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Louisville City

Louisville City Hall is located at 749 Main Street, Louisville, CO 80027; phone: 303-666-6565.

Louisville Colorado claimed the #1 spot on CNN Money Magazine's 2011 Best Places to Live, a list of America's Best Small Towns.

Beginnings [1]

The area that became Louisville was first settled during the 1860s. Although Indians had roamed over the land for centuries, the first settlers, the David Kerr family, moved there in 1864 and preempted the land five years later. Agriculture might have remained the economic mainstay, but during later years the discovery and development of the coal lands at Marshall, a few miles away, prompted prospectors to look in the area that became Louisville for coal.

The 1870s proved to be a decade of crucial importance. In August of 1877 C.E. Welch of Golden, Colorado, entered into an agreement with David Kerr to drill test holes in hope of striking coal. He did so, and the first mine opened before the end of the year. Then on October 24, 1878 Louis Nawatny, who had been field supervisor for Welch's drilling operation, filed a plat for the town of Louisville on land he had preempted earlier in the year. Nawatny used his Christian name as the root form of the name of his village. The news of a coal discovery and the founding of a town led to the first population boom for Louisville.

The coal deposits were scattered around town. The first one mined was east of the town near Coal Creek: The Welch/Louisville mine. By 1890 the Caledonia, Acme, and Ajax mines joined the Welch/Louisville in production. This number increased to eight by 1900.

For more than a decade into the twentieth century the growth continued, and in 1909 production reached a high with 753,287 tons mined. It later slumped but remained around 600,000 tons from 1910 through 1924.

Mining, the local economic mainstay, was complemented by two other activities, farming and gardening. Farming in the Louisville area was fairly typical of agriculture practiced all along the front range from Denver north to Wyoming. Many farms depended upon irrigation for water and grew a variety of grain crops including corn and wheat as well as hay and straw for animal feed. Many of the farms raised livestock in addition to crops. Local agriculturalists did not participate in the early twentieth century sugar beet boom that spread through much of the region from Denver up the South Platte Valley and from Longmont north to Fort Collins. This probably occurred because the Louisville farmers already had profitable markets for their produce, as they had since the first crops were planted during the 1860s.

The other activity in Louisville that complemented coal mining — gardening — had its roots in the seasonal nature of the local mining economy. The miners, laid off in March and April, and knowing they would not be called back to work until late August or usually September, faced the summer months without income. To replace their lost income without seeking employment outside town, many used their lots as areas for gardening. Produce from these gardens not only fed the owner's family but also was grown with the intent that it would be sold. Louisville garden vegetables and fruits were either marketed in town to other residents, or shipped to Boulder or Denver for sale. In so doing, the homeowners took advantage of the extraordinarily deep lots that prevailed in the original town and early additions to Louisville. In at least one case, the Thomas family, vegetable production replaced mining as the major source of income as they came to own City Market.

Others, who apparently were not as successful at gardening, used their houses as bases for other home industries including wine making or pasta making. Such activities to supplement family income continued well into the twentieth century and left their marks on houses and lots throughout old Louisville as evidenced by remains of gardens, vineyards, or orchards. In addition to the ingenuity of Louisville residents in coping with the volatile coal market another factor helped the town and its mines to survive — transportation.

By modern standards Louisville is only forty minutes from downtown Denver, but in the days before automobiles and turnpikes that distance would have required a day's trip by horse and wagon. Such time and the resulting freight charges would have made it impossible for the coal mines to operate. In Louisville, however, transportation was never a problem because the site was served by a railroad six years before the town was founded. During 1872 and 1873 construction crews of the Colorado Central pushed tracks through eastern Boulder County on their way to Longmont, Colorado, and beyond, seeking a connection with the Union Pacific in the Greeley, Colorado, area. No doubt the presence of the Colorado Central encouraged Louisville's early coal entrepreneurs, recognizing that the railroad gave them ready, if not always dependable, access to the Denver market.

  1. Steven F. Mehls, Carol J. Drake and James E. Fell, Jr., Western Historical Studies, Louisville Multiple Resource Area, Boulder County, CO, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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