Published: March 20, 2023 By

Rich with history and innovative design, Boulder is home to many architecturally impressive buildings. 

1. Mesa Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research

Designed by architect I.M. Pei in 1961, the plans for the National Center for Atmospheric Research took inspiration from the history of Colorado and cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, with a modern perspective. The facility is split into separate “villages,” and is one of the designs that helped launch Pei’s career, which includes an expansive portfolio, including work on the Louvre.

A path leads through green grass to the tall main buildings of NCAR, positioned in front of the Flatirons

Credit: Leonard Segel

2. Carnegie Library for Local History

Inspired by Greek architecture, the Carnegie Library for Local History was built in 1906. It remains a vital resource for Colorado history, and is located on Pine St. and Broadway in downtown Boulder. 

View of exterior of Carnegie Library

Credit: Lauren Walters

3. Chautauqua Auditorium

As a part of the original Boulder Chautauqua development, the auditorium opened to the public on July 4, 1898. Used as a space for concerts, shows and events, the venue has hosted a wide range of artists including Ziggy Marley, Amos Lee and Joan Baez.

View of hill approaching Chautauqua Auditorium

Photo courtesy Colorado Chautauqua

4. Williams Village Towers

Originally completed in 1969, Williams Village has since grown to include newer buildings to provide more student housing opportunities. Stearns Tower stands out as one of the tallest buildings in Boulder, with stunning city views from a library located on the top floor. 

Old black and white photo of the Williams Village Towers

Credit: Carnegie Library for Local History/Museum of Boulder Collection

5. Harbeck-Bergheim House

The Harbeck-Bergheim House on 12th St. and Euclid Ave. most recently served as the Museum of Boulder prior to its relocation in 2018. Its said that while the building served as a personal residence, the top floor was used as a rollerskating rink. The space is now used by Women’s Wilderness, who occupies a quarter of the building and sublets to other groups focused on social and environmental justice issues. 

Exterior view from steps looking up to the Harbeck-Berheim House

Credit: Lauren Walters

6. The Academy Nursing Home

Built in 1892 and located on Lincoln Pl. and Aurora Ave., The Academy Boulder was originally a Catholic boarding school for women. The building itself features Richardsonian Romanesque architectural details and has since undergone renovations. It is now a senior living community. 

Perspective view of the exterior of The Academy

Credit: Lauren Walters

7. Spruce Street Mansion

Believed to be one of the oldest standing buildings in Boulder, this historic mansion located on 11th St. and Spruce St. is now used as office space for the Community Foundation Boulder County, a local nonprofit organization.

View through gates of the exterior of Spruce Street Mansion

Credit: Lauren Walters

8. Hotel Boulderado

Hotel Boulderado was the first luxury hotel in Boulder, after it opened to guests on New Year’s Day in 1909. To commemorate the rich history of the hotel, a grand ball is thrown each year on New Year’s Eve. 

Perspective view from street of Hotel Boulderado

Credit: Lauren Walters

9. Old Main

Constructed in 1876, Old Main was the first building built on the CU Boulder campus, and was the only building used by the university until 1884. While the campus has continued to expand, the building is still used for classes, office space and museum exhibits, such as the LEGO model of the campus. A restoration begin on the building in early 2024. 

View looking up at Old Main

Credit: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

10. Boulder Public Library

The Main Library was built in 1961 by architect James Hunter, who also designed several other prominent buildings in Boulder, including the Boulder Medical Center and Boulder Municipal Building. The space features a coffee shop, access to the Boulder Creek and exhibit space in addition to its expansive library collection. 

Birdseye view of Boulder Library

Credit: City of Boulder