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History of Longmont, Colorado

Longmont, located in Boulder County, Colorado, derives its name from the excellent view of Longs Peak from the city. The city was founded in 1871 by a group of men from Chicago, Illinois. The settlement was initially named Chicago-Colorado Colony. The land for the new town, about 60,000 acres, was purchased by selling membership. Longmont was the first planned community in Boulder County. The streets were laid out in a one square mile grid plan. The soil was rich, but the climate was dry. Large irrigation ditches were built to transfer water from the rivers to the fields. Agriculture became the main driving force of the town’s economy. With the construction of the Colorado Central Railroad in 1877, the town prospered. Newer large-scale agricultural industries were set up in the region, mostly along the railroad and the rivers. Agriculture attracted numerous immigrants from such countries as Sweden, Germany, Russia, Mexico and Japan. Many of them labored on the farms and gradually merged with the town’s population to give it a multi-racial dimension. The Ku Klux Klan gained control of Longmont's city government in 1925, but lost it in the next election two years later. The prospering economy of Longmont sustained setbacks following the New York Stock Market crash in 1929 and the long-term drought of the 1930s but recovered during World War II. The 1960s saw a gradual shift towards high-tech industries. A major development was the construction of an air-traffic control center in 1962 by the U.S. government. Three years later, IBM built a large facility on the outskirts of Longmont. The computer firm was followed by such high-tech storage device companies as StorageTech, Seagate and Maxtor. During the mid-1990s, the southern part of the city was chosen as the location of the first New Urbanist community in Colorado, called Prospect New Town. By the 2000 census, Longmont's population showed a growth from about 8,000 in 1950 to more than 71,000. The Longmont Museum and Cultural Center occupies a striking new facility in south Longmont. The Doughtery Museum, outside Longmont on the Dougherty family farm, has received support by Boulder County to keep the collection open to the public. Boulder County's educational needs are supported by Front Range Community College, with campuses in Longmont and other county communities. Longmont's only full hospital is McKee Medical Center, which opened in 1976. Roosevelt Park, covering three city blocks, was one of the original parks planned for the Chicago-Colorado Colony. It has a bronze statue of a giraffe, one of many bronze sculptures that grace public spaces in Longmont.