East Pearl Street businesses changed with the times

More than a century ago, the east end of Pearl Street had everything we aspire to in a community. A vibrant and diverse part of town, the blocks east of 15th were ‘mixed use’ with residences amidst locally owned business, convenient transit and even shops for recycled materials.

Carol TaylorIn Retrospect
Carol TaylorIn Retrospect

Working families found the necessities for daily life on the east end: dry goods, work clothes, furniture, ice, coal for heating and fuel, mechanical parts, farm supplies, as well as a family grocer, a barbershop, the post office, and public schools.

Boulder Feed Mill, at 2027 Pearl, sold flour, grain, hay and coal. Livery stables for feeding and boarding horses also populated the east Pearl blocks. Stagecoaches made regular trips from one of the liveries to mountain mining towns.

The Denver & Boulder Valley Railroad depot was located on Pearl Street between 22nd and 23rd streets, from the 1870s to 1880s, allowing access to Denver and other big markets. A bit later the Denver and Interurban electric passenger trains ran along east Pearl, from 1908-1917.

The Hygienic Ice and Cold Storage Company, 2105 Pearl St., established in 1905, produced 15 tons of ice daily and provided space for grocers and butchers. Ice was delivered to customers by horse and wagon.

The Golden Ash Coal Company at 22nd and Pearl was one of several places in the neighborhood selling coal for heating and fuel.

Many businesses on the east end were founded by immigrants. A Swedish couple built the John Lund Hotel in 1887 at 1908 Pearl Street which became a gathering spot for Swedes. Swedish immigrants John Borgstrand, a miner, and his wife Matilda bought property from Matilda’s uncle John Lund and built a house on the same block.

A Jewish immigrant from Poland, Ben Wigotow founded a clothing store, Star Shoe and Clothing (later changed to Starr’s), on east Pearl in 1914, selling workwear, shoes and Sunday suits. Wigotow regularly sent a train car packed with Levi’s jeans and other sturdy clothes up to the mining towns.

Reuse businesses were successful on east Pearl as well. Harry Blackmarr established a used (and new) furniture store in the early 1900s, growing to two locations in the 1600 block.

Louis Goldberg and his family, Jewish-American immigrants from Lithuania, had a scrap metal business and lived in a house at the property, beginning in the early 1900s. The business stayed in the family for many decades.

Eugene Horner, one of Boulder’s early African American entrepreneurs, started a secondhand furniture and hardware store in the 1800 block of Pearl around 1917, while he lived with his family a few blocks away.

As transportation modes changed, services and supplies for horses and livestock gradually gave way to services and supplies for automobiles. Car and tire dealerships, auto repair garages and Claude’s Sinclair gas station moved in.

In the 1950s, a booming Boulder required new enterprises. Multiple lumber companies were established on east Pearl to supply housing construction materials for the growing population of workers at the new federal science labs.

The success of the Pearl Street Mall, pedestrian-only blocks between 11th and 15th streets completed in 1977, spilled over to the west and east ends. Professionals established office space on east Pearl including realtors, insurance companies, dentists, and architects. Artists found spaces for dance, photography, and jewelry studios as well. New businesses catered to an increasing number of tourists.

Today many people visit the east end for upscale dining rather than shopping for daily necessities. Nevertheless, like always, local entrepreneurs are responding to the tastes of our ever-evolving city.

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