Westminster, CO and Its Fascinating History
Westminster, Colorado is one of America’s best-kept secrets. This beautiful city combines the rural beauty of the Wild West with the strong culture of a growing city. The city sits just north of Denver and has several beautiful landmarks and tourist destinations that make it a wonderful place to vacation.
One of the most interesting parts of the city, though, is its fascinating history. Since its first permanent settler built his property on Westminster land in the 1870s, the city has gone through multiple transformations and periods of growth that have made it into the fantastic destination it is today.
The Early Period in Westminster, CO
Gold was discovered about 16 miles south of the city in Little Dry Creek in the 1850s. This encouraged settlers to forget the promise of riches in the California Gold Rush and settle in Colorado instead.
While many passed through what would eventually become Westminster, CO, the first permanent settler was Pleasant DeSpain, who arrived in 1970. DeSpain and his son brought grain and cherry orchards to their newly claimed land, and other settlers slowly began to join them.
Not long after, the land that DeSpain had claimed slowly turned into a small farming community. Despite the growth of the community, many settlers found that they couldn’t maintain successful crops in the dry Colorado conditions, so they sold their land to developer C.J. Harris. Harris began developing the land and creating a full-fledged town, named Harris.
The Construction of Westminster Castle
In the early 1890s, Henry Mayhem set out to build a Presbyterian university on the plot of land he owned in Colorado. Architects and planners from all over the nation pitched in to help Mayhem construct the three-story university of his dreams, and after several years of halted construction, Westminster University finally opened its doors in 1908.
After moving from a coed school to an all-boys school, the university had to close its doors in 1917 when all the students had to leave to fight in World War I.
Pillar of Fire Church bought the school in 1920, and the building was used for an elementary and high school, junior college as well as a Bible seminary in the years that followed. Pillar of Fire Church continues to own the building, now known as Belleview College and Preparatory School, today.
When the town of Harris applied for incorporation in 1911, their name was changed to their current one in honor of Westminster University.
Growth into Today
After Westminster University opened and closed, the city of Westminster would go through many more memorable events and important time periods in its history.
Apple orchards would rule the economy before dying out, the railroad and the development of the turnpike would bring a larger population to the city, and the Rocky Flats plant would provide more jobs to those out west.
All these pieces and periods of history contribute to why Westminster is as fascinating as it is today. A town that started out as nothing more than buffalo and a few tumbleweeds has blossomed over the last century to become a bright, vibrant city full of great people and exciting opportunity.