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Boulder's Beloved Pearl Street Came From Humble Beginnings

Picturesque Pearl Street Was Born in the Wild West

It may be hard to imagine horse-drawn wagons ferrying provisions up and down a dusty Pearl Street, but that’s exactly how today’s Pearl Street Mall began. The City of Boulder grew up at the base of the mountains, a supply town for gold mining camps to the west. Pearl Street, within sight of Boulder Canyon, quickly established itself as Boulder’s commercial hub.

By 1891, Pearl Street featured a streetcar, first powered by horse, then by electricity and finally a train that could transport passengers all the way to Denver. By 1917, cars helped make Pearl Street Boulder’s first paved road.

Pearl Street Mall Takes Shape

But by the 1960’s, Boulder’s eastward expansion and new shopping malls left downtown’s main street in decline. The present day Pearl Street Mall was more than a decade in planning and required state legislation allowing Colorado cities to close roads to motorized traffic. Boulder’s pedestrian mall grew out of citizen revitalization efforts.

Dedicated in August of 1977, today’s Pearl Street Mall offers a dynamic mix of locally-owned businesses, national retail stores, restaurants, public art, street performers, musicians and festivals set into a landscape including many of Boulder’s oldest commercial buildings.

Flowers Punctuate Pearl Street With Color

A lesser known fact, Pearl Street Mall is part of Boulder Parks and Recreation’s park system. This four-block section of Pearl Street stretches from 11th to 15th Street and boasts a network of 58 ground-level flower beds, 7 raised beds, 98 hanging pots, 52 containers and dozens of trees. Every year, park staff plant thousands of flowers including 6,000 annuals and 15,000 tulip bulbs for a variety of blooms throughout the seasons.

In fact, the mall is known for its spectacular spring tulip displays. Starting in the mid-1980s, park staff have planned a unique tulip bulb display every year. After the tulip bloom, crews replace the bulbs with a variety of lush and colorful annuals and perennials.

Each fall, Parks and Rec hosts a tulip bulb giveaway in front of the Boulder County Courthouse. Over the past 10 years more than 50,000 tulip bulbs have been given away to local gardeners. In addition to planting and caring for the flowers and trees along the mall, park crews keep the mall clean, remove graffiti, maintain the brick walkways and play features and remove snow in the winter.

Celebrating a Milestone

The Pearl Street Mall has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a mining supply hub. It is now one of Colorado’s premiere destinations, attracting millions of visitors each year to the city’s most visited park. Pearl Street Mall turned 40 in August. The City of Boulder partnered with Downtown Boulder Partnership to celebrate the anniversary. Visit to learn more about the anniversary, including photos of Pearl Street Mall over the years.

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