Washington Park West

Truck gardeners and farmers who supplied Denver with fruits and vegetables in the 1860s had no efficient way to transport that produce to the city from their orchards and gardens far to the south of Cherry Creek. Finally, in 1871, a frustrated Thomas Skerritt and his sons hitched a team of horses to a heavy wagon, locked its hind wheels, and cut a straight track from Hampden Avenue to Cherry Creek, dragging a heavy log back and forth several times over the 100-foot-wide “Broad Way” to level it. The Skerritts then graded the banks of Cherry Creek down and laid heavy planks across the creek’s roadbed so wagons could cross without sinking into the sand. Above this bridge they added a plank walk for pedestrians.

With a fine, tree-lined boulevard and access to Denver via the new wooden bridge, settlers who had congregated along Broadway between the creek and Alameda Avenue established the beginnings of a permanent community of mostly truck gardens and homes. In 1881, Avery Gallup built a “country estate” and acres of greenhouses at Alameda and Broadway, and William Butters opened the first grocery store near First Avenue. But to their dismay the Cherry Creek bridge and the inviting new street beyond also caught the eye of saloon proprietors, and these early home owners were only partially successful in keeping the hated taverns from crawling up Broadway into their neighborhood.

William A.H. Loveland built the narrow gauge Denver Circle Railroad through South Denver in 1881, hoping to build entire communities on land his company owned along the line; its tracks began at Larimer Street, ran east on Bayaud Avenue, turned south again at Kansas (Logan) Street, and ended at Jewell Avenue. At 5 cents a ride and much faster than horse and buggy, the railroad was popular, but did not convince buyers to purchase lots so far out in the country. To increase usage of the train, Loveland and millionaire stockholder Horace Tabor decided to erect some enticements along the line. They convinced Denver’s leaders to hold a Mining and Industrial Exposition on 40 acres of land along the railroad between Broadway and Logan Streets and Virginia and Exposition Avenues.

Lincoln School was erected at Pearl Street and Exposition Avenue in 1891. The next year the first post office opened in the Jefferson Building at 432 South Broadway and the beautiful South Broadway Christian Church at Ellsworth Avenue and Lincoln Street was dedicated. The Russell “hose house” was built at Center Avenue and Broadway, also in 1892. St. Frances De Sales Catholic Church held its first services at the firehouse before building a chapel and later its existing church structure at Sherman Street and Alameda Avenue. The Presbyterian Reformed Church at Virginia Avenue and Pearl Street was erected in 1893.

In 1890 South Denver’s Town Council chose Smith’s Lake for park purposes, but detractors insisted the location was too remote. But in 1899 the City of Denver established Washington Park on those same grounds, increased it to 155 acres, and transformed it into lovely and much-used park of today.

Source: The City and County of Denver. Copyright 1998 - The Piton Foundation

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