Medallion Name

Significance – If you define an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so,” then Charles Boettcher is an excellent example of an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur.

Inscription – Charles Boettcher (1852-1948) was a German immigrant who played several key roles in the state’s economic development. He introduced the sugar beet industry to Colorado and established the Great Western Sugar Company.

While building sugar beet refineries, Boettcher was often delayed by the poor availability of cement. He bought a cement plant in Portland, Colorado, created a new company, and built its headquarters, the Ideal Cement Building at 17th and Champa.

Location – 39°44’49.6″N 104°59’32.6″W

Details – If you define an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so,” then Charles Boettcher is an excellent example of an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur. Even as a teenager, Boettcher had the ability to recognize an opportunity and capitalize on it. Born in Germany, the son of a hardware store owner, he came to Colorado at 17. Mining was the industry of choice when he arrived and Boettcher saw opportunity. He went into the family business and sold hardware and other supplies to miners. His motto was “Hard goods. Hardware. Hard cash.”

In 1874, he married Fannie Augusta Cowen. The following year their son Claude was born. The young family ventured to Leadville in 1880 to capitalize on the silver boom by selling hardware to the miners. In the next decade, Charles’ business flourished and his investments grew to include several mining properties, a ranch in North Park and Leadville’s first electric company. Charles also invested in the First Carbonate Bank and was soon named Director of the financial institution.

By the time they moved to Denver in 1890, the Boettchers had become one of Colorado’s wealthiest and most prominent founding families. That same year, the couple had a second child, Ruth Augusta. Boettcher had way more businesses than he had children. His ventures included everything from meatpacking, ranching, real estate, banking, insurance and a railroad.

Boettcher saw the change coming. At the end of the 19th century, Colorado’s economy had shifted from mining to agriculture, and farming communities were desperate for a profitable crop. On a trip to Germany, Boettcher was introduced to the lucrative sugar beet industry and realized the crop would work with Colorado’s climate. He enlisted investors and formed the Great Western Sugar Company. Between 1899 and 1900 Colorado’s sugar industry grew from $100,000 to $3.6 million. Sugar refineries were built in Loveland, Rocky Ford, Eaton, Greeley, Longmont, Fort Collins, Windsor and Holly. By 1905 the company had expanded into Nebraska and Wyoming and into three more Colorado towns, Brighton, Johnstown and Ovid. By 1930 Great Western was one of the largest beet sugar producers in the world.

When Boettcher founded Great Western Sugar, most of the materials to build the refineries had to be imported, which was costly and inefficient. To Boettcher, the expense of importing high grade, durable cement was wasteful.  Colorado was rich in the necessary natural resources; lime, silica, and alumina. So, 1901, only months after Great Western’s debut, Boettcher co-founded the Portland Cement Company and bought land adjacent to Colorado’s only cement plant in Florence, Colorado. The owners of the existing plant realized they had stiff competition and merged with Portland Cement.

The company needed a Denver presence so, in 1907, Boettcher and partners decided to build the Ideal Building, located at 821 Seventeenth Street. Designed by architects Montana Fallis and John Stein, the Ideal Building was positioned one of the first multi-story concrete buildings constructed west of the Mississippi. Fabricated to promote building with reinforced cement, it’s construction required extensive testing, which the public was invited to watch. A section of the building was even on fire to prove its resilience.

The Ideal Cement method was ahead of its time; the company employed an environmentally friendly dry process instead of the customary wet process. Plants were ideally located. For example, the cement plant at Laporte was near a lake and a canal and used limestone from mined from local quarries to fabricate their product. Gravel quarries near the banks of the Cache la Poudre River provided rock for concrete. In a 1928 Rock Products Cement and Engineering News article, Ideal Cement shared their green approach. The dry process was employed because water was “scarce and costly and badly needed for irrigation in the fertile Poudre River valley farmlands.”

Another business triumphs! By 1955, Ideal operated 13 cement plants in 26 states and was one of the nation’s top three producing companies.

Boettcher, always a success in business, got involved in philanthropy. He founded the Boettcher School for crippled children and donated money to the University of Colorado. After his death in 1948, at the age of 96, the Boettcher Foundation Boettcher continued to help causes around the state. They have awarded more than $200 million in grants for education, civic/cultural programs, community/social services, and hospital/health services. University scholarships have been bestowed upon thousands of residents, many of whom have continued the family legacy by becoming Colorado’s professional and community leaders. Additionally, the foundation has supported numerous development projects in Colorado such as the Boettcher Concert Hall and the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Quiz Questions

How would you define an entrepreneur?

How did Charles Boettcher make a lot of money?

Why is an entrepreneur like Charles Boettcher a benefit to a developing area?

How did Charles Boettcher give back to his community?

Please write a couple of sentences about the entrepreneur you most admire. What do they do? How did they get there? What’s a quality they have that you admire?