In 1860, a group of Boulder citizens lobbied the State of Colorado Legislature to have the State University located in Boulder. They were effective and on November 7,1861, the legislation was passed. In 1872, 44.9 acres were donated to the university.
The first corner stone at C.U. was laid on September 20, 1875, for Old Main and on April 18, 1876 it was completed. Old Main was the first building on C.U. It stood all by itself surrounded by empty dirt. President Sewall's wife, Ann, had wagon loads of top soil hauled in and started planting trees and flower gardens around Old Main.
The university offically opened on September 5, 1877. At the opening ceremony, Old Main’s bell was rung on the front steps of the building because it had not yet been placed in the tower. That year, there were 15 students attending C.U. and 50 students in prep school. They were made up of 38 men and 27 women from 12 to 23 years old.
The university steadily grew over the next few decades and by the start of the 1900s C.U. had 6,000 students and the campus was expanding.
In 1904, the summer session was established, which included the Chautauqua Program and attracted students and teachers from around the country to travel to Boulder to study in the summer.
In 1917, the U.S. was involved in World War I, and C.U. helped the war efforts by opening classes to help train young men and women to serve the war efforts. C.U. also built barracks to house military men that were sent to C.U. to study some of the specialty courses that were designed for the war.
In 1930, C.U. also became active in the war efforts for WWII they opened Japanese language schools and military men and women came to C.U. to study intelligence courses to help them prepare for the war effort. After WWII was over, the GI bill was created, and many veterans came to C.U. with that opportunity.
In 1953, the new University Memorial Center (UMC) was finished and opened. The building was dedicated to all those from the university who had fought in the wars.
In the 1960s, C.U. saw its share of war protests, civil rights marches, and women’s liberation movement, along with a lot of the rest of the U.S. In 1968, the college voted to end “loco parentis” which was a rule that meant the university could act as parents to the student and discipline them. That meant that any discipline had to be left to the city and county law enforcement while off campus.
Throughout the 1970s, liberal groups continued to work hard to achieve rights at C.U. In 1973, C.U. endorsed an Affirmative Action Plan that would lead to the employment of minorities and women. Women's Liberation Coalition fought and petitioned for equal pay, handicap students petitioned for more ramps and accessible access to the buildings around campus, and the Gay Liberation Front petitioned for awareness to their causes.
Throughout the years, C.U. in Boulder has grown from a small 1 building college on 44.9 acres with 15 student to a 700+ acre campus with 29,000 students throughout all of its campuses and research centers.