One fine weekend not too long ago, House Crazy Sarah ventured up to Boulder, Colorado and stumbled upon the cutest little Victorian cottage/cabin community at the base of the famous Flat Iron mountains. It was called “The Colorado Chautauqua” at Chautauqua Park and it had everything from its own restaurant to its own general store.
She had never heard of it… what could this adorable historic completely contained community be? What was its origins? And how is it so intact today?
House Crazy Sarah surmised that it was some type of Victorian era religious retreat that was now used as vacation rentals.
A little research on The Google proved that she was not far from the truth.
This community is called The Colorado Chautuqua – one of many so-named “Chautauquas” scattered throughout the United States.
The Colorado Chautauqua dates back to 1898 and is the only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi River still continuing in unbroken operation since the heyday of the Chautauqua Movement in the 1920s.
So what is the Chautauqua movement? Apparently they were all the rage back in the days before film and television. Chautauquas were basically adult sleepover camps built in rural areas throughout the United States meant to provide entertainment and enlightenment to upper class paying patrons. Activities included lectures on religion, politics, and current events; guest speakers; live theater; musical performances; and outdoor recreation.
Below is the auditorium at the Colorado Chautuaqua where many such performances took place.
Pictured below is the “Lecture Hall” where classes were held:
But the best part of the Colorado Chautauqua (in House Crazy Sarah’s humble opinion) were the multitude of adorable cottages!
Well maintained with well-tended gardens, each of these cottages has their own little personalities.
The community was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. It is still run as a type of condo association with a governing body, the Colorado Chautauqua Association, and residents live there year-round.
Some of the cottages are larger and more grand…
And some are teeny-tiny like this blue cutie:
There are a variety of styles from craftsman cabins to Victorian bungalows.
Between the 26 acres of Colorado Chautauqua Association owned land, lies a 14-acre Boulder city park called Chautauqua Park. Both the park and the Association grounds are open to the public without an entry fee so folks like House Crazy Sarah can wander around love-struck – for free!
The Colorado Chautauqua was originally named the Texas-Colorado Chautauqua Association and was actually incorporated in Austin, Texas in September 1897. The original purpose was for conducting a summer school and lecture series for Texas school teachers at a Colorado location because a cooler summer mountain climate was more desirable than a red-hot Texas summer.
Most of the cottages have individual names, rather than numeric addresses.
The Colorado Chautauqua ran full force until the 1970’s. During that decade, attendance declined, revenue declined and the old buildings were neglected and deteriorating. The City of Boulder even considered demolishing the whole site!
But a forward-thinking (and history appreciating) editor of a local newspaper submitted an application to list the Chautauqua Auditorium on the National Register of Historic Places. When this listing status was finally granted, the city of Boulder wisely shifted its planning from demolition to restoration.
Hence, this magical community of adorable cottages endures as a piece of living history – much to House Crazy Sarah’s delight!
Any serious house-peeper’s trip to Boulder, Colorado would not be complete without visiting two other notorious local landmarks.
The JonBenet Ramsey House
Yes, House Crazy Sarah had to visit the house at 749 15th Street that became the subject of national attention in 1996 when six-year-old beauty pageant star JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered in the basement on the day after Christmas.
The house is very close to Chautauqua Park but it is difficult to see because of the mature trees that surround the property.
House Crazy Sarah is a bold and experienced house-peeper, but she’s not rude so she wasn’t about to go any closer. The house still looks sad. 🙁
But more in town, closer to Boulder’s famous Pearl Street Mall, House Crazy Sarah found…
Mork & Mindy’s House!
This famous house at 1619 Pine Street is a popular attraction in Boulder for fans of the 1970s sitcom “Mork and Mindy.” It was the main character Mindy’s house.
Robin Williams got his breakout role by playing the alien character Mork. The show’s premise was essentially: an alien from the planet Ork meets a University of Colorado student (Mindy, played by Pam Dawber) and they eventually fell in love, got married and had a child.
After Robin Williams died in 2014, the house became a popular destination for his fans to stop by and pay their respects. Nonetheless, the house still has such a happy vibe.
If you ever find yourself in Boulder, Colorado, be sure to schedule some time see all the wonderful abodes!