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Reports from along the Line: Locations for Learning

Auraria West light rail station
The new W light rail line makes stops at two major campuses in the Denver metro area - Auraria (near downtown Denver, pictured above) and Red Rocks (in Lakewood). Riders along the line pass by or step off at stations that are within mere footsteps of some of our area's richest history.


Auraria came to life in 1858 when prospectors realized they had panned 7 ounces of gold worth $200 out of the South Platte River.

Gold was discovered in 1858 at what became known as Auraria. Image courtesy: ahec.eduDepiction of Auraria Camp
News of this discovery ignited the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, which attracted more than 45,000 fortune seekers into the area.

That gold was discovered by William Greeneberry Russell and his brothers who later founded the township of Auraria City on Nov.1, 1858. The new town was located on the west bank of Cherry Creek, which incidentally was the favorite campground of the Arapaho Indians.

The Russell brothers named the area after their hometown in Georgia, where the first major U.S. gold boom happened 20 years earlier. The name Auraria comes from Latin and means gold.  

The pioneer settlement thrived and in 1860 merged with Denver, another mining camp on the opposite side of the creek. Eventually, the Auraria neighborhood became known as West Denver.


More than a hundred years later in the late 1960s the site was chosen to house the Auraria Higher Education Center, a unique complex that today houses the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver.

All three colleges opened on the campus in January 1977 with about 13,000 students combined.

Today, Auraria has grown to become the largest campus in Colorado and enrolls more than 43,000 students, which is one-fifth of all students educated in Colorado.

Students range in age from 18 to 80 and, depending on which school they attend, can earn associate, bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees.


Golda Meir House at Auraria campus. Courtesy: waymarking.comGolda Meir House on Auraria campus
You will find some interesting historic landmarks on the Auraria campus such as the Golda Meir House, which is the only remaining U.S. residence of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

The house serves as a museum, conference center and the Metropolitan State University of Denver Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership. In her autobiography she said, "It was in Denver that my real education began."


The Tivoli Student Union began as the Colorado Brewery in 1866. Subsequent owners added on to the building, including the Turnhalle Opera House.

In 1901, brewer John Good renamed the building Tivoli after the gardens in Copenhagen. The Tivoli grew to become one of the most successful breweries in the Rockies and even survived prohibition.

However, it was forced to close in 1969 after flood damage and labor strikes.

When the Auraria campus was under construction, the facility was restored as a shopping center. In 1991, students voted to buy back the lease and it was renovated into a retail center and student union.


Three churches on the campus also have historic pasts.

St. Elizabeth Church at Auraria campus in downtown Denver, Colo. Photo courtesy: walkscore.comSt. Elizabeth of Hungary Church
St. Elizabeth of Hungary was founded by Germans in 1878 and is still an active Catholic parish (pictured on right). It was modeled after the cathedrals of Europe and is considered to be one of Denver's most beautiful churches.

St. Cajetan's Catholic Church
, built in 1925, served the Spanish-speaking community until 1973 when campus construction forced the parish to move. Today, the church is an auditorium for lectures, concerts, recitals and community events.

Emmanuel is Denver's oldest church. It is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and was originally constructed in 1876 for an Episcopalian congregation. In 1903, it became a Jewish synagogue and from 1958 to 1973 was an artist's studio.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now serves as a shared art gallery for the campus.


Out west along the W line, light rail trains stop at Sixth Avenue and Arbutus Drive, the entrance to Red Rocks Community College, which is the largest community college campus in Colorado.
Red Rocks StationRed Rocks College Station
It was established in 1969 as one of three new campuses of the Community College of Denver. In 1971, construction began on the present campus on 140 acres in what was then unincorporated Jefferson County.
The first students enrolled in 1973 and on July 1, 1983, the campus became officially known as Red Rocks Community College. The college also has a campus in Arvada.
Red Rocks now enrolls about 14,000 students annually and offers more than 150 programs and 650 courses leading to two-year degrees or professional certificates.

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