The City of Thornton is a Home Rule Municipality in Adams and Weld counties in the U.S. state of Colorado, located in the northeast quadrant of the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area. Thornton is 10 miles (16 km) north/northeast of downtown Denver. The United States Census Bureau reported the city’s growing population at 118,772 on April 1, 2010, a 44.2% increase from the 2000 Census population of 82,384. Thornton is the sixth most populous city in the state of Colorado and the 213th most populous city in the United States.
Thornton consisted solely of farmland until 1953 when Sam Hoffman purchased a lot off Washington Street about seven miles (11 km) north of Denver. The town he laid out was the first fully planned community in Adams County, and the first to offer full municipal services from a single tax levy, including recreation services and free trash pickup. Thornton was named in honor of Former Colorado Governor Dan Thornton.
The Thornton Community Association (TCA) was formed in 1954 to help guide the new community’s development. By the end of 1955, Thornton had 5,500 residents in over 1,200 homes. The TCA was instrumental in Thornton’s 1956 incorporation as a city. Oyer G. Leary was elected the first mayor.
On December 24, 1952, F & S Construction announces plans for a $7 million, 5,000 home project outside of Denver.
It was announced in a Denver Post article on Feb. 19, 1953, that Mr. Hoffman had decided that the new community was to be called Thornton in honor of then current governor Dan Thornton.
The three Thornton model homes, located just off Washington Street, opened to the public in April of 1953.
On September 21, 1953 work on the first 30 homes began.
On January 31, 1954, the first 40 families moved into brand new, one-story brick houses constructed from the vision of builder Sam Hoffman
In 1954 the Thornton Women’s Club is started and they print the first city directory for $1.
In April 28, 1954 the Thornton Community Association (TCA) forms.
Thornton’s first shopping center opened on Washington Street in May 1955. It contained stores such as Woolworths and Millers grocery store. Originally called Hoffman Heights Shopping Center, the name soon changed to the Thornton Shopping Center.
The Thornton Community Association was formed to help take care of the community.
Thornton’s first fire department and police department both began as volunteer groups.
On August 18, 1955, voters decided against incorporation with the total tally at 548 for incorporation, 620 votes against it.
The population of Thornton was 6,300, but only 1,168 people cast a vote in the election.
On May 26, 1956, Thornton was incorporated as a Colorado city.
At the time, Thornton had a population of 8,640 and was one square mile in size.
The Colorado legislature passed the bill into law and Thornton legally became the 11th largest city in Colorado.
In August 18, 1956 Thornton elects its first city officials.
In August 30, 1956, the first City Council meeting is held.
Thornton’s first municipal building was constructed in 1958 on Dorothy Boulevard.
In 1959, the Community Building next to City Pool was donated to the city by the Thornton Women’s Club.
In 1960 the first library opens in Thornton.
In 1960 the population is 11,353.
In 1961, the city moved forward with issues including the running of day-to-day city operations by adopting a city Manager form of government, and securing a city water supply.
In 1962, the Thornton Junior Football League was formed.
In April 1963, Thornton purchases the Northwest Utilities.
In July 1963, the city held the first Thornton Annual Festival Days celebration and an estimated 8,000 people attended.
In 1964, the city annexed approximately 920 acres on both sides of the Valley Highway (I-25) including the Heftler Hillcrest area and land between 88th and 92nd Avenues.
In 1964 Thornton considers a name change, but the idea fizzles.
In 1965, Thornton selected a city seal by holding a City Seal Contest that was open to all Thornton public school children. The winner was a 17-year-old Mapleton High School student. That May, the winning seal with the motto “City of Planned Progress” was adopted.
In 1966, a home-rule committee was formed.
On July 18, 1967, Thornton citizens overwhelmingly approved Home Rule for the city. A Home Rule city has its charter (constitution) written by local citizens and the voters must approve it. Home Rule gives local government more control over running the city.
In 1970, the population of Thornton was 13,326.
The city annexed property south of 88th Avenue and west of Huron Street in 1970, along with land on Colorado Boulevard from 104th to 108th Avenues and the area south of 84th Avenue and west of Interstate 25.
Also in 1970, Thornton’s 500,000-gallon tower at 102nd Avenue and Tejon Street was built.
In 1971, Thornton sues to condemn Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO).
In 1973, a Community Center was constructed on Eppinger Boulevard to meet the recreational needs of Thornton citizens.
Also in 1973, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department became a full-time department.
In 1974, the City Council adopted the city’s first Parks & Recreation Open Space Plan, and in that same year Loomis Park was dedicated.
In 1974, Thornton constructed the Columbine Water Treatment Plant located near the South Platte River, which supplied drinking water to citizens.
Growth prompted a move in 1975 to the remodeled North Valley Bank building at 8992 North Washington Street, which now houses the Thornton branch of the Adams County Public Library.
In 1975, the city’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan was approved.
In 1975, Thornton High School opened.
In 1975, Thornton’s first recreation center opened on Eppinger Blvd.
In 1976, the nation celebrated its Bicentennial while Colorado was enjoying its Centennial birthday and Thornton celebrated its owns 20th anniversary. Since Thornton was sharing a significant anniversary with the nation, the city was designated an official Bicentennial by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration.
The “crossroads” logo was created and introduced to the city council by the Johnston Group in 1978 as part of a new economic development marketing package designed to better identify and promote the city.
In 1979, FRICO water agreement is reached with three cities (including Thornton).
November 1979, Margaret Carpenter is elected as Mayor, and serves for more than 20 years.
In 1981, Thornton had a population of 43,000 citizens was 19 square miles in size.
The Police Department now had 91 officers and 47 firemen filled the ranks of the Fire Department.
February 1981, the city’s Charter is reviewed by citizens and Council.
May-June 1981, Thornton celebrates it’s 25th anniversary.
On June 3, 1981, at 2:30 p.m. the worst tornado in the Denver metro area’s history touched down in the city of Thornton, just a few days before the city was to celebrate its silver anniversary.
In 1982, the city joins the Two Forks project.
In 1982, Thornton faced another weather-related problem with the “Blizzard of 1982” hit the metro area. Between five and six feet of snow was dumped on the metro area on Christmas Eve of 1982.
In 1983, the city opened the Thornton Civic Center off I-25 and Thornton Parkway, a site formerly known as 9-Mile Hill, to house its municipal offices, courts, police and fire departments.
In August 1984, the Thornton Senior Center opened at the former Public Safety building on Dorothy Blvd.
In 1985, Thornton created an urban renewal district to raise $3.5 million to build an I-25 interchange at the Thornton Parkway (92nd Avenue), and to assist in a face lift in the city’s original business district mainly along Washington Street between 84th Avenue and 92nd Avenue.
In 1985, the current City Manager Jack Ethredge was hired.
In 1986, the City Council passed a resolution declaring certain undeveloped city land to be public open space.
In the 90s, Thornton and Northglenn bury the hatchet literally.
In 1991, the Citizens Task Force is created to determine the community’s recreational needs.
Thornton’s own 72 par, championship golf course, Thorncreek, officially opened on June 15, 1992 at 136th Avenue and Washington Street.
By 1994, the population of the city was 60,000.
In October 1994, Thornton opened a state-of-the-art recreation facility. The Thornton Recreation Center is located on 136 acres of city-owned property at 112th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The facility is 7,800 square feet and was constructed at an approximate cost of $11 million.
In 1995, the city re-purposes North Valley Mall into a business center.
In 1996 in celebration of the city’s 40th anniversary, a community festival called Thorntonfest was started. The festival encourages Thornton residents to come out for daylong festivities to celebrate the community and get to know their neighbors.
In 1997, the city’s volunteer program was started.
A new annual fall festival called Thornton Harvest Fest was started in 1999 at Community Park in Thornton.
In July 2001, the Thornton Recreation Center was renamed Margaret Carpenter Recreation Center.
In 2000, the city’s population is just reaching 80,000 and is 27.2 square miles in size.
In August 2002, E-470 was extended from E-470 to Hwy 85.
2002-2003 the community faces a drought.
January 3, 2003, the Northwest Parkway Interchange was completed.
In 2003, Thornton signed a water agreement with the city of Aurora.
December 2003, a additional free community festival called WinterFest was held.
In 2004, the Columbine Treatment Plant was upgraded.
September 2004, the city launches ambulance service.
November 2004, the Thornton Justice Center was completed for the Police Department and Municipal Courts.
July 21, 2004, I-25 & 136th Ave. Interchange opens.
In 2005, Larkridge, the largest northern area retail center at 963,000 square feet officially opened.
April 2005, the North Washington Subarea Plan was adopted as an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.
February 28, 2006 the City Council passed a resolution renaming the Columbine Water Treatment Plant to the Wes Brown Water Treatment Plant.
February 28, 2011 the legendary actress Jane Russell passed away at 89. Russell helped ‘christen’ the city of Thornton. In 1953, F&S Construction Company opened Thornton’s first model homes for tours. Jane Russell came to Thornton to decorate the model homes and greet people at the new housing development. Thousands of people turned out. Thornton’s Russell Boulevard is named after the actress.