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“Situated at the foot of the rockies, Thornton will rise majestically on the heights overlooking Denver” proclaims the marketing materials for a new planned community situated seven miles north of Denver, from North Washington to Welby Road and 88th to 120th Avenues. Incorporated in 1956, the history of the city of Thornton reflects two broad trends of postwar America: expanding suburbs and increased home ownership enabled by low housing costs and GI Bill Benefits. Families were promised modern design, streets designed for smooth traffic, easy parking, and maximum safety. The City of Thornton Archive’s newly launched Digital Collection chronicles the community’s development and documents its history and culture for improved access to information for the citizens of Thornton and neighboring communities.
Created in partnership with the Colorado State Library’s CVL Collections program, the City of Thornton Archives Digital Collection includes oral histories, images, pamphlets, and newsletters relating to city planning and development, city officials, and major events in the city’s history. The collection has now been shared with the Plains to Peaks Collective, and its items are discoverable through the Digital Public Library of America, a national platform for digitized historic collections.
With six collections containing nearly 200 items, the City of Thornton Archives Digital Collection explores city government at a remarkably intimate level. City Chatter, the Voice of Thornton Employees contains over 100 volumes of The City Chatter, a newsletter by and for city employees published between 1972 and 1982, reads a lot like an analog Lesley Knope-ian social media feed. In addition to local events, department news, staff changes and birthdays, you might learn that a colleague spent a long weekend motorcycling to Arizona (yes, there were sunburns), welcomed a new baby, or has bar stools for sale or a litter of kittens that need good homes.
Zooming out from the amiable local government trivia, other collections in the digital archive document celebrations and losses for the Thornton community. For instance, the impacts of a severe tornado that destroyed 87 homes are captured in a dozen affecting images in the aftermath of the 1981 tornado.
But five years later, Mayor Margaret Carpenter commemorated the opening of the Thornton Parkway Interchange by riding in a convertible with Jane Russell – reader, I did not see this one coming!
If you find the prospect of discovering an image where classic Hollywood intersects with a suburban infrastructure project appealing, this collection is for you. Learn more about the City of Thornton and watch the collection grow by visiting: https://thorntonco.cvlcollections.org. You never know what you’ll find.
If you would like to learn more about sharing your organization’s historical collections through CVL-Collections, please contact:
Collaborative Programming Coordinator
Colorado State Library
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