On the Corner Vol. 11 Issue 4, Q4 2017

Chautauqua turns 120: From teachers’ retreat to National Historic Landmark

By Carol Taylor

It was quite a prize when Boulder landed the Chautauqua, 120 years ago, in the early months of 1898. Several other towns vied for the teachers’ retreat planned by the Texas Board of Regents, but Boulder officials impressed them with spectacular mountain scenery on a narrow gauge railroad trip.

The Texans chose a Chautauqua for their program, because the American Chautauqua movement was in full force. From the 1890s-1920s literally thousands of Chautauquas popped up all over the country as education and entertainment for the masses, featuring lifelong learning, oration and the arts.

Boulder agreed to provide the land and an auditorium as well as a dining hall for the new Texas-Colorado Chautauqua. The challenge was how to pay for this exciting amenity.

Boulder was a small town of about 6,000 residents, with a fledgling University and a collection of small businesses, but no cash for such a large project. A bond election could raise the funds to purchase the Batchelder

Ranch and other necessities, officials decided. With some hearty encouragement at the polls, the bond passed overwhelmingly in a municipal election in April of 1898. READ THE NEWSLETTER