Recent History

From the 1950s though the 1970s, Boulder went through a large amount of change and growth. With an influx of blue collar tech workers, hippies, spiritual seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, Boulders population expanded and became very diverse.

Beginning in the 1950s and 60s lot of high tech companies, along with a few large government research facilities, brought a whole crowd of tech workers to Boulder. IBM built a large center just north of Boulder that has brought a large migration of computer workers along with computer and information industry growth to the Boulder area.

boulder colorado, city view

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) opened in 1952 has a 208 acre center in Boulder that employs around 350 scientist and technicians that help keep the world standards exact. They house and maintain one of the few atomic clocks that the entire world uses to set accurate time. They also keep highly accurate devises to insure that units of measure stay exact. If a tape measure manufacturer wants to be sure his equipment is marking inches accurately, he would contact NIST.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp was founded in 1956 and one of its 3 primary offices is located in Boulder. The other 2 primary facilities are in Broomfield and Westminster. At the beginning, Ball Aerospace started building controls and parts for government military rockets and then branched out to work on contracts for NASA and space exploration projects.

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) was established in Boulder during the 1960s. NCAR can be seen along the Flatirons from most of Boulder. It has brought some of the world’s top scientist to Boulder to work and conduct research. NCAR performs studies and research in a very wide range of subjects including weather patterns, climate change, Meteorology, Atmospheric Chemistry and much more.

Many major tech companies such as Sun Micro systems, Level 3 Communications Inc, and Storage Technology Corp (just to name a few) are still launching facilities in Boulder.

The Denver-Boulder Turnpike (aka-Hwy 36) opened on January 19, 1952. This became a major artery between Denver, Westminster, Broomfield and Boulder. In its first years, it was a toll way until the building bonds taken out to build the highway were paid off in 1967. Shortly after the bonds were paid off, the toll was banished and the Denver-Boulder Turnpike became a U.S. Highway open at no charge.

The Pearl Street Mall started construction in 1976 and was officially dedicated on August 6, 1977. In that time period, malls and pedestrian malls were a huge fad thoughout the U.S. and a planning community in Boulder decided Boulder needed one of its own. The Pearl Street Mall has been the heart of Boulder and what many people consider the center of town.

The Boulder School of Massage Therapy formed in 1976 brought many people to Boulder to study the art of massage and natural healing. It has now been renamed the Boulder College of Massage Therapy-BCMT and is one of the leading schools in the U.S. attracting student from around the world to study massage therapy in Boulder.

Naropa University has also attracted people from all over the world. Chögyam Trungpa founded Naropa in 1974. The name Naropa comes from a famous 11th century Buddhist teacher. Naropa University is Buddhist based and offers a wide variety of courses including psychology, art, music, therapy, and meditation.

The 1990s saw a growth boom in the Boulder area and many companies relocated and started up in Boulder. As a result, the population and building mushroomed. Boulder struggled to control the fast growth and the city and county bought open space and tried to impose limited growth laws. The open space helped leave a small amount of space between housing tracts on the outskirts of Boulder County, but not much. The building laws imposed downtown were just circumvented with loopholes and money so they didn’t do much to stop the excessive growth. In the early 2000s, the economy started to go into a recession and the growth slowed considerably. By 2009, the bottom had dropped out of the housing market and the residential growth almost came to a complete halt.

Boulder is a very special place and has always been full of colorful life and interesting history. Whether you are a blue-collar worker, hippie, spiritual seeker outdoor enthusiast, or just you, you will find a place in Boulder to suit your lifestyle.