Arapahoe County, Kansas Territory (1855), initially constituted much of what is now east central Colorado. After the 1858–1859 gold rush brought in an estimated 50,000 settlers, it was subdivided into smaller counties. The final surgery came in 1902, when Denver and Adams counties were carved from its northern half. Littleton replaced Denver as the county seat.
Settlement by English-speaking peoples began with the gold rush. By the early 1860s the Platte River Improvement and Lumber Company employed thirty men cutting timber to build Denver and Littleton. Even after the railroads arrived in the 1870s and granite quarries opened in the Platte Canyon, most construction was frame, exemplified by the Fred Bemis House, now on the grounds of the Littleton Historical Museum ( AH09).
Once a sparsely settled collection of hamlets, ranches, and farms, Arapahoe is now the third most populous county in Colorado with more than 400,000 residents. Even so, it has preserved many of its pioneer buildings. Notable collections have been moved to the grounds of Strasburg's Comanche Crossing Museum ( AH60) and to the Littleton Historical Museum. Despite a proliferation of shopping malls, Littleton has retained much of its nineteenth-century Main Street. The Arapahoe Greenway ( AH12) uses the banks of the South Platte River and some of its tributaries for a series of paved trails and parks that connect with those of neighboring counties.
During the 1920s Arapahoe County became the place for Denver's fashionable suburban homes, built in expensive residential enclaves such as Cherry Hills and Greenwood Village. Country villas and suburban ranch houses have since replaced working ranches in much of the county, which is heavily developed in its western end. Ambitious commercial architecture and landscaping characterize business parks such as the Denver Technological Center ( AH24) and Greenwood Plaza ( AH26), with its Museum of Outdoor Art.
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