History of Parker

CS Railroad Train passing through Parker, CO

According to popular legend, Parker can trace its colorful history to the establishment of the Pine Grove Way Station by Alfred Butters, around 1863. The first residents of the area were the ancients (prehistoric) including Plains-Woodland Indians and later (1800s) mostly Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Utes.

The old Indian trails that ran next to Cherry Creek near Parker were also used by early traders, trappers, frontiersmen and gold seekers, such as John Beck, Captain R.B. Marcy, William Green Russell, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Baker, “Uncle Dick” Wootton, and Kit Carson.

The trail became known as the Cherokee Trail and a branch of Trapper’s Trail. When stage lines rolled into Colorado, it became known as the Smoky Hill Trail South, the West Cherry Creek Stage Road and the Denver-Santa Fe Stage Road.

Rhode Island Hotel 1908 
This building now houses Fika Coffee House on Mainstreet.

Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1858, and the following year over 100,000 people followed the trails here in search of their fortunes. Small towns and settlements sprang up as the focus changed from gold to land.

To continue with the legend, the Longs moved the structure to its present location on Mainstreet, built an addition to include 10 rooms and a second-story ballroom, and added some other buildings to accommodate animals and wagons.

Since the structure was being situated about 20 miles from Denver City, the Longs named it 20-Mile House; it was a stage stop that provided meals, lodging and provisions. Although courthouse records bring the dates into question, historical accounts generally agree that George Long traded the 20-Mile House to Nelson and Susan Doud in 1869 for a span of mules. 

Under Parker’s ownership, the 20-Mile House grew and prospered; a blacksmith shop with equipment to shoe oxen and a general mercantile store were added to the facilities. It became Pine Grove’s first post office on December 8, 1870. 

When you arrive in the town of Parker, what you’ll see amid the rolling plains is a growing community of new shops, low buildings, new home communities and lots of open space. Parker has worked hard to keep its small-town flavor and atmosphere even though it’s currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. You can find homes with an amazing view of the Rockies, Downtown City Lights, or nestled in the Pines.

Parker’s very modest beginning came in 1860, when a one-room shack was moved from Pine Grove over to Cherry Creek to serve as a stage stop called, appropriately, the Twenty-Mile House. It was 20 miles from the origination point of the Butterfield stage, what today is the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Colfax Avenue in bustling Denver. The humble little shack grew into a 10-room Inn, changed hands twice and finally became a major stopping point for the railroad in 1882 under the ownership of James Sample Parker.

What doesn’t show when you’re in Parker today are the scars that ravaged the area during the 1930s depression when the bank was robbed, railroad tracks were washed out and low produce prices almost wiped out the small village.

Denver, 20 miles to the northwest, was getting crowded. Developers and planners wisely looked to this area and found a beautiful environment where the rural living could combine with modern-day necessities, where country pleasures would join with today’s desired amenities. Today, the Parker governmental agencies and residents are striving to ensure that this beautiful rural area is not spoiled by over-building and lack of planning. Beautiful walking and biking trails and equestrian facilities abound in the Parker vicinity.

Historic Franktown, located only seven miles south of Parker, was the original site of the Douglas County seat and the location of the first gold find in Colorado.

Source: Parker Area Historical Society
Photo Source: Parker Historical Society Douglas County Library

Parker Consolidated Schoolhouse Restoration Project
The Parker Consolidated Schoolhouse became a century old in 2015. For decades, The Schoolhouse served as the area’s only K-12 school. In recent years, it has been known as the Mainstreet Center and served as downtown Parker’s educational and cultural center. To honor the building’s heritage, the Town of Parker has rebranded the structure as “The Schoolhouse.”

Phase II construction, at a cost of $849,218, was completed in late fall 2016. It included replacement of the outdated and inefficient heating system with two hydronic boilers, creation of an enlarged dance studio in the lower level, the addition of an elevator shaft, window rehab, and exposing and restoring the beautiful wood trim and flooring throughout the lower level.

Town of Parker History
A Brief History

April 1992: The Parker Cultural Commission is formed, and community events are offered. Initial events include Concerts in the Park and Images of Parker Art Show.

December 1995: The Town of Parker purchases the Mainstreet Center to house cultural and recreation programs and to preserve an important historic building.

2001-2002: Study is conducted on the potential expansion/renovation of the Mainstreet Center into a modern performance facility. 

2004-2005: Meetings occur between the Town of Parker, Douglas County Libraries and Douglas County School District on a possible partnership for an arts center. The groups jointly commission a study on a partnership for property to the west of Parker’s Town Hall.

March-June 2006: The Town purchases land west of Town Hall in two parcels for the future development of an arts center, library and retail shops.

2006-2007: Representatives from the Town of Parker and Douglas County Libraries meet regularly to discuss planning and funding. 

March 2007: The Parker Cultural Arts Center business plan is prepared for the Town by Webb Management Services.

August 2007: An architectural competition is held by the Cultural Authority. Semple Brown Design and Humphries Poli Design teams are selected.

November 2007: The Library puts the funding issue for the new library on the ballot. It does not pass.

January 2008: The Town decides not to place the arts center item on the ballot as previously planned, after the library failure. Parker Town Council considers alternative funding options for an arts center.

July 2008: The Council authorizes proceeding with the design of the arts center project from existing funds and plans for a $21.7 million construction budget through the issuance of certificates of participation. The Library puts the new library issue on November 2008 ballot.

November 2008: The second library ballot issue for funding fails.

November 2008: The Greater Parker Foundation is incorporated. This nonprofit serves as an umbrella for fundraising for the Parker Arts, Culture and Events (PACE) Center, as well as other projects.

July 2009: The Council approves the certificate of participation transaction to jointly fund the PACE Center and a new police station in Parker.

April 2010: Groundbreaking takes place for the PACE Center.

Fall 2011: PACE Center opens! 

Source: Parker Colorado Historical Society