I’m currently doing some work in Boulder, Colorado and thought it would be appropriate for my very first post to feature a local quadrangle – Eldorado Springs. Those of you familiar with the area have most likely visited Chautauqua Park and hiked its trails just southwest of town. But do you know the history of the name? I did not, so naturally I looked it up.
I assumed it was a Native American word (which it is), but did not know it means roughly “foggy place.” It first originated in New York, and Chautauqua County, NY was the first jurisdiction to assume the name.
Chautauqua (pronounced “sha-taw-kwa”) soon became the term for an adult education and enlightenment movement that began in the above-mentioned county. In 1874, a local Methodist summer camp began offering secular activities in addition to the standard religious offerings. At the time, cultural enrichment and travel was a luxury enjoyed only by the very wealthy, so the ability for rural families to experience the arts and listen to guest lecturers in a natural setting became wildly popular. Because of the success and appeal of the “Mother Chautauqua” as the original New York Institution was later nicknamed, several hundred “Daughter Chautauquas” were eventually established nationwide by the mid-1920’s.
With the advent of radio and television and improved transportation, rural Americans were no longer so isolated and starved for culture and education. The popularity of Chautauquas steadily diminished and today, Colorado’s Chautauqua Park is one of only three remaining Chatauquas in the United States. It was established on July 4, 1898 and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
So, next time you find yourself in the Boulder area, be sure to check out Chautauqua Park and see for yourself what Teddy Roosevelt meant when he called the institutions “the most American thing in America.”