Established in 1861 as one of Colorado's seventeen original counties, Jefferson chose its oldest town, Golden, as the county seat. The county is watered by mountain streams flowing into the South Platte River. Ranching, farming, lumbering, and coal mining, the primary pioneer occupations, have been replaced by business, industry, and government offices, most notably the giant Federal Center in Lakewood and the Adolph Coors Company brewery. Jefferson County contains many of Denver's fastest-growing suburbs. Proliferating subdivisions and shopping centers lap into the foothills, where only a few backwater hamlets still contain tumbledown cabins untouched by modern times. Several small mountain communities remain summer home havens. On its western edge, this suburban county retreats into Pike and Roosevelt national forests and the Lost Creek Wilderness Area.
Jefferson will soon displace Denver as the most populous county in Colorado. Of 438,430 residents in 1990, 126,481 lived in Lakewood, 89,235 in Arvada, and 29,419 in Wheat Ridge. Golden is hemmed in by mountains that have curbed its growth. With about 14,000 residents, it is now smaller than the unincorporated mountain town of Evergreen, which is spreading like wildfire through the forests from which it takes its name. The Jefferson County Open Space Program and the Jefferson County Historical Commission identify, acquire, and attempt to preserve parklands and historic structures threatened by development.
Denver Mountain Parks, which occupy some 9,000 acres in Jefferson County, feature picnic shelters by architect Jacques Benedict, a leading proponent of a rustic Rocky Mountain style. The versatile Benedict mastered a range of styles. His Denver mansions and churches drew on the richest traditions of European architecture, while his rustic mode for picnic shelters and mountain cottages was derived from a studied and sensitive response to the region, a subject on which he lectured at the 1922 national AIA convention. Among other delights of the Denver Mountain Parks is Red Rocks Outdoor Amphitheater ( JF39), Colorado's best example of Modernist architecture.
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