In January 1960, one of the biggest news stories in Boulder was the city's population explosion. Ten years earlier, at the start of the decade of the 1950s, a newspaper story on Boulder stated, "New blood has brought new vitality to what was a sleepy little university town. Boulder has set its sights high, and it's just beginning to boom."

And boom it did. The 1950s were a period of rapid growth. Federal census figures in 1960 proved that in one decade--from 1950 to 1960--Boulder nearly doubled its population figure of 19,999 to a new one of 37,718.

At the beginning of the growth spurt, at least one old-timer described Boulder as "pokey and pleasant." Parking meters had recently been installed downtown, but the streets weren't clogged or crowded. The city's southern boundary was Baseline Road.

The main route into Boulder from Denver, at the time, was via U.S. 287 and then west to Boulder on Arapahoe Ave. In the early 1950s, Boulder tourists and residents stopped at the major thoroughfare's motels and grabbed a bite to eat at the Twinburger, one of Boulder's early fast-food restaurants.

Getting to Boulder, as well as Boulder itself, changed dramatically with the 1952 opening of the Boulder-Denver turnpike, now U.S. 36. New employment opportunities, including the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) and the since-closed Rocky Flats Atomic Energy Project, drew many new residents demanding houses and places to shop.


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The first new subdivision in south Boulder was Highland Park, developed by Turnpike Builders, Inc. The company's 816-to-988-square-foot homes, built between South Broadway and the turnpike, came complete with kitchen appliances, colored bathroom fixtures, oak floors, and gas heat and hot water. Prices ranged between $8,500 and $13,000.

Houses quickly followed in Martin Acres, a subdivision southeast of Highland Park. Instead of shopping downtown, post-1956 residents in south Boulder frequented the then-new Basemar Shopping Center. (The Table Mesa Shopping Center, its surrounding housing developments, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research came in the 1960s.)

As Boulder extended its boundaries to include the new south Boulder residents, the city spread out to the north and east, as well. The North Broadway Shopping Center (now Ideal Broadway Shops) opened in 1958 and was followed two years later by the Community Plaza Shopping Center. Both catered to the needs of north Boulder residents, and also to the families of new workers at the Beech Aircraft Corporation, on 1,500 acres of land north of the city.

The Arapahoe Village Shopping Center was the first on the east side of Boulder where, in 1957, Ball Brothers Research Corporation (now Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation) became the first tenant in the Boulder Industrial Park.

During the 1960s, Boulder's population continued to climb to 66,870 residents in 1970. And it didn't stop there. According to the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, the city now has 103,673 residents, including 29,000 students at the University of Colorado.

The students figured into the earlier federal census records, too. But--for better or worse--Boulder can no longer be called "pokey," nor will it ever again be a "sleepy little university town."

Silvia Pettem writes on history for the Daily Camera. Write her at the Daily Camera, P. O. Box 591, Boulder 80306, or email pettem@earthlink.net.