7/20/2017

Colorado's Budget in Brief

If you're confused or overwhelmed by the enormous state budget, or just need a quick, simple answer to a budget question, Colorado's Joint Budget Committee (JBC) publishes a Budget in Brief booklet each year that is a fast, easy-to-understand summary of the state budget.  The Budget in Brief accompanies the annual Appropriations Report, the much lengthier document issued by the JBC each July.  These two companion publications examine the monies appropriated to Colorado state agencies.  Here in our library we have the Appropriations Report online back to the 1976/77 budget; all issues, from the brand-new 2017/18 edition all the way back to 1962/63, can be checked out in print.  The Budget in Brief is available online and in print back to 1993/94.

7/18/2017

Time Machine Tuesday: Uranium Mining

Uranium was discovered in southwestern Colorado in the late nineteenth century.  It comes from carnotite ore, which also produces vanadium.  When these elements were first mined, vanadium was considered to be the more valuable of the two; it was used as an alloy to strengthen steel.  In 1921 the Colorado Geological Survey issued Radium, Uranium, and Vanadium Deposits of Southwestern Colorado, an excellent resource for understanding the early development of the industry prior to the nuclear age.

By the mid-twentieth century, during WWII and especially during the Cold War, uranium was highly sought after by the military for its use in the development of nuclear weapons.  Most of Colorado's uranium extraction took place in what is known as the Uravan Mineral Belt, located primarily in Montrose and San Miguel counties.  Uranium extraction produced a yellowish substance resembling a cake mix, so the mill towns that developed were nicknamed "yellowcake towns."  (Check out from our library the book Yellowcake Towns:  Uranium Mining Communities in the American West, published by University Press of Colorado, for more information).  Examples of yellowcake towns in Colorado included Naturita, Nucla, Paradox, Slick Rock, and Uravan.  Uranium has also been mined in other parts of the state as well. 

Uranium mining became one of Colorado's major industries in the Cold War era; according to the Colorado Encyclopedia, 63 million pounds of uranium were produced in the Uravan Mineral Belt between 1948 and 1978.

Eventually, the decades of radium, uranium, and vanadium extraction began taking a toll on the environment.  In 1971 the State published Uranium Wastes and Colorado's Environment, which exposed many of the problems caused by uranium mining.  Colorado's Involvement with Uranium Mill Tailings, published in 1976, also explored this issue.  Both reports are available online via our library.

The impact on public health was also a growing concern.  A linkage between uranium mining and the development of cancer in mine workers became apparent, and in 1990 Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.  These health concerns, alongside new environmental regulations and the availability of cheaper uranium from other countries, caused Colorado's uranium industry to bust.  By the early 2000s, however, development of new radioactive waste disposal facilities caused a resurgence in interest in uranium.  (See Uranium, It's Hot!! And Back by Popular Demand, part of the Colorado Geological Survey's Rock Talk series.) 

Further resources on uranium available from our library include:




7/17/2017

Museums and Galleries at Colorado's Universities

Did you know that several Colorado universities have museums and art galleries open to the public?  Whether presenting student and faculty artworks, traveling shows, or natural history collections, Colorado's university museums are worth visiting:

Adams State University, Alamosa:
 Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction:
Colorado School of Mines, Golden:
Colorado State University, Fort Collins:
Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pueblo:
Fort Lewis College, Durango:
Metropolitan State University of Denver, Denver:
University of Colorado, Boulder:
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs:
University of Colorado, Denver:
University of Northern Colorado, Greeley:
Western State Colorado University, Gunnison:



7/13/2017

The Architecture of Jacques Benedict

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Victorian architectural styles gave way to newer styles including Beaux Arts and Mediterranean-influenced architecture.  One of the most significant architects in Colorado to embrace these architectural styles was Jules Jacques Benoit Benedict.  Although today he is most remembered for his Denver residential designs (many examples can be found in the Denver Country Club and around Cheesman Park), Benedict's influence extends well beyond his Denver estates.

Jacques Benedict grew up in Chicago and, undoubtedly influenced by the great architects of that city, began practicing there in 1899 before embarking on additional study in Paris, where he attended the famed Ecole de Beaux Arts -- considered to be the finest architectural school in the world.  After returning to the US he practiced in New York for a time, but saw more opportunity in the West so relocated to Denver in 1909.  This was during the height of the City Beautiful Movement in Denver, and among some of Benedict's first projects in this city were libraries (such as the Woodbury Branch Library in North Denver), schools (such as Park Hill Elementary), and park amenities (such as the Washington Park boating pavilion).   He also designed buildings in Boulder, Evergreen, Genesee, Golden, Idaho Springs, Littleton, and Sedalia.  One of his only commercial structures was the elegant Central Bank Building at 15th and Arapahoe in downtown Denver, which was torn down in 1990 amidst much controversy; even Denver's Mayor Peña fought to save it from demolition.

Yet some of Benedict's most intriguing buildings are the ones that were never built.  Can you imagine Denver's City and County Building as a highrise?  Benedict did.  In 1926, when the City announced plans for a new municipal building in Civic Center, Benedict submitted a design for a 35-story Gothic Revival skyscraper clearly influenced by Chicago's famous Tribune Tower.  Although the Denver Post rooted for Benedict's design, Mayor Stapleton and city officials preferred the Neoclassical-style building envisioned by Civic Center Park designer Edward Bennett in 1917.  Stapleton hired a team of forty leading architects to carry out the design, and the new City and County Building was completed in 1932.

Another of Benedict's unbuilt buildings is perhaps better known, because hikers pass its cornerstone every day on their way up Mount Falcon in Jefferson County.  Benedict was hired by visionary John Brisben Walker as architect for a proposed Summer White House for the President.  For a time, Coloradans rallied behind the idea of a Presidential mansion on Mount Falcon; schoolchildren even collected pennies toward funding the construction.  Benedict and Walker fought for the idea for ten years, but it was eventually abandoned, and today only Benedict's cornerstone remains as a reminder.  You can find out more about Benedict's architectural visions in "Architect J. J. B. Benedict And His Magnificent Unbuilt Buildings," by Dan W. Corson, in the Summer 1997 issue of Colorado Heritage.  This issue is available for checkout from our library.  Additionally, History Colorado has a list of Benedict's buildings in their Architects of Colorado database. 




The Denver Post was an enthusiastic supporter of both Benedict's Summer White House (left) and proposed City and County Building (right).


7/11/2017

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado's Count and Countess

Discoveries of gold in 1858 drew many to what would eventually become Colorado, and in 1858 the two towns of Denver and Auraria were established (they soon merged into one, and Auraria is now a neighborhood of Denver).  Among the earliest settlers in Auraria were Count Henri and Countess Katrina Murat.  Count Murat claimed to be a relative of Napoleon; he had fled to Germany from France after his famous relative's defeat.  There he met and married the young Katrina and together they left Europe for America in 1848 to escape the political upheavals in their homeland.

Although safe here from political enemies, the Count and Countess, who settled first in California before coming to Colorado, lacked the wealth they had enjoyed in Europe.  The Count became an barber and his wife took in laundry; soon, however, they opened one of Auraria's first hotels, a two-story log cabin called the Eldorado.  Horace Greeley was among the hotel's early guests.

Countess Murat is also sometimes known as "the Betsy Ross of Colorado."  Supposedly, Katrina -- who anglicized her name to Catherine after coming to America -- sewed the first American flag flown in Auraria.  "She was big hearted and generous to a fault," wrote Louie Croft Boyd, who had known the Countess.  He published his recollections of her in the September 1939 issue of Colorado Magazine.  You can also read about the Murats in Colorado, The Land and the People, published in 1957 as a grade-school history of Colorado by the state's Department of Education and available online from our library.

The Murats lived the rest of their lives in Colorado and are buried in Denver's Riverside Cemetery.






Countess Katrina (Catherine) Murat.  Courtesy History Colorado.


7/10/2017

Agri-Tour Colorado this Summer

If you're looking for a fun way to experience Colorado this summer, consider the many facets of agritourism.  The Colorado Department of Agriculture has a handy webpage which includes information on how both producers and consumers can take advantage of agritourism in our state.  What is agritourism?  According to the Department,

Agritourism covers a wide variety of recreational, educational and other leisure activities and services, provided by farmers and ranchers and experienced by consumers who value the activity or service they receive and seek it out. Agritourism may be defined as activities, events and services related to agriculture that take place on or off the farm or ranch, and that connect consumers with the heritage, natural resource or culinary experience they value. There are three general classifications of agritourism activities: on-farm/ranch, food-based, and heritage activities.

Use their webpage to find out about farmer's markets; food festivals and county fairs; fishing, birding, and wildlife watching; wineries, breweries, and distilleries; dude ranches; bed and breakfast inns; and more.  Agritourism isn't just for summer, either -- check back in the fall for a list of corn mazes and pumpkin patches, and in winter for a Christmas tree list.  The site also contains a list of producer workshops and events.

For more about agritourism, see the following publications, available from our library:



7/06/2017

Financial Transparency for Colorado Schools

The Colorado Department of Education just released a new website, Financial Transparency for Colorado Schools, which gives financial data for every school, district, and BOCES in the state.  The site "provid[es] citizens a way to track the funding and spending for education and compare finances of schools and districts from throughout the state," according to the department's press release.  The site tracks both spending and funding. 

Financial transparency -- and the creation of this website -- is mandated by state law.  House Bill 10-1036 and House Bill 14-1292 require the posting of school financial data online in an easy-to-understand format.
 

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