DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s oldest town may surprise you. It is not any of the obvious choices — such as Denver, Colorado Springs or Pueblo. In fact, it is somewhere entirely separate from the Front Range.
While towns in the state may not be as old as some on the East Coast, Colorado still has a rich history of settlements and towns.
What is the oldest town in the state?
Depending on the definition of town you want to use, there are different answers.
There are many native peoples that created and lived in permanent settlements in what is now known as Colorado for millennia before any western people made landfall on the continent.
Places such as Mesa Verde, which was first settled around 1,400 years ago, by far predate the modern settling of the area by Europeans.
However, to narrow down the scope of what “oldest town” means, the oldest incorporated town in Colorado that is still populated is San Luis in the southern part of the state.
The town was established on April 5, 1851 and had a population of 591 as of the 2020 U.S. Census. It was first incorporated as a town by the Colorado Territorial Government in 1852 and was the first town to get that recognition, according to History Colorado.
According to the San Luis city website, Hispanic settlers came from the Taos Valley to live there.
The population living there today is primarily Hispanic and still has strong ties to its founding roots, and features adobe architecture and a Spanish town layout.
In addition to being the oldest town, San Luis also boasts the state’s oldest still-open business — R&R Market — which first opened in 1857.
San Luis also has a popular attraction – the Stations of the Cross Shrine – which sits atop a mesa in the center of the town.
For perspective on how old San Luis is compared to other cities — Denver was founded in 1858 after gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains.
Colorado Springs followed in 1871, and Pueblo officially became a city in 1873, but it had been populated as Fort Pueblo decades before that since 1842.