Pearl Street, Boulder’s main shopping district, has been many things to many people as it made its decades-long evolution from mud to mall. No one is exactly sure how the main street in a supply town got its name, but many believe the street was named for the wife of one the town’s 54 founders. Boulder City began its life with the name of Boulder City Town Company in 1859 and was part of the hunting grounds for the roaming bands of Arapahos.
In order to determine a straight line for Pearl Street, the gold-seekers drove a stake into the middle of the present-day intersection of Broadway and Pearl. By 1917, when the automobile era was firmly entrenched, Pearl Street between 11th and 17th Streets became the first street in Boulder to be paved, and 15-foot-wide uniformed concrete sidewalks flanked either side of the street. The city’s first streetlight was at Pearl and Broadway.
With escalating crime and shopping centers springing up outside of town, the downtown area began to deteriorate by the 1950’s. Store owners were starting to cover many of the historic buildings with metal facades. The Boulder City Council passed a resolution to establish the “Downtown Boulder Mall.” The section of Pearl Street between 11th and 15th was closed to traffic in 1976 and residents began to drive a one-way loop around downtown while walking to the still-open businesses.
Since then, the long-standing buildings have been restored. Local and national historical designations ensure that the historic character of Downtown Boulder will be maintained. It is now a four block pedestrian mall, which is where you will find the Boulder County Courthouse. The mall has a blend of national chain stores, locally-owned businesses, restaurants, and is home to much of Boulder’s nightlife. During the summer, you will many street performers to entertain you. Although it is sad to say, it is also a favorite gathering spot for many of the homeless people who reside in Boulder.
In the four block mall, you will see public art, which includes numerous sculptures and fountains, a number of small gardens planted with a variety of trees and flowers, mostly tulips in the spring, and a sandbox for children.
The numerous shops in the Pearl Street Mall offer sporting goods, apparel, arts and crafts, books and stationery, gifts and novelties, jewelry, lingerie, and more. After a day of shopping, you can enjoy a variety of food at the restaurants also located along the mall, including food carts parked in the middle of the mall. There are restaurants that specialize in Japanese, BBQ, fine dining, French, Indian, Italian, late night eats, Mexican, pizza, and more. If you cannot find anything you want to eat here, then you are probably not very hungry.
Put on your walking shoes and enjoy your shopping and eating excursion at the Pearl Street Mall.