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Rediscovering Colorado: A community in Colorado with the cleanest name in the state

The name “Hygiene” was born from a public health crisis, similar to the challenges we’re facing today.

HYGIENE, Colo. — As the world reopens, 9NEWS reporter Marc Sallinger and Anne Herbst are hitting the road and Rediscovering Colorado.

In the middle of a global pandemic, there’s only one community in Colorado with a name embraced by people all around the world.

“Hygiene,” said Jyl Ellis, the postmaster in the community. “Hygiene, Colorado -- 80533.”

Ellis sees it on every envelope that comes into the area. She’s been the Postmaster in Hygiene for 17 years.

“It is the cleanest Post Office in Colorado, probably,” joked Ellis. “It was a little strange saying that I was going to be the postmaster of Hygiene. It was kind of embarrassing. It just seemed a little weird, until I learned how it got its name.”

It's a small town northwest of Longmont, and if there’s anyone who would know how Hygiene got such a hygienic name, it’s Erik Mason. Mason took his childhood passion and made it a career. He’s the curator of history at the Longmont Museum.

“I’ve been interested in history since I was a child. My parents tell me that I was fascinated by a poster of the U.S. presidents over my crib as a very young child,” said Mason.

About 140 years before COVID-19 became a concern, public health was focused on tuberculosis. And so, the community with the cleanest name in Colorado was born.

“In 1881, a local minister named Jacob Flory founded a sanitarium, and he called it the Crystal Fountain Hygienic Home. Pretty soon, people shortened that to the Hygiene Home,” said Mason. “I think one of the things that fascinate me is we learn the roots of the situation today. It’s like, we now have a town of Hygiene. Why is that? Where did that come from? Oh, that came out of a public health crisis. That’s kind of amazing.”

Tuberculosis patients from all over flocked to Colorado. They hoped the dry, clean mountain air would cure their incurable disease.

Credit: KUSA

“Pretty soon after the Hygiene Home got going, people started to call this area 'Hygiene,'” said Mason.  “Reverend Flory filed for a post office to be built here in 1883, so that seems to be when the town was officially designated as Hygiene.”

As Hygiene, and everywhere else, now faces a different heath crisis, the town near keeps its small size with a three-way stop, a couple of businesses and its post office.

“This is a treasure, this little post office. There’s none like it,” said Ellis. “It makes you proud and the name Hygiene.”

The cleanest name in Colorado history was born from the same challenges we face today.  

“There were a number of [tuberculosis] sanitariums up and down the Front Range,” said Ellis. “This is the only community that I know of that was named for its sanitarium. It was a very important part of Colorado’s history.”

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