fell—and it did, often—Pearl Street became little more than a maze of ruts created by wagon and carriage wheels. Savvy business owners built their own wood sidewalks to encourage reluctant customers to shop regardless of the weather. Problem was, there was no building code, so every sidewalk was built to its owner's specifications, a trend that resulted in a walkway that felt more like a rollercoaster. The boardwalks were replaced in the 1880s with flagstone.
Few folks realize the connection between Boulder and Steamboat Springs, but the fact is undeniable: The towns were financed by the same general group of wealthy visionaries, among them Perry A. Burgess, Lewis Cheney, and A.J. Macky (see blog entry here). Along with business partner I.M. Smith, Cheney opened the First National Bank of Boulder, located at the corner of Pearl and Broadway streets. Within the year, Burgess would replace Smith as the bank's vice president and cashier. In addition to the bank, Cheney owned several other valuable pieces of real estate including the Boulder House Hotel (Cheney block), Trezise Funeral Home and the Boulder Camera newspaper building to name just a few.
Source: Denver Public Library. The Boulder Bank located at 1200 Pearl Street on the corner of present day Pearl and Broadway. Following the failure of George Corning's bank, it was reopened in 1877 by Lewis Cheney and partners as the First National Bank of Boulder.
1870s First National Bank of Boulder check. In 1878 Perry A. Burgess moved west from Bates Co. Missouri to serve as VP of the new bank. Additional interior and exterior photos of the First National are also included in the book Beyond the Land of Gold: The Life & Times of Perry A. Burgess.
Cheney and Burgess quickly established themselves as movers and shakers in Boulder, and they socialized with the city's elite families, including the Mackys, Maxwells (see blog entry here), Buckinghams, and Ellets. Uncle and nephew enjoyed their status and invested both their time and money into ensuring Boulder reached its potential as a vibrant, bustling Western town.
Pearl Street saw its first horse-drawn streetcar in 1891. Ten years later, the electric streetcar replaced it, and Pearl Street was resurfaced with crushed rock. Although the rock was a radical improvement over mud, it wasn't until 1917 and the automobile era that any road in Boulder was actually paved. That honor went to Pearl Street, specifically the blocks between 11th and 17th streets. Fifteen-foot-wide concrete sidewalks on both sides of the newly paved street only added to the grandeur.
Today, one can't help but think of Pearl Street when Boulder is mentioned. With the addition of the Pearl Street Mall in the 1970s, the city became a tourist destination, and the mostly pedestrian traffic between shops, restaurants, art galleries, and other attractions enjoys a variety of street performances—from musicians to unicyclists juggling swords—throughout the day, every day. For Boulderites and visitors alike, Pearl Street is the place to spend one's leisure time, soaking up the sun and the cultural diversity of this college town.
- Rebecca Valentine
Old Tom's Tavern building located at 1047 Pearl Street, Boulder Colorado. Now closed, the building was once the Trezise Funeral home and owned by the Cheney family. This building shares the same basic design as the First National Bank as well as numerous other Burgess - Cheney banking institutions established across Missouri and Colorado.