Clayton and Skyland were annexed to Denver under the Session Laws of 1883 and 1889. The acquisition of land for City Park, south of the neighborhoods, along with the legacy of the Clayton estate, a trust of $2.5 million, spurred home construction in the surrounding areas. Between 1915 and 1929, development of City Park and a trolley line along 34th Avenue launched both areas into the first of two major periods of construction, primarily along East 26th Avenue, York Street and around the George W. Clayton Home for Boys, now known as Clayton College.
The second major era of construction ran from 1945 to 1959. It was characterized by one story brick homes, similar to the structures built in many of the post-war subdivisions. A number of low-density, multi-family units also were built during this period. The construction of a parkway along East 32nd Avenue between 1948 and 1951 provided a major route to Stapleton International Airport from the central business district.
The Clayton neighborhood was named after its most prominent landmark, the Clayton College. George W. Clayton came to Denver in 1859 and opened a store at 15th and Larimer streets. One of Denver’s early millionaires, Clayton also invested in real estate. After losing his wife and infant child, Clayton decided to make a will in 1892 providing a trust for a school “to protect orphan white boys through their tender years in the rough environment of the early west.”
Clayton died in 1901, and after court battles contesting the will, Clayton College opened in 1911.
The origins of Skyland’s name are less clear. In 1934, a Denver theatrical entrepreneur, A.M. Oberfelder, constructed on Clayton College land, a recreational park known as the Sportland Beach Club. Built for $50,000 on a 15-acre tract, Sportland Beach had an outdoor pool, playground, clubhouse and a large ‘beach’ of sand and grass. This private club closed after a number of years of successful operation. In 1948, the Glenarm and Park Hill branches of the Y.M.C.A. merged to become the East Denver Branch and purchased for $380,000 4 1/2 acres of Sportland Beach, which included the pool and buildings. The remainder of the property became the last major area of housing in the neighborhood. Opinion varies, but the neighborhood probably received its name from the pool now known as the East Denver Y.M.C.A. Some residents feel that the name Skyland could also refer to the view of the downtown area and mountains beyond.