Aurora was founded in 1891 by Donald Fletcher, a pioneer real estate tycoon, who originally named the town after himself. Where Aurora stands today was once open plains on Jicarilla Apache and Pawnee land - a place where antelope, deer, buffalo and elk roamed and gray wolves and coyotes prowled for prey. In 1907, the town was renamed Aurora, which means “dawn” in Latin. It was nicknamed, The Gateway to the Rockies, because it was the first town encountered by travelers heading west through Denver.
The town's colorful history is described in Arcadia Publishing’s 128-page soft cover book, published in 2008. Titled Images of America, Aurora, it was written by Sherah J. Collins, a Colorado author. She is a member of the Aurora Historical Society and the Aurora Museum Foundation. The story is portrayed through a wealth of black and white vintage photographs from the Aurora Historical Museum and numerous personal collections.
At the start of the 20th century, Aurora’s economy began to grow and as the Aurora Democrat-News reported, “Property on Colfax Avenue has now increased in value from $35 to $75 a lot to $350.”
When World War I broke out, the use of mustard gas caused pulmonary illnesses in many soldiers and created a need for more stateside hospitals. That paved the way for the Fitzsimons Army Hospital, which was established by the U.S. government in Aurora in 1921. It became a major factor in the growth of the city.
In 1927, Aurora’s only bank suffered its first robbery. The Democrat-News reported, “What proved to be the most hectic five minutes that Aurora ever lived through occurred Monday afternoon about 2 o’clock, when four armed bandits attempted to rob the First National Bank.”
In 1929, Colorado's Secretary of State recognized Aurora—with 2,000 residents—as a city, and tax revenues were appropriated for sewers, roads and fire stations. Most of its
citizens were located just south of Colfax Avenue, in an area that is now known as “Original Aurora. “
The city’s economy was shaken when the October 29, 1929 Wall Street crash occurred and the nation’s banking structure seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Following that, Federal investigators discovered that Aurora's bank was insolvent and ordered it into receivership, but local business people were later successful in reorganizing the bank.
During the Great Depression, Colorado’s congressional delegation managed to save Fitzsimons from closure due to cuts in military expenditures. President Roosevelt later visited the hospital and was so impressed with the facility that he appropriated funds for its improvement.
In 1942, the Army Air Corps built Buckley Field. This, combined with the addition of Lowry Field, resulted in more jobs,residents and money for the city. In 1947,Buckley Field
was renamed Naval Air Station. In 1960, it was again renamed as Buckley Air National Guard Base. By then, Aurora had grown to 50,000 residents.
Following World War II, Aurora's economy once again began to boom as developers started to build thousands of homes. Aurora was becoming a city and its growth continued through the 1950s and 1960s.
Transformed by suburban development and new highway construction, Aurora became one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Aurora is now the third largest city in Colorado, with an estimated population of 297,235, according to the 2005 census. It straddles Interstate 70, Interstate 225 and the E-470 beltway and is part of the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan area.
The 1970s brought an influx of professional people to Aurora. Because of the lack of adequate public transportation, many people commuted to jobs in Denver, driving their own cars. Then the oil embargo in 1973 created a demand for public transportation and voters approved the creation of the Regional Transportation District.
In 1976, Aurora’s city government organized a committee called Explore Commercial Opportunities (ECO) to attract new businesses and create a wider variety of jobs for residents.
During the 1980s Aurora's economy cooled off, when the state experienced an economic downturn.
The 1990s once again ushered in economic prosperity for Aurora. However, closures of the military bases, which began with the closure of Lowry Air Force Base in 1995, threatened the city's well being. That same year, Aurora city officials, along with University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and the University of Colorado Hospital presented the U.S. Department of Defense with a plan to reuse the decommissioned base as a world-class medical campus. The Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority was formed through an intergovernmental agreement. The facility is now home to the campus of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Hospital and the Colorado Bioscience Park Aurora. Also located there are the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute and the Nighthorse Campbell Native Health Building. More businesses and organizations are expected to locate there in the future.
Images of America, Aurora
is available for $19.99
in Colorado bookstores
and online through
Arcadia Publishing at:
Edited by Mel Fenson from the
book and web sources.