Since its founding in the summer of 1858, the city of Denver has been a central hub for both Colorado history and the history of our nation. A rush of settlers flooded the area after the discovery of gold at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Through the ebb and flow of train lines, Indian wars and natural disasters, Denver has proudly hung on. The history of the Mile High City is found all over its many districts.
Here are the most historic neighborhoods in Denver, including their most iconic buildings and notable changes to the district over the years since Denver’s founding.
The neighborhood of Capitol Hill is so named because it is the seat of the Colorado State Capitol. For 150 years, the State Capitol has stood in this neighborhood, playing a part in both state and national politics after being chosen as the site of the state seat in 1867.
Capitol Hill has historically been a neighborhood for Denver’s wealthy. When Governor John Evans built a house at 14th and Arapahoe, the upper class of Denver constructed a Millionaire’s Row along 14th with mansions and stately homes. However, the residents soon found the downtown area developing so rapidly that commercial buildings were encroaching on their chosen neighborhood. The wealthy bankers, railroad magnates, and financiers of 14th instead moved to historic Denver neighborhood of Capitol Hill, with their neighbors soon following to populate Logan, Sherman, Lincoln, and Grant.
- The Crawford Hill Mansion
- The Brown Residence, home of the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Titanic Survivor
- The Penn Garage
The neighborhood of Baker is a popular choice for young families these days. Baker neighborhood is a fantastic example of Victorian architecture, with many homes and public buildings like schools carefully preserved. However, it’s residents didn’t always reflect Victorian values.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, urban renewal projects forced adult theaters, taverns, and sex shops out of Downtown Denver into South Broadway. South Broadway earned a somewhat seedy reputation for free-spiritedness and adult pursuits until technology phased out the need for physical locations in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The neighborhood was classified as historical and designated as a Neighborhood Revitalization District in 1978, which provided an influx of funds to renovate and improve the neighborhood.
- Mayan Theater
- Broadway Stadium
- Blue Bonnet Cafe
- Byers Elementary School
The most well known historic Denver Neighborhood is Lower Downtown (LoDo). It is the original settlement in Denver, and therefore the oldest. It spans 23 blocks, and although 20% of the historical structures in LoDo were demolished in the 60’s and the 70’s, 127 were protected by a historic district ordinance in 1988.
The 1400 block of Larimer Street was the first to be designated a historic district. The Downtown area now enjoys a bustling presence that is particularly appealing to younger families, with hip urban restaurants, bars, and entertainment.
- El Chapultec Bar
- Spratlen-Anderson Wholesale Grover Company, Now Edbrooke Lofts
- Wazee Supper Club
Five Points, which is located northeast of downtown has historically been the African American district of Denver. Starting in the roaring twenties, Five Points has been a jazz center in Colorado because of the popularity of the area for black servicemen. It quickly became known as the ‘Harlem of the West.’
Five Points is not without its struggle. A rise in Ku Klux Klan leadership in both Denver and state politics created racial tension in the area well through the 50’s. However, it was not only a neighborhood for African Americans, seeing a large portion of Hispanic migrant workers moving in, as well as Japanese Americans both prior to and during World War II as an alternative to an internment camp.
- Burlington Hotel
- La Paz 10 Poolhouse/ Douglas Undertaking Building
- Nagel House
- Nathan Savage Candy Company Building
The area northwest of the Platte River known as the Highlands was once a city in its own right before being incorporated in 1875. The Highlands is comprised of several historic districts, including the Scottish Highlands, Highland Park, West Highland, and Potter-Highland.
The Highlands was originally planned to be another city, far above the smoke and smog of industrial Denver, with pristine morals. Though the region was incorporated into Denver, its attitude towards liquor remained. Though liquor wasn’t banned, it was so expensive to get a liquor license that hardly any liquor was sold in the area until well after Prohibition.
- The Adams Home
- The Lumber Baron Inn
Belcaro is a district south of Cherry Creek and the eastern section of the Washington Park district. Historically, this Washington Park section was named after the park bearing the same name. Washington Park was designed in the grand Victorian fashion with two lakes, floral beds, planted trees, and sprawling meadows.
The historical landmark of Smith Lake was the site of an enormous segregation protest in 1932. 150 African Americans descended on the beach with the intention to swim. Although there were no official rules barring this, segregation was widely ingrained and the move was protested. Whites returned to the beach with stones and clubs and fighting lasted over a half hour and spread ten blocks before the violence subsided.
- Eugene Field House
- Washington Park Community Church
- Philipps Mansion
Moving to Denver? Urban Phenix offers a number of renovated historic apartments across the city. Check out our Denver apartments for rent to learn more.