Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

The State of This City

On Tuesday, John Hickenlooper delivered his fifth State of the City speech since the former geologist/brewpub owner/raconteur became the upset choice for mayor of Denver. That a man with that resumé could pull off such an upset is certainly one of the best things about this city: Anything seems possible. Particularly this year. "Eight weeks from today," Hickenlooper told the crowd gathered in the Webb building, "Denver will host the most important gathering in its history. Millions of people around the world will watch history unfold in the world's greatest democracy against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. One hundred years ago, Denver hosted another national Democratic convention. In 1908, Denver was just fifty years old. It's hard to imagine, from a hardscrabble settlement of tents to host of a national event in only fifty years."

I've spent much of the past few days reading up on that hardscrabble settlement, for a special Colorado Inside Out show set back in 1858, the year Denver was founded. (The episode airs at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 3, on KBDI/Channel 12.) Digging through the history books, I unearthed my character, Countess Katrina Murat, who came by wagon train to what would become Denver exactly 150 years ago, arriving with her husband, a barber and presumptive French count disowned by his family because he'd married beneath his station. "She is the only Colorado Countess and she was the first white woman to enter Colorado; neither of which claims has ever been disputed," the New York Times noted in a 1901 interview with Murat.

In this city, anything is possible. Anyone can become a countess. A journalist. A mayor. In Denver, history is everywhere — and the future is just around the corner.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun