Denver is the most populous city in the state of Colorado and also serves as its capital. It is the county seat of Denver County and is located just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the South Platte River Valley. It is commonly referred to as the "mile-high city" because its official elevation is exactly 5,280 feet, or one mile, above sea level.
As of 2009, Denver ranked 24th among US cities in population at about 610,000. The 10-county Denver Metropolitan Statistical area ranked 21st in the nation with an estimated population of 2.5 million. Denver is the second largest city in the Mountain time zone trailing only Phoenix, Arizona. Denver's central business district is the tenth largest in the US based on population.
Denver City was founded in November 1858 as a mining town in the western part of the Kansas Territory during the height of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Several other small mining settlements would spring up in the area that would become Confluence Park in modern downtown Denver throughout the next ten years. Colorado Territory was formed in 1861, as was Arapahoe County, for which Denver City served as county seat until 1902. Denver City would later become the capital of the Colorado Territory in 1867, when the name was shortened to Denver. Colorado became the 38th state admitted to the Union in August, 1876, with Denver serving as its capital.
In 1901, the Colorado General Assembly voted to break Arapahoe County into three parts, which would create the new consolidated city/county of Denver after a string of political delays in 1902. By 1890, Denver had grown to become the second largest city west of Omaha, Nebraska; though it would drop to third by 1900 behind San Francisco and Los Angeles in California.
Denver has been the host city to the Democratic National Convention twice, both in 1908 and then 100 years later in 2008. The city was selected in 1970 to be the host of the 1976 Winter Olympic Games, which would've coincided with the states centennial anniversary, but voters struck down several ballot initiatives to allocate public funds to pay for the Games, and they were moved to Innsbruck, Austria. This gave Denver the dubious distinction of being the only city to be selected to host an Olympic Games, then decline to host them, which has made subsequent bids to host rather difficult. The opposition to hosting the games was based on economic concerns as well as environmental issues and was led by the state representative Richard Lamm, who would later serve three terms as Colorado's governor from 1974-1986. In addition to being nicknamed the "mile high city" because of its elevation, Denver has also been known to some as the Queen City of the
Plains due to its important role in the development of the agricultural industry of the Plains region. Several vessels of the United States Navy have been christened USS Denver in honor of the city.