Headstone of Hiram Arvada Haskin

The roots of Arvada, Colorado go back to June 22, 1850, when Lewis Ralston made the first documented discovery of gold in Colorado. Ralston didn’t stay to capitalize on his discovery, but continued on his planned journey to the gold fields of California, later returning to his native Georgia. But in 1858, he guided a group of gold seekers back to the ancestral lands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe to see if they could find their fortune on the banks of the creek which now bore his name.

Mary Ann Wadsworth
Benjamin Wadsworth

At the confluence of Ralston and Clear Creeks, the explorers indeed found gold, but not enough to make much of a profit, even with the addition of sluice boxes powered by canals. They began to move upstream, in the hope of finding richer deposits, perhaps even veins of gold. And so they did, at Gregory Gulch, with the famous find that started the Gold Rush of 1859. Too bad Ralston went back to Georgia just in time to miss the bonanza. However, the canals they dug proved to be extremely valuable to the real future of Arvada, farming. By 1870, the Colorado Central railroad had reached this far West, and enough people had moved into the area, that an official U.S. Post Office was requested. The leading citizen, Benjamin Franklin Wadsworth, asked his wife Mary Ann to name their new community. Her sister had married a man named Hiram Haskin. Hiram’s mother had chosen his middle name off a map in their old Scofield Bible, and so Arvada was born, named for an island off the coast of Syria. Wadsworth and his friend Louis Reno platted the town in 1870, marking its first existence in an organized fashion. Population at that time was about 100 people. Arvada was officially incorporated in 1904, and today boasts over a hundred thousand residents.

Arvada Historical Society Projects

Museum Exhibits

  • Arvada History Museum at the Arvada Center
  • Arvada Flour Mill Museum: Tours by appointment
  • Arvada High School Wall of History: 1900-2000

Projects Completed or In Progress by the Arvada Historical Society

  • Annex and Pavilion at Arvada Flour Museum—1996 (completion 2004)
  • Historic Olde Town Arvada Walking Tour—opened August 2001
  • Renovation Old Arvada School (1888) on Olde Wadsworth Boulevard
  • Gold Strike Park Master Plan and Development—1998 Bridge—October 27, 2001
  • McIlvoy House Historic Structure Assessment—2000
  • Preservation Grant—2002
  • Restoration—2004-2005
  • Olde Town Arvada Historic Business and Residential Districts (placed on State and National Registers in 1998 and 1999)
  • Arvada History Archives at Standley Lake Library Mobile Display Case, Arvada Center Museum—January, 2002
  • Arvada Historical Society Archives relocated and reorganized at 5737 R Webster Street, Arvada—2002
  • Arvada Historical Society Archives and Headquarters moved to McIlvoy House, 7307 Grandview Avenue, May 2005