Boulder City Magazine®
|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride,
Boulder City Museum & Historical Association
Linking Boulder City
Most people who know Boulder City’s history know it was built to house the workers who built Hoover Dam. In that way it has a direct link to development of the Colorado River and a unique place in 20th century history.
But those who planned Boulder City intended for it to be linked to the river through the town’s place names. Anyone with much knowledge of Western exploration or of the Colorado River’s geology can look at the names of Boulder City’s main streets and its three main plazas and read the region’s history there.
Boulder City originally had three broad, open plazas that separated the government district from the workers’ residential district. The easternmost of these was called Coronado Plaza, today called Credit Union Plaza, named for Francisco Coronado, the Spanish explorer who passed through Arizona and New Mexico vainly looking for the Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado Plaza was a grassy park filled with oleanders and elms until 1982 when the Boulder City Library was built there.
The central plaza in the city was named Escalante after Silvestre Escalante, the first European to cross the Great Basin. Escalante was searching for a safe northern route from Sante Fe, New Mexico to Monterey, California. All he did was wander in a 2,000-mile circle but he opened a lot of interesting country along the way. Boulder City’s Escalante Plaza has often been wrongly referred to as City Hall Park.
Boulder City’s westernmost plaza was named Cárdenas for García López de Cárdenas who was traveling with Coronado. In a side trip from Coronado’s expedition, Cárdenas became the first European to see the Grand Canyon. It was in Cárdenas Plaza that Paul Webb built the Boulder Dam Hotel in 1933, and today we call this square Hotel Plaza. Boulder City’s planners honored the Colorado River’s geography by naming the town’s seven main streets for the seven states the river drains: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California [Denver Street is so named because that’s where Bureau of Reclamation headquarters is located]. In modern times Boulder City has extended this original honor with the billboard at U. S. 93 and Buchanan Boulevard: the flags along the top of this sign include the flags of the seven Colorado River basin states.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.
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