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(Note: Although the part of Aurora north of East Colfax Avenue lies in Adams County, everything within the city limits is treated in Arapahoe County.)

Aurora (1891, 5,342 feet) was founded as Fletcher by Denver developer Donald K. Fletcher. The town's original boundaries were Yosemite and Peoria streets, between 6th and 26th avenues, on the eastern edge of Denver. Much of Fletcher consisted of land granted to the Union Pacific Railroad, whose tracks ran along Smith Road to the north. The railroad subsequently sold the land to homesteaders. During the early 1890s the Colfax Trust Company built speculative houses on and along Galena Street, around the east end of the Colfax Avenue trolley line.

Aurora reached a population of 202 by 1900. After Donald Fletcher absconded with city funds, citizens renamed their town in 1907 for the Roman goddess of the dawn. Aurora grew slowly until the 1920s, but by the end of that decade Fitzsimons Army Hospital and the Denver Municipal Airport had helped boost the population to 2,295. Greater growth came with the establishment of Lowry Army Air Field, Buckley Army Air Field, and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Following the opening of Lowry Field in 1938, its eastern edge, Havana Street, began to develop as a commercial strip, drawing business south from Aurora's original main street, East Colfax Avenue.

After 1945 many ex-servicemen returned to the clear, sunny place where they had trained to raise their families. Aurora developed its own water department and began annexing neighboring developments such as the Hoffman Heights subdivision (1953), a large tract stretching from East 6th Avenue to 13th Avenue between Peoria and Potomac Streets. Developed on the old Cottonwood Ranch, Hoffman Heights boasted 1,705 homes by 1956. The first of many large postwar subdivisions, it helped Aurora's population to quadruple by 1960. By 1980 Aurora had become the state's third largest city, with 158,588 residents. Expansion finally slowed enough during Colorado's 1980s recession to allow rattlesnakes to retreat ahead of the advancing developments. By the 1990s the ambitious city of approximately 250,000 had annexed more than 100 square miles in Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties, becoming Colorado's largest city in terms of square miles.

City administrative facilities have followed the southeast shift of the population center from original quarters around Emporia and East Colfax Avenue to an impressive new complex, east of the Aurora Mall (1976), 15000 East Alameda Avenue (at Chambers Road). Aurora's master plan calls for a low-rise core and diversified activity centers. A quest for community roots and identity led to the establishment of the Aurora Historical Commission in 1970. It has established a history museum and a program of land-marking structures for preservation to increase historical consciousness and a sense of place in Denver's largest suburb.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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