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Homelessness in Boulder 100 Years Ago

Believe it or not, homeless encampments along Boulder Creek used to be even more visible 100 years ago than they are today. What is now Civic Park used to the called “The Jungle” (and “Jungle Town”) shown here. In the early days, the Jungle was the red-light district of Boulder. It was later a colony of people experiencing homelessness. Make-shift homes and piles of wood lined Boulder Creek for years.
The third photo shows Emma “Bugtown” Birge, “a well-known Boulder indigent.” In fact, Emma was called the “Queen of the Jungle” and many throughout town knew her.
As seen in the early photos, some homes became semi-permanent structures, at least for a while. In 1921, the City of Boulder had the land cleared and the people removed, as shown in the final photo.
"Boulder's Jungles Are Gone Forever; Make Room for Park. Jungle Town no longer exists. Squatters on city property along Boulder creek have either moved to other parts of town or have left Boulder. Their former homes were torn down and the land has been filled in with dirt from the paving district, giving a former eyesore part of town a very respectable look. Two frame homes which were located on Water street facing the railroad yards are now being torn down by their owners. This improves the appearance of the remaining houses. The colony has been reduced in numbers from around the thirties to ten or twelve." (Boulder Tribune, July 29, 1921)
(Photos, articles, and quotes are all sourced from the Carnegie Library for Local History)

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