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On February 19, 1953, it was announced that a new community north of Denver was to be called Thornton in honor of the then-current governor Dan Thornton. Three model homes just off Washington Street opened to the public in April, 1953, and on January 31, 1954, the first 40 families moved into new one-story brick houses.
Thornton's first shopping center opened on Washington Street in May 1955, and contained establishments such as Woolworth's and Miller's grocery store. The name was soon changed from "Hoffman Heights Shopping Center" (Hoffman being the town's developer) to "Thornton Shopping Center."
By 1955, Thornton's population was 6,300, and Thornton was incorporated as the 11th largest Colorado city on May 26, 1956 with a population of 8,640. Its physical size at that time was one square mile, and expanded in 1964 with the annexation of approximately 920 acres on both sides of the Valley Highway (a.k.a. US Highway 87), including the Heftler Hillcrest area and land between 88th and 92nd Avenues. In 1970, Thornton's population reached 13,326, and the City annexed property south of 88th Avenue and west of Huron Street along with land on Colorado Boulevard from 104th to 108th Avenues and the area south of 84th Avenue and west of Interstate 25.