The Colorado Chautauqua is the historical embodiment of the emphasis Boulder citizens place on the well-being of their minds and bodies. Chautauqua is the entrance to incredible hiking trails with breathtaking views and the site of historic buildings. It is entrenched in a history of cultural, social and educational enrichment.
The Chautauqua Movement began in the United States in the late nineteenth century on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York. The Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Academy was founded by John Heyl and Lewis Miller in 1874. These Methodists wanted to bring education to people in a resort style environment. The concept quickly grew beyond religious instruction and evolved into academic and artistic subject matter. Thus, this school became known as the Chautauqua Institution and became an unique form of secondary education.
In 1878 the Chautauqua Literary and Science Circle was created to broaden the availability of this education for everyone who desired it. With the extraordinary success of this group, Chautauquas sprang us across the country. Some were traveling Chautauquas and others became permanent town fixtures. In the early twentieth century about 12,000 communities either had a permanent Chautauqua or had hosted one.
In 1898 the Texas-Colorado Chautauqua was established by the Texas Board of Regents. They had searched nationwide for a place to create a summer school for teachers in a desirable location. This educational retreat was the most significant one created west of the Mississippi River. The Colorado Chautauqua directly contributed to Boulder being considered a sophisticated and innovative city and not just a pretty place.
In the 1930s the popularity of the Chautauqua Movement waned across the nation. In Boulder, however, the Colorado Chautauqua continued with its sessions each summer. It is the only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi River currently intact and fully operational.
The Colorado Chautauqua is a National Historic Landmark consisting of 40 acres. Over half a million visitors visit each year. The area consists of lodges, a dining hall, an academic hall, an auditorium and more.
Many speakers and performers have held events at Chautauqua including Stephen King, Yo-Yo-Ma, Ziggy Marley, and Al Gore. A makeshift ski slope existed in Chautauqua Park in the 1940s. Today it’s a wonderful venue for company retreats, weddings, educational sessions and the Colorado Music Festival.
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