Founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom and later named "Aspen" because of the abundance of aspen trees in the area, the city boomed during the 1880s, its first decade of existence. That early era ended when the Panic of 1893 led to a collapse in the silver market, and the city began a half-century known as "the quiet years" during which its population steadily declined, reaching a nadir of less than a thousand by 1930.
Aspen's fortunes reversed in the mid-20th century when neighboring Aspen Mountain was developed into a ski resort, and industrialist Walter Paepcke bought many properties in the city and redeveloped them.
World-renowned architects were attracted to the area by Aspen's potential and one-of-a-kind mountainous surroundings. The architecture communicates both a distinct sense of place and a sophisticated level of design. More modest buildings of the period show the community’s will to become a world-class ski resort and vacation destination.
A significant amount of Aspen’s postwar architecture represents either a Bauhaus Modern or Wrightian Modern aesthetic, reflecting the training of the young architects moving to town, the taste of the clients, and the general acceptance that Modern architecture is appropriate for modern times. Aspen’s Modern architecture shows a range of building types that articulate its three pronged identity—mountain resort, county seat for the Roaring Fork Valley, and cultural enclave.
Most of the pioneer architects arrived in the first decade of Aspen’s rebirth, 1945-1956, but did the majority of their work after the mid-1950s, when growth and development accelerated. Educated at the top architectural programs of the time, their architecture communicates both a distinct sense of place—the extreme high country environment—and a high level of design. As a group, they were attracted to the Victorian townscape and made architectural history in the West End.