Very early view of Denver & Auraria, 1860


Col. D. H. Huyett.  “The Kansas Gold Region—View of Auraria and Denver City, Cherry Creek, Near Long’s Peak.  From a Sketch made by Col. H. Huyett, Expressly for Frank Leslie’s Illustrate [sic] Newspaper.”  From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.  December 15, 1860.  9 x 14.  Wood engraving by Holcomb Davis.  Very good condition.

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A very early view of Denver based on a first-hand sketch by Col. D. H. Huyett.  Denver was first settled in late 1858, when two groups of miners set up towns (Auraria and St. Charles) on either side of Cherry Creek where it enters the Platte River.  St. Charles was soon renamed as Denver City (after the governor of the Kansas Territory).  After a very crude beginning, and enlarged by a population drawn to Denver by the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, the settlements grew with impressive speed.  At the time this print was issued, Denver had a population of about 3,000 permanent residents and 400 buildings.

Given the title, this view was probably drawn by Huyett (about whom little is known) before the two towns merged in April 1860.  The view, looking at the city from the east, was probably drawn from Brown’s Bluff, at about today’s 17th and Logan.  It is interesting that this print was clearly based on the same, or very similar drawing used for a small wood engraving which appeared in Denver City and Auraria, a guide issued in 1860.  A comparison of the views, the buildings shown in Auraria, and such features as the Indian teepees, makes it clear that the two wood engravers worked from the same, or at least a copy of the same sketch by Huyett.

The Leslie’s print is larger and more finely engraved, but the engraver of this print made two errors which do not appear in the smaller image.  First, while today’s LoDo was built on a highpoint above Cherry Creek—an 1866 History of the city says Larimer street rose “abruptly from Cherry creek to a high and dry lever” —this print shows a bluff which is quite a bit too steep.   The more major error, though, is that Cherry Creek, shown in the smaller view, is depicted in this print as a road, upon which the engraver even puts a tiny pedestrian; the engraver clearly misinterpreted the artist’s drawing of the creek as a road.

Despite its mistakes, this is an important view of Denver, preceded only by some small views also from Leslie’s, published in 1859, and issued in the same year as the smaller wood engraving after Huyett.  This, then, was the first large-scale view of Denver ever published, and the first view than most people back in the “States” (i.e. east of the Mississippi) would have seen of the city.