2023 4th Annual Edition

To communicate the truths of history is an act of hope for the future.
– Daisaku Ikeda


Historic Boulder’s Annual Secondary School Essay Contest is intended to showcase the writing, creative and research skills of students in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Schools using essay themes drawn from Boulder’s historic places. Students are encouraged to discover how exploring Boulder’s past can deepen one’s understanding of our present and help us create a sustainable and culturally diverse future.

THE 2023 CONTEST THEME IS: “Historic Downtowns in Boulder County”

Historic downtowns are special…but did you ever stop to wonder why that is? Boulder County is home to a wealth of historic downtowns, each with its own unique character and story. In this essay contest, we invite students to delve into the past, present and future of an historic downtown in Boulder County.

Where is the center of your downtown?  Start by going there–in person, not online–and walk around and look at the buildings. Historic downtowns have buildings displaying a diversity of architectural styles from different eras. Do they look or feel different from those other parts of town? Select one building in your downtown which looks interesting, feels intriguing or has special meaning to you. In your essay, explore the history of the building and the people associated with it, and explain why this building should be recognized and appreciated.

* Boulder County cities/towns only. (If you live outside of Boulder County choose your favorite downtown nearby.)
* Architectural and historical significance can be found in every decade, so don’t feel limited to buildings built in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.
* The building you chose does not have to be already landmarked.

Research Suggestions: (Not all buildings will fit all of these questions and that’s OK):

1. History: You may want to start by researching the history of your building, starting from when it was built. What events or individuals shaped it? How has it evolved over the years?

2. Architecture and Design: Describe the architectural style(s) and features that make this building noteworthy. What role does the building’s architecture play in how it served the community in the past?

3. Community: What role did the building play in the community? Has it served as a hub for social, cultural, or economic activities? How has it contributed to the downtown’s community spirit?

4. Challenges: Are there challenges in the building meeting modern needs? Are there any preservation efforts or controversies about the building? Was (or is) the building threatened with demolition?

5. Future Vision: Envision the future of this downtown building. How can it continue to thrive and evolve while maintaining its historical essence? What recommendations do you have for ensuring its long-term sustainability and vibrancy?


The contest is open to all high school and middle school students in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain School Districts.  Essays are to reflect individual work and are not intended to be collaborative/multi-student projects. A teacher should serve as a sponsor – providing support to participating students. Sponsors should provide their name and school affiliation with each submittal. An official invitation to participate will be extended to both District teachers so that they can share contest information with their students.

The submission deadline for completed essays will be midnight, Monday, December 18, 2023. Essays will be scored by January 31, 2024 and winners notified in February 2024. An Awards Ceremony will be scheduled for early 2024. All submissions should be submitted by email:


Essays should have a minimum of 1,000 words and a maximum of 1,500 words, double-spaced, with 1″ margins, using 12-point font type. References and citations are required. Supporting illustrations or photographs are allowed, but not required. All essays should be proofread by the teacher-sponsor in advance of submission and uploaded by the student by the deadline of: MONDAY, December 18th.


Scoring will be based on five areas (each area eligible for a maximum of five points for a possible total of 25 points): relevance to theme, organization, originality, use of critical thinking, and overall effectiveness. A panel of six judges, consisting of two members from the board of Historic Boulder, one at-large member from the community, one member from the BVSD and SVSD staffs and/or administration, and one member from the staff of the Boulder Public Library, will score the submissions.


Awards will be presented to the top three winners. Cash prizes of $300/$200/$100 and Certificates of Merit will be presented to each winner at a formal ceremony hosted by Historic Boulder. The winning essays will also be published in Historic Boulder’s monthly online newsletter, “Historic Happenings” and linked to the Historic Boulder website.

SUBMIT YOUR ESSAY BY EMAIL TO: essays@historicboulder.org