Bizarre Broomfield Borders

On April 2, 2017 · 8 Comments

Recently Twelve Mile Circle focused a couple of articles on the boundaries of Virginia’s independent cities. That led loyal reader Scott Surgent to comment on an equally strange situation in Broomfield County, Colorado. I certainly knew about Broomfield because of its status as one of the newest and smallest of U.S. counties. It didn’t exist until 2001 and it covered only 34 square miles (88 square kilometres). I’d even featured it on 12MC before, such as when county counter extraordinaire Fritz Keppler recalled his visit to Broomfield on the first day of its existence. However, I’d never examined its borders before.

U.S. 36 En Route to Boulder, Broomfield, Colorado
U.S. 36 En Route to Boulder, Broomfield, Colorado
Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr (cc)

Take a look at Broomfield on Mob Rule or Google or even the county’s official street map. The borders seemed nothing if not bizarre. Narrow tendrils extended along roadways or tethered nearly-detached rural acreage. Broomfield included a couple of enclaves of neighboring counties within its body. It also owned a narrow exclave along a major roadway, barely wider than the lanes of traffic itself.

I wondered how this happened. Next I drilled down a little closer into Broomfield’s multiple geo-oddities.

Broomfield as a Municipality

Broomfield’s origin explained its shape. It did not begin as a county, nobody originally envisioned it as a county, and it probably never would have become a county except for its unusual growth near four other counties. The county’s history page said that Broomfield began as a little village around the turn of the last century in the southeastern corner of Boulder County. Construction of the Boulder Turnpike in 1950 offered opportunities for growth. Then the Turnpike Land Company purchased acreage nearby and created a master planned community. Development led to further development and Broomfield continued to expand. It incorporated as a municipality in 1961.

A local publication, the Broomfield Enterprise, commented on the community’s success on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2011. Everything stemmed from bold actions. Broomfield didn’t compete with counties that surrounded it; rather Broomfield competed with nearby municipalities. Both offensive and defensive annexations occurred. Broomfield skillfully grabbed land in favorable locations and blocked other municipalities from doing the same. This led to a crazy patchwork of boundaries typical of many municipalities in the United States.

Broomfield as a County

However, the municipality of Broomfield started to encounter a number of issues as it expanded. Once confined to Boulder County, it eventually flowed into Weld, Adams and Jefferson Counties, too. That meant it had to deal with four different governments, each with its own set of regulations, adjudication, taxation, services and schools. Governance in a quad county town became tedious and difficult.

Fortunately Colorado offered precedence. The state amended its constitution in 1902 to form the consolidated City and County of Denver. Could such a device also work for Broomfield? In 1998, the municipality reviewed the possibility: "Formation of a Broomfield City & County — Is it Feasible?" (pdf). The study concluded favorably. However, implementation required a state constitutional amendment. It also needed to survive a referendum by the citizens of Broomfield. Those steps happened and the municipality of Broomfield became the City and County of Broomfield on November 15, 2001.

Nonetheless, the amendment — Article 20, Sections 10-13 — placed limits on expansion. If froze Broomfield’s existing municipal borders until it could become a county. Afterwards, Broomfield could expand only after approval of a seven-member panel that included voting representatives from the four counties that surrounded it. That effectively cemented the weirdness of Broomfield’s final municipal boundaries into its county boundaries.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Broomfield Border Overview

Borders of Broomfield County

I had a hard time following some of the borders so I drew them out by hand with a wider line. I marked some of the peculiarities with letters. Hopefully that will make it easier to follow along when I show close-up images, below. I started at the top and proceeded clockwise.

(A) Weld County Enclave

Weld in Broomfield
Weld County Enclave within Broomfield

There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason for the tiny enclave of Weld County embedded within Broomfield. All I could figure was that maybe the owners of that land didn’t want to belong to Broomfield. In Colorado, local residents needed to vote affirmatively to join a municipality. Somehow this little pocket escaped Broomfield’s clutches as it expanded.

(B) Broomfield’s Eastern Tendril

Eastern Tendril
The Eastern Tendril

The little patch of Broomfield south of W. 152nd Ave. almost qualified as an exclave. I took an optimistic look, hoping it might be true. However, the width of Huron Road extended as a tendril connecting what appeared to be nothing more than an empty field, to the rest of the county. Who knew what future use Broomfield intended for this space? Regardless, Broomfield grabbed it.

(C) Broomfield’s Southwestern Tendril

Southwestern Tendril
The Southwestern Tendril

I thought I might have spotted a boundary cross. Upon closer inspection, however, I dispelled that possibility. Broomfield stuck a narrow corridor between Boulder and Jefferson along W. 120th Ave.

(D) Northwest Parkway Corridor

Northwest Parkway
The Confusing Northwest Parkway

I could only describe the Northwest Parkway Corridor as a complete mess. Clearly, Broomfield coveted the parkway as it grew. Maybe if it controlled the parkway it could control access to and from the parkway. Like a castle wall, it could keep other municipalities at bay. However, in the process, it created a confusing situation. It left a section of Boulder connected to its home county by two narrow corridors, along S. 104th St. and U.S. Route 287. It created a Broomfield exclave along the parkway and an adjoining exit ramp. It also created a Boulder enclave within Broomfield, separated from the rest of its home county solely by the width of W. Dillon Road.

(E) The Zigzag

Northwest Parkway

The strangeness of one section of the border between Broomfield and Weld completely confounded me. First, I didn’t know how to describe it. Zigzag seemed to fit, except it formed rectangular lines rather than triangular. Second, why? What purpose would it serve for Broomfield to erect that figurative wall so close to its own border? It didn’t even seem to include anything consequential. Maybe it had something to do with the golf course immediately to the west. I don’t know.

Visiting the Library

On March 8, 2012 · 5 Comments

I attended a work-related meeting this morning. It was pretty typical, nothing special, and probably like a thousand other meetings you or I have ever experienced in our lifetimes. This one ended a bit differently though. It took place at an office deep within the Madison Building of the Library of Congress and our host offered us a tour after the meeting concluded. I jumped on that opportunity as quickly as I could, quite happy to trade my lunch hour for something entirely more fascinating. I’ve seen just about every major site in Washington, DC but somehow I’d never been to the famous Library of Congress. It’s one of those places that had fallen though the cracks of my experiences even though I’ve walked past it hundreds of times.

We entered a pedestrian tunnel beneath Independence Avenue (didn’t realize they had underground tunnels connecting the building but apparently they have several) and we climbed a flight of stairs to the Great Hall in the Jefferson Building.

View Larger Map

The Thomas Jefferson Building is probably the most famous component of the Library of Congress complex. It was built in the Beaux-Arts style at the tail-end of the 19th Century with great attention paid to ornate flourishes. We received the same basic tour every visitor experiences, however we did get bumped to the front of the line as we entered each room so I guess we had some minor level of VIP status. I can tell we didn’t get the true VIP tour because we didn’t see anything remotely like National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Even the tunnel was pretty innocuous.

To all the junior high school students who had to stand aside as we passed, I offer my apologies. Life isn’t fair kids.

Great Hall of the Jefferson Building

This is the Great Hall. You can probably tell that my only camera was built into a crappy mobile phone. There were plenty of places where the library did not allow photographs though — they said flashes would damage priceless artifacts — but we were allowed to snap away in the Great Hall. So I did.

You will notice as you wander through my account that I also did not photograph any books, which seems a tad ironic given that this is one of the greatest libraries on the planet. Absolutely, I enjoyed the books. They had a Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum which is even more rare than most of the others which are printed on paper. Only a dozen vellum copies still exist. They also had Thomas Jefferson’s original library recreated to its original form, with replacement books for many of the volumes that had been destroyed in a fire long ago. However, I wasn’t allowed to capture images of any of those treasures nor of the main reading room. Thus I focused my brief time and dismal photographic talent on artistic oddities accenting ceilings and hallways.

That’s fine too. I like odd.

Classical Greek Baseball

The guide explained that many of the artists who decorated the Jefferson Building had been involved with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. They needed new employment after everyone finished celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. A major library in Washington became an attractive place to continue their craft and earn a living.

The artists also had a sense of humor. I like this one. Check out the classic Greek image, above. Notice that they’re playing baseball. The man on the far right holds a pennant; next to him a guy rests a bat over his shoulder; another has a glove; still another looks like he’s winding up to pitch. The Library explains, "At each end of the ceiling is a rectangular panel by Frederic C. Martin painted in a style depicting ancient games, but representing the modern sports of football (east end) and baseball (west end)."

First Electricity Washington

This statue has an interesting story to tell, too. The most visible feature, literally, is the torch in her hand. Why not just a regular statue? Why did someone create it as a giant lamp? We were told that it’s because the Jefferson Building was the first structure in Washington, DC that was wired for electricity as part of its construction. People came to the Great Hall at the turn of the last century simply to marvel at the light bulbs. An oversized statue-lamp embodied a wonderful combination of art and technology, a reflection of the United States’ image of itself at the time.

Unknown Famous People

You wouldn’t be able to see the detail on this photo even if I’d reprinted it for you in full size. Again, that’s due to the bad camera primarily. Ignore that. Just trust me when I tell you that each of the small rectangles contained the name of someone famous a century ago. The ceiling in this area was marked into sections denoting various professions. I think this one was medicine. There were dozens, maybe a hundred names in these little blocks stretching across a gallery of professions. I didn’t recognize more than a handful. These remarkable figures have largely faded into obscurity.

Alas, fame is fleeting but knowledge is forever.

The Jeffersons and Beyond

On January 4, 2011 · 8 Comments

I stumbled across a geo-oddity as I worked on one of my other hobbies (genealogy): one family line had a connection with Watertown, in Jefferson County, Wisconsin; and a member of that same family had a connection to Watertown, in Jefferson County, New York. I’d never come across a situation where two states had towns with the same name in counties with the same name.

Watertown, Jefferson County, New York


Watertown, Jefferson County, Wisconsin

My apologies for embedding Mapquest maps because they don’t show up in several common news readers but those of you coming directly to the website will see the images above. Mapquest works best for these examples.

Jefferson County is a common name. Thomas Jefferson was a particularly iconic figure during the period when many counties formed and 27 states chose to honor him in that manner. Likewise, there are a number of places called Watertown. I wondered if there were other Watertowns in other Jefferson Counties in other states. I searched for awhile but I couldn’t find any.

This didn’t prevent me from looking for similar instances using different names. I figured that even if it’s a rather unusual phenomenon it could hardly be unique. There are plenty of other county names repeated amongst the states. There had to be other matching towns hidden within them and I found several without too much difficulty.

There is a town called Franklin in Franklin County, New York and another town called Franklin in Franklin County, Vermont. Both Franklins have about 1,200 inhabitants. The town of Franklin in New York also has a community called Franklin Falls.

Therefore it’s possible to live in Franklin Falls in the town of Franklin in the County of Franklin, in New York, then drive across the border to the town of Franklin in the County of Franklin in Vermont. Got all that?

View Larger Map

It shouldn’t take more than about two and a half hours.

I chose another common county name and gave it a quick examination. This one gets even better. There are Jackson Counties in many places, but the ones that caught my attention were located in Ohio and Indiana. Both of these Jackson Counties have townships named Jackson, Hamilton and Washington. I’m not too surprised by matching Jackson Townships, but what are the odds of having three township matches?

There is a bonus oddity here. Jackson County, Ohio’s county seat is the city of Jackson. However the city of Jackson is located in a different part of Jackson County than Jackson Township and they do not share a border. It gets confusing.

  • Jackson Township, Jackson County, Indiana (map)
  • Jackson Township, Jackson County, Ohio (map)
  • City of Jackson, Jackson County, Ohio (map)

There must be other instances. I’d be interested if anyone can find more, especially examples outside of the United States. Canada seems to be a likely candidate.

Totally Unrelated

I have to pat myself on the back a little today because this is post number 500 on the Twelve Mile Circle. That’s about 490 more than I expected I’d ever accomplish when I first started in November 2007, and I feel like I still have a lot more in me. Thanks for all the encouragement, ideas and support!

12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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