This region has long been a gathering place for Native Americans, but Denver began with a few flakes of gold. Denver history dates back to when the precious metal was discovered in Cherry Creek in 1858, starting the “Pikes Peak or Bust” gold rush. Thousands of fortune seekers flooded the region, and soon the tent encampment became a bustling town, complete with the saloons, brothels and gambling halls. Outlaws and gunmen roamed the city streets, and “law” took on a meaning of its own.
When the railroad arrived in 1870, it brought new residents, increased prosperity and helped the city develop a genteel side. Mansions sprung up along tree-lined avenues, and thriving hotels, banks and stores appeared around the city. Over the years, Denver continued to draw those with an independent nature, as well as those who enjoyed the region's natural beauty. After World War II, Denver experienced a growth spurt. 1900-1945 marks the progressive era in Denver history, when the area grew to be the fifth largest city west of the Mississippi River. Today, nearly 2.8 million people call the Mile High City home. While the Wild West is a thing of the past and rooted in Denver's history, the city's independent spirit is still a prominent ingredient in the local culture.