Denver Neighborhood Histories

7th Avenue Historic District
Author: Jennifer Collins

Logan to Steele, 600 and 700 blocks
Steele to Colorado Blvd, homes on the parkway

The East 7th Avenue Historic District was primarily built from the 1890’s to the 1930’s and is the largest in Denver, extending from Logan Street to Colorado Boulevard and from 6th to 8th Avenues (except between Steele and Harrison Streets, the district is limited to the parkway itself). Earliest construction in the district is found on the 700 blocks of Corona and Marion streets since Downing Street was a main thoroughfare at the time. 7th and Williams Street contained a stable for horses that made use of the Cheesman Esplanade, or “Little Cheesman” for their workouts. In addition, the 700 blocks of Franklin and Gilpin Streets housed early greenhouse businesses that flourished as development began on the barren prairie land.

A result of the City Beautiful movement, the actual 7th Avenue Parkway was created in 1912. Renowned landscape architect Saco DeBoer was hired by Mayor Speer to plan the plantings for many of the parks and parkways in the city. In addition, Charles Mulford Robinson, a city planner, and George Kissler, a Kansas City landscape architect, consulted with Frederick Law Olmstead, creator of New York’s Central Park, to plan an entire system of city parks and parkways. Once finished, it was possible to travel all the way from City Park to Washington Park solely using parks and parkways!

A diverse group of both wealthy and middle class citizens were the first residents drawn to the 7th Avenue Historic District. Larger mansions were built on corners and facing the parkway with more modest homes built to both the north and south. William E. Fisher and Glen Wood Huntington designed many of the residences within the district. Though the district contains quite a variety of architectural styles that lend to its unique character, the primary pre-WWI construction styles were Mediterranean Revival, Neoclassical, and Colonial Revival.

The Governor’s Mansion, at 8th and Logan, was planned by Walter Scott Cheesman, and is also contained within the 7th Avenue Historic District. Later purchased by the Boettcher family, the residence was donated to the state for the Governor’s Mansion in the late 1950’s. Another residence of note is 750 Lafayette Street, which was the childhood home of Mamie Doud Eisenhower, and was the location of both the Eisenhowers’ wedding as well as the Summer White House during his years in office.

And last but not least, the next time you drive by 2700 East 7th Avenue on a hot summer day, thank Otto Baur who came up with the idea for the ice cream soda!
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Arlington Park

Author: Jennifer Collins

Historic District—Speer to 6th, Pennsylvania to Downing

Today’s Arlington Park neighborhood (which extends from Speer to 8th Avenues, and from Pennsylvania to Downing Street) was originally purchased from Moses Hallett by a syndicate that included Robert W. Speer in 1889.  Development started in 1891 with the area being divided into two sections—the northern portion designated the Arlington Park Addition and the southern portion designated for an amusement park.  The grand opening of Arlington Park was held on the Fourth of July in 1892.  The main attraction, a huge theatrical performance “The Last Days of Pompeii” complete with fireworks, drew a crowd of over 12,000 to the banks of Cherry Creek.

The Silver Crash of 1893 and following depression halted further development of the land until the late 1890’s.  The park was developed to include a railway, bicycle tract, and even a waterfall to travel down in small boats!  Named “Chutes Park” in 1898, the popular spot drew all sorts of unique performances including Professor Barnes’ herd of elk, which would drive off of the chutes into a tank of water and Sadie Boynton who would head down the chutes on a bicycle!  Destroyed in 1901 by fire, the park reopened in 1901 as Riverside Park with a screen to show early motion pictures.  In 1902 the park was re-opened as Arlington Park and by 1905, over 150 homes had been built within the emerging neighborhood.

When the periodic flooding of Cherry Creek was halted with the construction of concrete walls beginning in 1907, property values rose.  By 1918, only 45 lots remained unused within the area.  The plantings for today’s Alamo Placita Park began in 1927 (the formal gardens are located in the former lakebed), and by 1930, nearly 90% of present day Arlington Park construction was complete.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Denver Landmark in 1986, Alamo Placita Park anchors a neighborhood that offers residents the best of both yesterday and today.
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Baker

Author: Jennifer Collins

Broadway to Elati, 6th to Alameda

If you have ever been curious about how Broadway was created, thank Thomas Skerritt! Following the flood of Cherry Creek in 1864, he dragged a log behind his wagon to create a “broad way” into Denver!

The land where the Baker neighborhood is located was originally homesteaded by William and Elizabeth Byers and was called South Side or South Broadway. Armed with a printing press, John Dailey came along with the Byers, and shortly after arriving in Denver published the first issue of the Rocky Mountain News in 1859.

Though its first subdivisions were platted in 1872, most of Baker’s development happened after South Side was annexed to Denver in 1883.

Industrial and commercial growth led the way for much of Baker’s development. Denver’s professional baseball team played at a ballpark at 6th Avenue and Broadway from 1893-1922. What is now Denver Health Medical Center is locat5ed at the County Hospital site established in 1873 at West 6th Avenue and Bannock.

Aside from housing the largest number of middle-class Queen Anne homes in Denver, Baker boasts the Mayan Theatre, one of the most unique buildings in the city. The Mayan was built in 1930 by architect Montana Fallis, and was constructed over t5he fire damaged Queen Theater. With a Pre-Columbian theme, the theatre is one of a kind. It was restored in 1987 and is a recognized Denver Landmark.

Designated a Historic District in 1985, Baker continues to appeal to residents who love the charm of its history and the conveniences of its location.
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Belcaro
Author: Jennifer Collins

Steele to Harrison, Exposition to Mississippi

The Belcaro neighborhood is located just east of Bonnie Brae, is home to “Denver’s Grandest Mansion”, and has a history tightly linked to the Phipps family.

Lawrence Phipps, arriving in Denver in 1902 after making a fortune in steel, intended to make a mark as a humanitarian. He sponsored the Agnes Memorial Sanitarium on 40 acres East of Quebec on 6th Avenue. This facility closed in 1928 and was later sold to the city of Denver. Later, the space was transformed into Lowry Air Force Base, which opened on the site in 1937.

Phipps was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 1918 and served in that capacity until 1930. His tenure was not without some controversy. In the 1924 elections the KKK agreed to support him if he would underwrite the state election costs. The candidates supported by the KKK had great victories that year and even though Phipps disassociated himself with them shortly after the election, he was widely blamed for their political success that year.

After leaving the Senate in 1930, Phipps was ready to build a mansion in which to retire. Fisher and Fisher, along with New York architect Charles Platt, designed Belcaro, which is Italian for “Dear One”. The Georgian Mansion was built during the depression at a cost of $310,000. The mansion was completed in 1933 and boasted 54 rooms and over 27,000 square feet.

The neighborhood surrounding Belcaro was platted by Phipp’s company, Belcaro Realty and Investment Company in 1931. Development began shortly afterward.

Phipps’ philanthropic work can be seen throughout the city. Just one example is his donation of $250,000 to the Museum of Natural History, which produced the Phipps Auditorium. Today, this is the IMAX Theatre.

By the time of Phipps’ death in 1958, he had sold much of the land surrounding the mansion as Belcaro Park. A portion of the land was also used to create the Belcaro Park Shopping Center which was developed in 1953.Later, Phipps’ wife, Margaret, donated Belcaro to the University of Denver which utilizes it for private events and dubbed it the Lawrence C. Phipps Memorial Conference Center.
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Bonnie Brae
Author: Jennifer Collins

University to Steele, Exposition to Mississippi

Platted in 1923 by S.R. DeBoer (well-known landscape architect) to emphasize the natural topography, the Bonnie Brae neighborhood is largely composed of curvy streets. The goal in mind was to create a Scottish village within the city, and the name reflects this idea: Bonnie Brae is “Pleasant Hill” in Gaelic.

Although the land that encompasses Bonnie Brae today was from a grant to the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1870, the actual development did not begin until the 1920’s when George Olinger purchased the property with his land development company, Associated Industries.

The first neighborhood businesses were located on the 700 block of South University, which continues to be the thriving heart of Bonnie Brae business today, and the earliest homes in the neighborhood were built in the early 1920’s.

Olinger sold out of Associated Industries in 1925 and the company filed for bankruptcy in the late 1920’s. This demise was negative for the development of Bonnie Brae. The west part of the neighborhood had streets and sidewalks but few houses. Development continued to be stalled throughout the mid 1930’s.

The development of Ellipse Park (created in 1936) was a turning point for the neighborhood. Homes were built along the park and development continued to increase as WWII approached. To the east of the park, the majority of the construction is circa 1940’s and 1950’s. Bonnie Brae Boulevard showcases some of the more diverse architecture in the city, with several examples of International Style as well as Art Moderne building.

Today Bonnie Brae combines the best of the old and of the new—the Bonnie Brae Tavern on South Universtiy continues its longstanding operation (since 1934) and new construction continues to spring up. If you haven’t been to the curvy streets of Bonnie Brae, you are missing out on one of the most charming neighborhoods in the city!


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Capitol Hill

Author: Jennifer Collins

8th to Colfax, Sherman to Corona

“Brown’s Bluff,” a claim by Henry Brown in 1864, is where the history of Capitol Hill begins. He thought it the perfect place for the state capitol and donated the area between Grant and Lincoln, 14th to Colfax for just that purpose. When 10 years passed without the state using the land, he wanted it back! Litigation lasted for years between Brown and the state, with the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately supporting the state’s ownership of the land. 1895 brought the first legislature meeting to the capitol, but construction was not complete until 1908 when the dome was coated with gold.

Smith’s Ditch brought water to the area, which encouraged building in Capitol Hill. “Quality Hill” and “Millionaire’s Row” attracted the wealthy, especially for the mountain views and the location so near downtown. The area east of Brown’s Bluff was still primarily farmland even as late as the 1870’s. Here ornate construction took place for the wealthy while small apartment buildings, carriage houses, and even barns were used to house the cooks, maids, day laborers, and farm helpers essential to the running of the large households.

Demand for middle-class housing increased following the Silver Crash of 1893, and again during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Many grand mansions were either divided into multi-unit housing or demolished to make way for apartment buildings.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, city planners believed that constructing high-rises was the best way to take Denver into the future as a cutting-edge city. Since many of the old mansions had fallen into disrepair and were considered eyesores, it wasn’t difficult to have zoning changed to accommodate large-scale apartment buildings. As a result, many additional historic buildings were destroyed.

Fortunately, the true heart of Capitol Hill became apparent in the 1970’s. The demolition of the Moffett Mansion at 8th and Grant began the preservation movement. Many vintage homes were repaired and some were designated as landmarks. Efforts to preserve the remaining mountain views were successful.

Home to many of Denver’s most elaborate churches and multiple landmarks including the Molly Brown House at 13th and Pennsylvania, East High School (the oldest high school in Colorado), and the Bluebird Theatre, Capitol Hill continues to be one of the most colorful, vibrant, and interesting neighborhoods in the city.

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Cheesman Park

Author: Jennifer Collins

8th to Colfax, Downing to Josephine

From city cemetery to a neighborhood with containing multiple historic districts, Cheesman Park has quite a past!  William Larimer, founder of Denver, set aside 320 acres east of the City for Mt. Prospect cemetery in 1859.  Renamed City Cemetary in 1873, it was divided into three smaller graveyards00City Cemetery, Mt. Calvary Cemetery, and Hebrew Cemetery.  The area was laden with weeds, unmarked graves, random cattle, and even, (oddly enough) some homesteaders!  In fact, it was such an eyesore, some people refused to be buried there.

When city development met =the edge of the cemetery, Colorado U.S. Senator Ghenry led the movement to change the space into a park.  Ownership questions led to the land having been declared federal space in 187-0.  He encouraged Congress to allow this change in use using the potential name “Congress Park” as motivation.  It worked!

Once the change in use was approved, relatives of those buried in the cemetery had 90 days to remove them.  Thousands were either unclaimed or unfound.  Undertaker Edward P. McGovern was hired to relocate the graves—his pay?  $1.90 per person.  The process was hindered by the many unmarked graves.  As a result, many remains remained in the cemetery.  This accounts for the many stories of hauntings around Cheesman—one of the most well known being the woman at a large home on Humboldt Street searching for her head that was left behind!

Denver’s first landscape architect, Reinhard Schuetze, planned the park, which, by 1910, was complete and renamed “Congress Park.”  Creation of the pavilion in the park, built with funds donated from Walter Cheesman’s widow and dedicated to the people of Denver, led to the park being renamed “Cheesman Park” oin 1907. 

As with other city parks, Cheesman became a center of social activity.  Residential development boomed as property values soared.  Building around Cheesman was most desirable because of the lack of busy streets bordering the park.  Many elaborate mansions were constructed backing up to the park’s open space.  However, as in Capitol Hill, development in the 1950’s and 1960’s led to the destruction of many of the finest homes in the neighborhood.  When high rises began to block Cheesman Park’s mountain views, the Cheesman park Mountain View Ordinance was enacted (in the late 1960’s) to prevent additional development that hindered the views.

Three separate Denver Landmark Historic Districts—Wyman’s, Morgan’s, and Humboldt Island (the first residential area in Denver to be classified a historic district)—are contained within the Cheesman Park neighborhood today. 
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City Park

Author: Jennifer Collins

Logan to York, Colfax to 23rd
Detroit to Harrison, Colfax to 17th

Did you know…City Park was originally planned to include Sloan’s Lake?

Plans for Denver’s City Park initially slated the current site to be connected by 17th Avenue to an area surrounding Sloan’s Lake.  The first stage was created on 320 acres in 1880 and spanned from 17th to 23rd, York to Colorado Boulevard.  With the addition of the golf course, the park grew to a total of 480 acres.

Creating the centerpiece of Denver’s park system—which was modeled after Central Park in New York-- was not easy.  Squatters on the land had to be evicted and, as always, water was needed.  City Ditch provided the water to supply the tree plantings and in 1896 the City Park Lake was created to drain the surrounding land.  Four ornate gateways were created near park entrances and streetcar stops to draw interest to the open space.  In addition, in 1907, work began on an esplanade to connect the park with Colfax Avenue.

Expectations in the park were quite conservative.  No dogs were allowed and a cell was waiting below the park pavilion to contain intoxicated park-goers and other generally rowdy individuals!  City Park became an important part of the Denver social scene during the turn of the century drawing crowds of up to 10,000 for some events.  The Denver Municipal Band played nightly in the summers and the installation of the electric fountain in the middle of the lake further enhanced the park’s appeal.  Paddleboats and canoes could be rented for use on the lake in the summers, and residents enjoyed ice-skating on the lake in the winter as well.

Allen M. Ghost led the residential development of the West City Park neighborhood with his early purchase and planning of the Parkside Addition (18th to 21st, Gaylord and York Streets).  Here, mansions that remain today began springing up in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s—one of the most striking at 18th and York, the Frank Smith mansion.

Sculpture was an important facet of the City Beautiful movement and was reflected in the creation and placement of statues in City Park.  Among the most recognizable statues are frontier women and miners perched above the Sullivan Gateway and the “Grizzly’s Last Stand” on the west side of the Natural History museum in City Park.

City Park, following a period of decline, enjoys new popularity today.  The park continues to draw crowds for summer concerts and festivals and remains a signature landmark for Denver.
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Country Club

Author: Jennifer Collins

Speer to 8th, Downing to Gaylord

The picture of Denver in the 1880’s was one of great population growth, railroad expansion, mansion building…and horseracing! The gentleman’s Driving Association incorporated in 1880 and built a harness racing track at 4th and Corona. Prominent members of the association included Justice Moses Hallet (Colorado Supreme Court), H.A.W. Tabor (mining pioneer), Walter S. Cheesman (real estate/railroad developer), and Gilbert B. Reed (Court of Appeals judge). The racing became so widely popular that he association added an extravagant clubhouse for fans. However, by 1888, the renamed Denver Driving Park Association had declined. They were ready to realize the profit from their land appreciation, so sold the property to H. C. Lowrie who formed the Driving Park Land Company and developed the Driving park place subdivision.

The Country Club neighborhood remained bare farmland during the heyday of nearby Arlington Park in the 1890’s with Chutes Park and other activities. After Henry Roger Wolcott introduced golf to Denver, a group of prominent businessmen decided to cerate the Denver Country Club with land they purchased along Cherry Creek in 1901—391 acres. The clubhouse was opened in 1905 and polo grounds were created on the West Side of the property. And once the polo grounds were open, people came.

The first subdivision to be developed in Country Club was Park Club Place and was platted from 1st to 4th Avenues and from Downing Street to Humboldt Street. With the goal of creating a grand feeling, lots were required to be 50’ x 125’ (double lots). Building south of 3rd Avenue required a site at least 6 lots in size.

William Ellsworth Risher planned the Country Club Place subdivision for the 4th Avenue Realty Company. While the lots were the same size as those in Park Club Place, the addition of wide parkways and medians set the subdivision apart. The signature of the
neighborhood, the unique Spanish gate at 4th and Franklin, marks the original entrance to the Denver Country Club.

Circle Drive, the youngest subdivision in Country club, was designed in a circular plan by Saco DeBoer in 1926. Of the 58 lots in this area, the average lot size is 18,000 square feet, which lends a stately feel to the gorgeous residences here. Though so close to both Cherry Creek and Downtown, the lack of alleys and sidewalks combined with the curved streets provides a real sense of privacy in the middle of the city.

Many well-known architects both lived in and designed homes in Country Club, including Jean Jacques-Benedict, William and Arthur Fisher, Frederick Harnois, and Maurice Biscoe. And today, what was once called the “Spanish Suburbs” for its tile roofs, stucco, and distance from the city, is truly the heart of Denver.

Country Club Heritage: A History and Guide to a Denver Neighborhood by Alice Millett Bakemeier. Denver: Heritage Press.
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Highlands

Author: Jennifer Collins

East
West

Boasting about its cleaner air and water above the pollution of Denver—and also touting its “high morals,” “Highlands” was incorporated as its own city in 1875. Originally called “North Denver”, the Highlands neighborhood was developed largely by Reverend Walter McDuffie Potter who came to Denver with his sister Lucy in 1863. 

Together they homesteaded over 300 acres West of the Platt River. Just prior to its incorporation, in 1872, Highlands contained 36 platted subdivisions. “Boulevard F” or “The Boulevard” (now Federal) was the primary street bordered by ornate mansions and trees.  Residents of the area so lovingly nurtured their gardens and trees the Highlands came to be called “Garden City of the Plains.”

At a time when the city folk of Denver were straining their drinking water to remove all manner of things (small fish included!), the discovery of artesian water by R.L. McCormick brought clean drinking water to the area beginning in 1886.  Crossing the Platte River was difficult, and that challenge coupled with the strain of the Silver Crash led residents to vote to join Denver in 1896, though Highlands was originally intended to be its own city.

Blocks in Potter-Highlands are uniquely platted in squares, which is unlike most of the rest of Denver.  Such planning provided opportunity for all homes to be facing streets as well as for a carriage turnaround in the center of the block.  Today many of these center blocks have been distributed among adjoining properties, though some center lots remain. (check out the alley between Bryant and Clay on 33rd ).

Highlands, because of the clean air and water, also became a very popular location for tuberculosis suffers to come for treatment.  Many sanitariums were located here—The Oakes Home at 32nd and Decatur being the largest.

The majority of the homes in the Potter-Highlands area were constructed between 1893 and 1939.  Mansions were built to attract buyers to the area with the limit of one mansion per block.  Later, subdividing occurred and lots were filled with more modest construction.  One of Denver’s earliest streetcar suburbs, the West Highlands area had its own shopping district at 32nd and Lowell, that today is one of the most bustling in the city. 

Loaded with numerous examples of Queen Anne style architecture, Potter-Highlands was designated a historic district in 1979 with its boundaries expanded to Federal to Zuni, 32nd to 38th Avenues in 1987.
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Hilltop

Author: Jennifer Collins

Albion to Holly, Alameda to 8th

The first settlers in the current Hilltop area were Levi Booth and his wife who built a log cabin near Cherokee Trail (beside Cherry Creek) in 1859. With Denver being four miles away, this acted as the final weigh station along the trip. The cabin has since been preserved as Four Mile Historic Park and a living history museum.

As with all development around Denver, water was the key. The City Lateral Canal, which was a branch of the High Line Canal, brought water to the area in 1885. Shortly after,in1886, Milo A. Smith platted the Eastern Capitol Hill Subdivision.

Bradford DuBois along with William Malone bought the northern 1/3 of what is currently Hilltop and mapped the Malone and DuBois Subdivision in 1886. They didn’t consider the existence of the Eastern Capitol Hill Subdivision and consequently each street between 3rd and 4th Avenues fails to connect with existing streets. The two were joined in 1893 when they were combined as Hilltop and annexed to the City of Denver.

Prominent citizens of Hilltop include its first resident, Louis Dugal (6th and Dahlia) who was a prominent lawyer and realtor and drafted the 1868 Denver Map adopted by the Board of Travel, John Leet, founder of the short-lived Leetsdale community, and John Lang Smith, who along with his son ran the largest plastering company west of the Mississippi. They created ornamental ceilings in a variety of places including Union Station. Still, development in Hilltop was slow to get started with a count of only 6 homes in the 1900 census and 24 in 1910.

Along came George Cranmer, Manager of Improvement and Parks for Denver from 1935-1947 (during this time he developed Red Rocks as well as Winter Park). To accumulate more parkland, Cranmer traded vacant lots the city received for non-payment of taxes.

In Hilltop, he bought land as close as possible to the area designated for a future park and built a Benedict Mansion at 200 Cherry, which is the highest point in Hilltop. Opened in 1923, the park was officially named Mountain View Park. He also developed Robinson Park in Hilltop, which was later renamed Cranmer Park in 1959.

Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s development continued and the arrival of the University of Colorado School of Medicine at Colorado and 8th in 1925 brought even more residents. Graland Country Day School (another Benedict creation) moved from Colfax out to the “country” at 30 Birch Street in 1927. Prior to its arrival, students had to take a buggy or the 2nd Avenue trolley to Bromwell! Named for Amos Steck, former Denver Mayor, Senator, and President of the School Board, Steck Elementary was built in 1930. Now for the first time Hilltop kids could walk together to either public or private school.

By 1950, 728 homes were located in Hilltop, compared with 42 in 1928. Modern builders at both 6th and Clermont and also 1st and Cherry discovered that people were not the only fans of the Hilltop area—both locations exposed dinosaur bones (mammoth and camel) when they were excavating! Clearly this area out in the “country” has completed its evolution into becoming one of Denver’s most beloved neighborhoods.
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Mayfair
Author: Jennifer Collins

6th to Colfax, Albion to Monaco
           
 “The Beautiful Suburban Town of Denver” is how Baron Walter Von Richthofen described Mayfair in 1885.  Advertised as a healthy alternative to the “moral dilemmas” of city living, Mayfair became part of Denver in 1902 but was not officially named until after World War II.  

Originally centered on Speer’s Chiropractic Hospital and Clinic, Mayfair is now bordered by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, National Jewish Hospital, and Rose Medical Center.  With its dry air and agreeable climate, Denver has a rich history associated with the health sciences and that legacy continues today, particularly in the areas surrounding Mayfair.

The architecture in Mayfair includes examples of everything from International Style to Spanish influenced stucco bungalows.  However, one of the highlights is the great number of Tudors, particularly on the 13th and 14th blocks, from Birch to Hudson.  Mayfair also contains Mayfair Park, located at 10th and Jersey and Lindsley Park along Hale Parkway. 

The redevelopment plan for East Colfax Avenue is a welcome plus for the neighborhood providing residents with additional shopping and restaurants within walking distance such as Solera and the Ivy Café.  To the west, residents are already able to enjoy many different restaurants along 8th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.

With the continued growth of East Denver and the planned communities at Lowry and Stapleton, in particular, Mayfair is a neighborhood that continues to evolve all the while maintaining its charm and character of the past.
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Montclair
Author: Jennifer Collins

Monaco to Quebec, 6th to Colfax

What does the Montclair neighborhood have in common with the infamous “Red Baron” of World War I?  The answer lies in Baron Manfred von Richthofen—he was the uncle of the “Red Baron” and is considered the father of Montclair!

Richthofen arrived in Colorado from Germany in 1877.  He started the Downtown Denver Real Estate Company in 1881, was a novelist, and was also a founding member of the Denver Chamber of Commerce.  With Matthias P. Cochrane, Richthofen established the Montclair Town and Improvement Company in 1885 and began development.

Despite the clean air and comfortable distance from downtown, the Montclair neighborhood was not drawing residents.  The Baron decided to lead by example:  He built a castle of his own at 12th and Olive and promoted the creation of the Montclair ditch, which was a lateral of the Highline Canal, eventually flowing into Montclair Park.  The water supply enabled many flowers, trees, and shrubs to be planted and to thrive where the land had previously been essentially barren.

In addition, Richthofen lobbied for the Denver Tramway Company to build four streetcar lines on 6th, 8th, and 17th Avenues as well as Colfax.  Such convenient access to downtown was the beginning of the Montclair boom.  To promote Montclair as a prestigious neighborhood, building requirements were in place including using only brick or stone, planning for a minimum of two stories, and building on double size lots (measuring 50’ x 125’).

With the Colorado Women’s College (1890) and the Fairmount Cemetery (1890), as well as the increasingly well-known reputation as a community for people suffering from lung-related illnesses, Montclair thrived.  It was also home to the National Jewish Hospital and Agnes Memorial Sanatorium, one of the largest tuberculosis treatment centers in Colorado.

Development halted after the 1893 Silver Crash but the stage had already been set for Montclair to grow as a gem within the heart of Denver.  Building continued providing a variety of architectural styles set on generously sized lots.  In 1975, the area bounded by 7th and 12th Avenues, from Newport to Pontiac, was designated as a Historic District.
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Park Hill

Author: Jennifer Collins

Albion to Monaco, Colfax to 23rd

Baron von Winckler, forced to leave his country in disgrace following a message delivery gone awry (read The Park Hill Neighborhood by Thomas Noel for details!), arrived in Denver in 1884.   With Baron von Richthofen, he bought a large tract of real estate east of City Park.  The partnership dissolved, but Winckler platted Park Hill (Colorado Boulevard to Dahlia, Montview to 26th) in 1887.

Creative in promoting his new neighborhood, the Baron built a horse racing track and imported fabulous horses and jockeys to lure investors.  He offered some of his property to be used for Colorado volunteers preparing for the Spanish-American War in 1898.  Frustrated by the development’s lack of progress, however, the Baron committed suicide in 1898. 

David B. Gamble led a syndicate that bought the Baron’s land holdings after his death and by 1912, Park Hill had become one of the most popular residential districts in Denver, with a population of 2,500

Thanks to Jacob M. Downington, who partnered with Warwick M. Downing (Mayor Speer’s Parks Commissioner), Park Hill contains more boulevards and parkways than any other neighborhood in Denver.  Downington created restrictive covenants on building that prevented stores, hospitals, apartments from being constructed—he went further, and also defined the community as “whites-only”, despite the fact that African-Americans such as Zenon Brinckler were among the first settlers of Park Hill.  In the early 1900’s, classes at Park Hill Elementary School were integrated though socializing with whites was forbidden.

Park Hill was the site of one of the earliest struggles for integration in the United States.  In the post WWII housing shortage, Five Points became severely overcrowded with over 13,000 residents.  Denver Mayor Quigg Newton pushed for Park Hill to allow African-Americans to move to the newest subdivision.  Racially restrictive covenants were ruled by the US Supreme Court to be unenforceable in 1949.  Colorado improved its anti-discrimination and fair housing laws, and African-Americans were able to migrate to Park Hill if they chose. 

Colorado’s first airports are in the area that was originally platted as Park Hill: Curtis Humphrey Field (26th and Oneida) was the state’s first commercial airport and began regional passenger service in 1919, while Lowry Field opened in 1938 as a training center for the Colorado Air National Guard. Mayor Stapleton spearheaded the drive to create a city airport and dedicated Denver Municipal Airport in 1929.  Renamed Stapleton in 1994, it underwent tremendous expansion until closing in 1995 when Denver International Airport was built.

Park Hill continues to be one of the most treasured neighborhoods in the city with its lovely boulevards, architectural character, and proximity to all that Denver has to offer.
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Platt Park
Author: Jennifer Collins

To use the “e”…or not to use the “e”…that is the question!

There is a bit of mystery regarding the naming of the Platt Park neighborhood.  Dubbed “Platte Park” in the 1860’s, there is some confusion if the intention was to recognize the South Platte River or James Platt, founder of Platt Paper Company and early Denver leader.  Today, though you will undoubtedly see variations, the accepted spelling and official name of the neighborhood is “Platt Park”.

Originally a portion of the area that was incorporated as the Town of South Denver in 1886, the Platt Park neighborhood had a strict beginning.  Formed to limit the creation of more saloons and roadhouses, the Town of South Denver actually instituted a $2,500 fee for obtaining a liquor license!  Additional ordinances aimed to ban nearly every type of nuisance and misdemeanor possible.

As Denver Tramway Company’s trolley car line expanded to the south along Pearl Street from Alameda to Evans and east to the University of Denver, the surrounding neighborhoods, including University Park and Platt Park, blossomed.  Many buildings along Pearl Street were completed between 1900 and 1915.  Businesses provided the nearby residents everything from barber services to mechanics to movies.  A drive around the neighborhood reveals architecture primarily reflecting the bungalow style of the 1920’s to 40’s as well as turn-of-the-century Victorian.

The businesses on Old South Pearl Street have overcome many challenges throughout the decades not the least of which include the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression!  When Interstate 25 was completed in the 1950’s, the original business district was literally divided in half.  The 1960’s and 1970’s brought the creation of malls and lured customers away from the area.  The resulting empty buildings appealed to artisans (as did the cheap rents!) and by 1978, the Old South Pearl Merchant’s Association began holding its annual street fair.  The association began efforts to spruce up the appearance of the worn street, and installed the old-fashioned street lamps and cobbled pavers with the help of grants from the city.

Today, the shops along Old South Pearl Street have come full circle.  Crowds of people come to the street on Sundays in the summer for the Farmer’s Market.  Walking along the street and seeing the small businesses that range from bakeries to coffee shops to children’s boutiques and bookstores brings you back to an earlier time. This old-fashioned appeal, combined with the nearly completed light rail station, make Platt Park one of the most charming neighborhoods in the city—with easy access to everything and a small town feel!
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Polo Club
Author: Jennifer Collins

Alameda to Exposition, University to Steele

Would you believe that horse manure led to the development of Polo Club? The story begins in 1909 when the Denver Country Club formed a polo team called the “Freebooters” and began playing on the grounds of the Denver County Club.  Understandably, the club golfers had a bit of a problem with this use (and the remnants the horses left behind)! As a result, in 1920, Ira and Albert Humphreys, Lafayette Hughes, and Laurence Phipps incorporated the Polo Club and purchased 160 acres of property for $62,000. 

The stables for the Polo Club were built near the polo field at the southwest corner of Alameda and Steele.  Fisher and Fisher built the clubhouse at 5 Polo Club Road in 1926.  Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, polo was played here three times per week.  Houses began to spring up—the first being Lafayette Hughes’ home at 2755 Exposition.  Gradually interest in polo declined and after 1936 its play was discontinued.  By December of 1941 the Polo Club closed and much of the property was sold. 

Lafayette Hughes created a Polo Club Home Owner’s Association in 1946 in order to protect the remaining residents and to promote their continued privacy and seclusion.  Following his death in 1958, 34 acres were sold to create the Polo Club Place Subdivision.  By 1977 the former site of the polo club stables were being developed as condominiums and custom built homes.

Polo Club’s most colorful historical chapter occurred between the mid 1950’s and the late 1960’s.  Calvary Temple, led by Charles Eldon Blair, was a major force in the development of southern Cherry Creek.  He bought 46 acres of land in the Old Polo Grounds in 1964 and planned a huge expansion of his temple.  This expansion was to include a 1,700 space parking lot, four 10-story apartment buildings, a school, and a 4,000-5,000 seat sanctuary.  Not surprisingly, the Polo Club residents were not happy with development plans of this scale.  They prevented the Temple from progressing with these plans by successfully opposing the rezoning after a much protracted struggle.  Later, Blair was convicted of defrauding his investors and congregation of upwards of $14 million and forced to sell the property. 

Today Polo Club remains one of the most exclusive and secluded neighborhoods in the city in spite of its close proximity to Cherry Creek and Downtown.  Interesting that an unassuming, plain brown wooden fence along University Boulevard is now what helps Polo Club maintain its long-standing goal of privacy!
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University Park/Observatory Park
Author: Jennifer Collins

University to Colorado, Evans to Yale

The next time you are driving on Evans Avenue through the picturesque DU campus, or walking to Observatory Park to look at the stars, know that you have John Evans to thank.  Evans was named Colorado’s 2nd territorial governor by Abraham Lincoln in 1862.  Active in railroads and real estate, he developed Northwestern University in Illinois in the 1870’s, and wanted to create a comparable institution here in Denver.

A devout Methodist, Evans worked hard to create the Colorado Seminary, located at 14th and Arapahoe, in 1864.  The success of the school was short-lived as it closed in 1868 and was technically only a prep school, with students ranging from primary to college age.  It reopened in 1880 and was called the University of Denver under the Colorado Seminary.  Property values in downtown skyrocketed and Evans realized he needed a new location for his project.  Rufus Clark, founder of South Denver, donated $500 and 80 acres (University to High, Evans to Iliff) for the school.

Donations from Humphrey Baker Chamberlain ($5000 for a telescope) and Bishop Henry White Warren’s wife, Elizabeth ($100,000 for a theological seminary) led to DU’s continued growth. Railroad lines brought materials for construction and the trolley which extended from East Washington Park to DU in 1890 brought people. 

Robert Roeschlaub designed DU’s first building, University Hall, at the northwest corner of University and Warren.  The Chamberlain Observatory, also designed by Roeschlaub, was built in 1891 and contained an $11,000 20” refractor lens which was installed after being on display at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair it was so impressive!  The Iliff School of Theology was completed in 1893 and designed by Frank Edbrooke, who also designed the Brown Palace and the Oxford Hotel.

Amidst the development of DU, the surrounding neighborhoods were also growing.  University Park, platted in 1886, contained 100 lots and the first house was constructed at 2525 Evans.  Screening potential buyers in order to preserve an atmosphere of “conscience and culture” was the name of the game early in the development of the University Park/Observatory Park neighborhood. Grey Gables, at 2184 South Milwaukee, was among the earliest homes in the neighborhood, and was built for Bishop Warren and his wife.  Following their move, the property became the first chancellor’s home, the President of the Iliff School of Theology’s home, and then a rooming house for students. 

Fitzroy Place, the Warrens’ new home, encompassed an entire block (Evans to Warren, Cook to Madison), and was built in 1892.  Following their deaths, the property came to be used as a private school, run first by Anna Ragland Randell, and then Marian Moore.  By the 1990’s, the Randell-Moore school commanded some of the highest private tuitions in the city. 

The Silver Crash in 1893 led to a 70% decline in the student population at DU. Henry Buchtel, named Chancellor beginning in 1900, responded by expanding DU to include a library, science building, and a gym.  He served as Governor of Colorado from 1907-1909, still maintaining his position at DU.  By the 1920’s, DU had expanded North of Evans and South of Iliff; by the end of WWII, it had 11,000 students.  Many homes were built to accommodate DU faculty along the perimeter of Observatory Park and the neighborhood continued to thrive along with DU.  The city of Denver took over the park in 1952, adding tennis courts and a playground. 

The historical trend continues today…with DU’s growth and expansion comes further development and appreciation in the University Park/Observatory Park neighborhood…and the trend shows no sign of slowing!
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Washington Park
Author: Jennifer Collins

East- Lincoln to Downing, Alameda to Louisiana
West- Marion to York, Alameda to Louisiana

It is hard to believe that today’s Washington Park was described by The Denver Eye, at the turn of the 20th century in this way: “30 acres of bare land, lying above the city ditch, with no tree or even shrub upon it…when nothing resembling a park can be made in the next 10 years”. Obviously a lot changes over 100 years!

It all began with Smith’s Lake, which was originally part of the Town of South Denver. Farsighted Mayor Thomas S. McMurray thought it was the ideal location for a new city park. He purchased as much land as he could, began proceedings to condemn additional property, and amassed a total of 160 acres by the time all of the legal wrestling was finished in 1899. Designed by Reinhardt Schuetze (who also designed Platt Park), the first superintendent of the park was John B. Lang, who transplanted trees and shrubs from the mountains to landscape the area.

By 1901, streetcar lines were expanding heading south on Franklin from Alameda, with one branch heading down South Gaylord to Louisiana. With the increase in accessibility came the first interest in building in Washington Park. Joseph Sterling’s park front home was built in 1906 and Washington Park Place was platted by the Park Place Land Company in 1907.

The extensive landscaping at the park required a great deal of water, and Smith’s Lake served this purpose. Grasmere Lake was also added for additional water supplies. The first bathing beach at Smith’s Lake opened in 1911, and prior to being integrated in 1914, the lake was actually divided off by rope to keep the men and women apart! J.J.B. Benedict designed the boathouse and pavilion to the south of the lake, which were completed in 1913.

Between 1920 and 1930 the population of Washington Park increased by 75 percent and brick bungalows popped up everywhere (a result of 1886 ordinance barring frame construction). The fire station, at 1540 East Virginia (where it continues to operate in a newer building today), was built in 1924. South Gaylord Street was zoned for business at its initial zoning in 1925 creating a thriving shopping area where local residents enjoy a trip to the butcher, a haircut, or a night out at the movies.

During this time even Molly Brown was a part of Washington Park’s history. She is responsible for the relocation of Eugene Field’s house to the park in 1930 following his death. It had been the smallest library branch in Denver and remained open in that capacity until 1970. A former editor of the Denver Tribune, Field’s house was designated a Denver Landmark in 1970 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Smith’s Ditch, which is 27.25 miles long, was originally responsible for supplying water throughout the city. Today, the only stretch that is still visible borders Washington Park from Virginia to Louisiana Avenues. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Today, Washington Park is arguably the most popular and most loved park in Denver. The flower gardens are spectacular and feature over 62 varieties of annuals. No matter what the weather you always see someone taking advantage of the beauty of the park, a bare piece of land no more! What a difference a century makes!

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Bibliography for Neighborhood Histories

  • Country Club Heritage: A History and Guide to a Denver Neighborhood by Alice Millett Bakemeier. Denver: Heritage Press.
  • Denver In Our Time: A People’s History of the Modern Mile High City by Phil Goodstein. Denver: New Social Publications. 1999.
  • Denver In Our Time: Vol. 2: A People’s History of the Modern Mile High City: DIA and Other Scams by Phil Goodstein. Denver: New Social Publications. 2000.
  • Denver: The City Beautiful by Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgren. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc. 1993.
  • Denver’s Capitol Hill: One Hundred Years of Life in a Vibrant Urban Neighborhood by Phil Goodstein. Denver: Stuart MacPhail, 1988.
  • Hilltop Heritage: A History and Guide to a Denver Neighborhood by Alice Millett Bakemeier. Denver: Heritage Press. 2000.
  • South Denver Saga by Phil Goodstein. Denver: New Social Publications. 1991.
  • University Park 1886-1910: Four Walking Tours by Don D. Etter. Graphic Impressions. 1974.

The Historic Denver Guides:

  • The Arapahoe Acres Historic District by Diane Wray. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.
  • The Potter-Highlands Historic District by Diane Wilk. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.
  • The East 7th Avenue Historic District by Nancy L. Widmann. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.
  • The Baker Historic District by Nancy L. Widmann. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.
  • Historic Cheesman Park Neighborhood by Annette L. Student. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.
  • The Montclair Neighborhood by Thomas J. Noel and William J. Hansen. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.
  • The Park Hill Neighborhood by Thomas J. Noel and William J. Hansen. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.