The Colorado Chautauqua site was established in the late 1890s, when the Texas Board of Regents determined it needed to establish a summer school for teachers in a cool climate. The Chautauqua Movement was a powerful and popular adult educational and social force at the time. Boulder was picked as the site because the city fathers offered to supply the land, facilities and public utilities for the Chautauqua. The presence of the nearby Rocky mountains was icing on the cake, because it was rightfully considered a very healthful environment.
The Colorado Chautauqua opened on July 4, 1898, with 4,000 people attending. Boulder city leaders and Texas educators had created what was to become an important educational and social summer retreat. Buildings in existence at that time included the auditorium and dining hall. Tents were originally used as residences, and these have since been replaced by small but attractive cottages.
Today the Colorado Chautauqua is one of only a few remaining chautauquas in the U.S.A. It is the only site west of the Mississippi that has been in continuous operation since its founding and with its original structures still used for their original purposes. Except that while originally it was only used in the summer, today the site offers year round education and cultural events for Boulder residents and visitors, lodging (rooms for rent in lodges, as well as cabin rentals), and a full service restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour (highlighting local Boulder brews).
The City of Boulder still owns the 40 acres of land underlying the Colorado Chautauqua, along with the Auditorium, the Dining Hall and the Academic Hall. Since 1898, the City has leased 26 acres of the land and those buildings to the Colorado Chautauqua Association, which owns the Lodges and 60 of the 99 cottages on the premises (the remaining 39 cottages are privately owned). No two cottages are alike and there’s a great variety in their appearances, as you can see in the slideshow below.
An extensive trail system originates by Chautauqua Park, making it perhaps the most popular mountain park in Boulder. In addition to the providing access to 40 miles of hiking trails, the Chautauqua Park itself offers picnic tables and a large lawn space for sport and play. The site is a popular venue for weddings and special celebrations. And it’s a nice place for a summer picnic or to go on a hike into the Boulder foothills.
The site is near Boulder’s popular Pearl Street Mall as well as the University of Colorado campus. My wife and I spent a few hours walking around the Colorado Chautauqua and enjoyed ourselves in the comfortable and beautiful environment. Rental of a cottage would be a consideration for us if we had a prolonged stay in the city.
Parking is limited but free and there’s no fee to visit the grounds. A free shuttle service operates, with extra service during the Chautauqua Summer Music Series concerts. Fees for special events at the auditorium and such are, of course, applied and expected. For more information about the free shuttle routes, visit partktopark.org.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)