The History of Aurora, Colorado

In the 1880’s Colorado was historically the place to make a fortune in silver. Mining, railroading and banking were the industries to be in, and over-extended investments ruled the day. Men were making money hand over fist, and the booming Colorado economy called to many investors in its history.

President Benjamin Harrison signed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1890, which was a monthly agreement to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver. As soon as it was passed by Congress, silver prices almost doubled, from .84 cents to $1.50 an ounce. Silver was an excellent business investment.

Town Renamed Aurora

In 1891, a Denver businessman named Donald Fletcher staked out four square miles east of the city. Originally from Chicago, Fletcher figured his plot of land was a sound real estate investment. He was so sure of its success, in fact, that he named the beginning town after himself. Just two years later, however, the little town of Fletcher was struggling.

In 1893, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed due to fears that silver would replace the more valuable gold dollar. Silver miners, tired of increasingly longer work hours and less pay, went on strike. The mines and smelters of Colorado began shutting down, the community of Fletcher – along with the whole state - struggled to survive and its founder, Donald Fletcher, eventually skipped town. Stuck with a huge water debt thanks to Fletcher, the inhabitants renamed their township Aurora (Latin for “Dawn”) shortly after his departure, in 1907. So you can see that the history of Aurora is rich with stories and characters.

Growth in Aurora

As if the name change was a new beginning, the town of Aurora began to grow out of mighty Denver’s shadow. The U.S. government made Aurora the home to Fitzsimons Army Hospital in 1921. In 1929, booming with 2,000 residents, Aurora was recognized as a city by Colorado’s Secretary of State.

Colorado fought to keep Fitzsimons from closing because of military cuts during the Great Depression and won. Later, President Roosevelt visited the hospital; impressed by Fitzsimons, he appropriated funds to help with needed improvements. As history unfolded in Aurora the hospital would be the birthplace of a presidential candidate, as well as the care facility for President Eisenhower while he recovered from a heart attack.

Buckley Field, built in 1942 and later renamed Naval Air Station, and the addition of Lowry Field in later years, brought more employment, a higher population and more money circulating through Aurora. More businesses made Aurora their home. By 1960, 67 years after its founding, Aurora held 50,000 residents.

Recent History of Aurora

New highway construction made the town of Aurora even more prosperous in the 1970s. In fact, since Fletcher changed its name to Aurora, the only economic cooling period the town suffered was in the 1980s, when all of Colorado’s economy reached a plateau. Although the closure of Lowry Air Force Base in the early 1990s threatened the city’s prosperity, 1995 saw an end to the worries when the decommissioned base was rebuilt as a world-class medical campus in Aurora. Once the first biotech companies began moving into Fitzsimons in 1998, the city was flooded with businesses, corporations, employees and housing construction.

Ten years later, as 2008 rolled to a close, Aurora held more than 300,000 residents, over 150 corporations, several schools of higher learning and at least six major bioscience centers.

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