Aspen, Colorado

From Academic Kids

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View south along Galena Street in downtown Aspen. The Aspen Mountain ski area is in the background.

Aspen is the largest city and county seat of Pitkin County, Colorado. Founded as a mining camp in the Colorado Silver Boom, the city is now a Colorado ski resort and cultural center, named because of the abundance of aspen trees in the area. The city emerging as a skiing mecca following World War II and the foundation of the Aspen Skiing Company by Walter Paepcke, a Chicago industrialist who sought to create a utopian community of the mind and body. Paepcke's legacy of the Aspen/Snowmass resorts, along with such institutions as the Aspen Institute, have made the city a year-round international destination for recreation, business, and intellectual discourse. In the late 20th century, the city developed as an off-beat haven for misfits, attracting such free spirits as John Denver and Hunter S. Thompson, who was glorified by many locals for his embodiment of the "freak power" ethic of the community.

This historic character of the city has been challenged in recent decades by skyrocketing property values and the proliferation of second homes, increasingly shut low- and middle-income workers out of the city and creating a large pool of commuters from nearby bedroom communities such as Basalt and Carbondale. At the same time, in stark contrast its historic character, the city has emerged into international fame as a glitzy playground of the wealthy and famous, associated with such notable celebrities as Kevin Costner (who maintains a residence near the town) and Donald Trump. The downtown has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping district that includes high-end restaurants, salons, and boutiques. The booming real estate market has forced the city to struggle between permitting growth and restricting it. The city today remains a quirky mix of high-end luxury homes and condos intermixed with legacy residences and mobile home parks populated by an old guard of Aspen residents struggling to maintain the unique character of the city. A vote of city residents in April 2005 affirmed a previous commitment to annex the nearby Burlingame parcel in order to construct rental residences in attempt to retain a healthier mix of economic classes in the city.


Description and history

The city sits along at the southeast (upper) end of the Roaring Fork Valley, along the Roaring Fork River, a tributary of the Colorado River about 40 miles south of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It surrounded by mountains on three sides: Red Mountain to the north, Smuggler Mountain to the east, and Aspen Mountain to the south.

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Pitkin County Court House, location of the office of the Pitkin County Sheriff. Notable resident Hunter S. Thompson once ran for the office in 1970 on the "freak power" ticket, narrowing losing.

Silver was first discovered by prospectors from Leadville, Colorado in 1879 after a treaty with the Ute tribe opened up the Western Slope of Colorado to entry. Because of difficult access mining development was slow but in 1877 the railroad was extended to Aspen and it grew to a population of 12,000 and 9 million dollars of silver bullion was mined at the height of the boom in 1892.

During the life of the silver boom in Colorado, the price of silver steadily declined. At first it was propped up by purchases by the Federal Government, but in 1893 purchases ceased. Within a few days all the Aspen mines were closed and thousands of miners were put out of work. It was proposed that silver be recognized as legal tender and the Populist Party adopted that as one of its main issues; Davis H. Waite, an Aspen newspaperman and agitator was elected governor of Colorado on the Democratic Ticket; but in time the movement failed.

Eventually, after wage cuts, mining revived somewhat, but production declined and by the 1930 census only 705 residents remained. There was a fine stock of old business blocks and residences and excellent snow. Eventually Aspen was discovered and became a ski resort and cultural center, home of the Aspen Music Festival and School.


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Location of Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is located at 39°11'32" North, 106°49'28" West (39.192297, -106.824470)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.1 km² (3.5 mi²). 9.1 km² (3.5 mi²) of it is land and none of the area is covered with water.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 5,914 people, 2,903 households, and 1,082 families residing in the city. The population density is 646.9/km² (1,675.4/mi²). There are 4,354 housing units at an average density of 476.2/km² (1,233.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 94.94% White, 0.44% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.45% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.64% from other races, and 1.20% from two or more races. 6.14% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 2,903 households out of which 16.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.8% are married couples living together, 5.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 62.7% are non-families. 43.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 4.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 1.94 and the average family size is 2.67.

In the city the population is spread out with 13.1% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 42.1% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 7.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 115.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 117.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $53,750, and the median income for a family is $70,300. Males have a median income of $41,011 versus $32,023 for females. The per capita income for the city is $40,680. 8.2% of the population and 3.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 4.4% of those under the age of 18 and 2.6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Famous residents

John Denver lived most of his life in Aspen. Bill Joy has a house in Aspen, and is a frequenter of the city's Zélé Café. Hunter Thompson lived in the Aspen area, where he was involved in land use regulation and once ran for Pitkin County Sheriff. Harold Ross was born in Aspen.

Further reading

  • Malcolm Rohrbough, Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town 1879-1893, Oxford University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-19-564064-3
  • Frank L. Wentworth of Aspen (1866-1942), Aspen on the Roaring Fork, Sundance Publication, hardcover, ISBN 1112829911 (earlier editions exist), (common in the used book market, look on ABE)

External links


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