BOULDER – If you’re a lifelong Boulderite, you may have spent your formative years in a modest 1950s or ‘60s ranch-style home in a North Boulder neighborhood, enjoying short walks to Ideal Market or a jaunt up to Wonderland Lake. What you didn’t realize? You may have been living in a future landmark.
Now in its 23rd year, the Landmarks of the Future Home Tour is an annual event sponsored by Historic Boulder, a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving Boulder’s historical, architectural, visual, and environmental heritage. Each year, Historic Boulder chooses an established Boulder neighborhood that boasts unique characteristics all its own, from architectural details to environmental design, and asks homeowners to open their homes over a weekend for a public, self-guided tour.
This year, Landmarks of the Future takes place in Old North Boulder, the mid-century neighborhood bordered by Iris Avenue to the north, 19th Street to the east, Alpine Avenue to the south, and Broadway to the west. The inspiration behind this year’s choice was the abundance of Old North Boulder homes that have been remodeled with scale in mind. What’s “scale,” you ask? Think sustainability meets function. With plenty of lot-line-to-lot-line new builds popping up in Boulder’s newer neighborhoods, many of the remodels within Old North Boulder have been led by environmental sustainability and thoughtful, minimalist construction. (Spoiler alert: there’s even a net-zero home on this year’s tour!)
But Old North Boulder wasn’t always “old” – in fact, at one time it was a brand-new development. Up until the middle of the 20th century, the fields east of Broadway were mainly orchards, and as with most places, there were only a few minor changes over time. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Boulder saw an influx of aerospace and technology companies – and new home construction took off like a rocket (almost literally). Acronym corporations like IBM, NCAR, and NOAA ushered this sleepy college town straight into the Atomic Age. Even the Boulder music scene joined the rocket-fueled movement when local band, The Astronauts, recorded an international hit, “Baja.”
With the influx of new companies, an influx of new residents followed. To fulfill the need for housing, small ranch-style homes were constructed, dotting the prairie landscape of North Boulder. In other parts of town, neighborhoods were springing up practically overnight, like South Boulder’s Martin Acres and smaller North Boulder neighborhoods such as Bonsall, Silver Maple and High Meadows.
As Boulder’s northern neighborhoods developed, a tight-knit community formed, its epicenter pinpointed at the Community Plaza Shopping Center at Broadway and Alpine. Designed by local architect Hobart Wagner in 1960, the Plaza retains its striking mid-century modern architecture and sense of community pride to this day. As time marched on and Boulder spread further north, North Boulder’s location on a map became more central; the area was eventually christened “Old North Boulder.”
In the late 20th century, an Old North Boulder housing trend developed: the once similar ranch-style homes that dotted the neighborhood were being updated into eclectic, often modern pop-tops or fully renovated homes emphasizing scale, sustainability and style. To celebrate this neighborhood’s diversity, you’re invited to join Historic Boulder and presenting sponsor, Mod Boulder Real Estate, for this year’s 23rd annual Landmarks of the Future Home Tour. On April 30 and May 1, you can check out eight neighborhood homes that exemplify why Old North Boulder has its eye on the future. Tickets are available by visiting HistoricBoulder.org.