Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Westerkamp Grocery - 5106 Washington Street

Pepsi Cola, Carlson Frink Dairy, Beef 39¢ a Pound, Fruit, Vegetables and Free Delivery! The building on 51st and Washington is still in existence, but, compared to the former Westerkamp Market, doesn't have much personality.
August Westerkamp was born in New York City in 1861, moved to Ohio and then Colorado, where he found a job with the Globe Smelter. In 1892, August married Matilda Nelson and they settled in Retreat Park, walking distance from his job, and raised seven children. Sons Francis and Ralph worked at the Globe Mercantile on nights and weekends while they were in high school.
Francis' son, Ed Westerkamp remembered, “That was the old smelter store. They got paid in cash. The grocer just wrote down what you bought and when the paymaster gave out the money, every couple of weeks, he deducted what you owed the store. About 80 percent of their business was on credit. After World War I, anti-trust legislation required the smelter to sell its company store and Francis and Ralph were able to purchase the it in 1919.
“Each customer was assigned a number, which was printed on a box. Each morning, they would take orders, fill the boxes and deliver the groceries. They had three trucks and three delivery men. There was no charge for delivery or for carrying customers until the end of the month. Many people paid their grocery bill in eggs and the store had so many eggs, they began boxing them and selling them to the Union Pacific commissary stores in Wyoming and Nebraska. The business grew and the brothers built a larger store in 1926, located a couple doors south on Washington.”
People in Globeville didn't trust banks (and there wasn't any bank located in the neighborhood) and would ask for a loan from someone they knew, like the Westerkamps. During the Depression, the Westerkamps carried people for several years. Ed recalled, “For years, people have asked me if I was related to Ralph or Francis Westerkamp and I would say ‘yes.’ They’d tell me, ‘Your dad saved our family.’”
Both the Globe Smelter and the Westerkamp Grocery are gone now. But a small grocery with free delivery and a proprietor who knows your name is just what Globeville needs.

One of the delivery trucks in front of the former Globe Smelter Store.
Photo used with written permission from Ed Westerkamp

5106-5108 Washington Street
Photo Denver Public Library

5106-5108 Washington Street, 2016
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Denver Sewer Pipe and Clay - the Brickyards

Established in 1889 at 44th and Fox Street in the town of Argo by James Green of St. Louis, the Denver Sewer Pipe and Clay Company primarily manufactured pipe used in sewers. The firm was purchased in 1892 by William F. Geddes, David D. Seerie, and E. R. Ball.
Geddes and Seerie had formed a contracting business in 1885 and worked on large projects that included the Cheesman Dam, Brown Palace Hotel and the Colorado State Capitol building. The acquisition of the company provided a local source for construction material as well as jobs for the residents of nearby Globeville.
In 1900, the firm added a brick manufacturing plant, and by the 1930s, workers were tending some 50 beehive kilns. Almost every kind of heavy-duty clay product was made there: building bricks, sewer pipe, locomotive arch tile (used in the combustion chambers of steam locomotives), and tile conduit. It was the largest company of its kind between the Missouri River and the Pacific coast, and its workforce had grown from its original 25 to more than 200 employees. Raw clay for the bricks was quarried in the Golden and Parker areas, west and south of Denver. 
In 1956, the company changed its name to Denver Brick and Pipe Company, and built a block-long structure that used a tunnel-kiln process instead of the older beehive method. Eventually the company outgrew its location and, in 1982, built a new facility near Castle Rock, halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs. The firm was renamed Denver Brick.
The 130-foot smokestack that towered over the location at 44th and Fox has been torn down and the beehive kilns that glowed red-hot are gone. So is the marble slab that was embedded in the office reception hall. The message chiseled in its surface read, “Not by frost, nor by fire, nor by flood, nor even by time, are well-burned clay products destroyed.” The Denver Post printing plant occupied the site for several years.

Photo used with permission from the Denver Public Library

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tiny Houses - Shotgun Houses in Globeville

The tiny houses built in Globeville before the 1900s were not an architectural statement or expression of a social movement, but a source of intense pride for the immigrants who arrived during the 1890s. In the old country, successive division of farms through inheritance meant that many farms were too small to sustain a family. Many newcomers from eastern Europe and Russia had been farmers in their homeland, but worked for low wages in Globeville's smelters, railroads and meatpacking plants. They built what they could afford on lots that varied from 37 feet wide to 150 feet long, to 25 feet wide and 175 feet long. Their houses were monuments to their sacrifices, thrift and pride.
Many houses were built in the "shotgun" style - long and narrow, single story homes with sequential rooms and no hallway. As the family grew or more relatives arrived from the old country, rooms could easily be added. A front porch that extended the full width of the front of the house offered a place to sit and visit with neighbors.
Railroad cars could be purchased from the nearby Burlington shops and friends helped each other dismantle the cars and construct houses, barns, and outbuildings from the tongue-in-groove lumber. Most houses and outbuildings were well maintained, with tidy gardens and well-kept yards. Some women even scrubbed their porches and sidewalks. A characteristic of Globeville remains the number of one-story frame houses built close together on long, narrow lots. 

 4535 Pearl Street was built in 1891
North side of 4485 Pennsylvania Street shows the length
House was built in 1908


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Interstate 25 - The Valley Highway

A January 12, 1945 headline in the Denver Post read, “Plans for Postwar Superhighways are Outlined by Denver.” The new highway would be 9.3 miles in length, beginning at 52nd Avenue between Acoma and Bannock Streets on the north and continue to Colorado and Buchtel Boulevard on the south. Because the route followed the valley west of the Platte River, it was named the “Valley Highway.” The state highway department, the city and the U. S. Public Roads Administration would bear the cost, an estimated $14,500,000. Not mentioned in the article, but shown on the map, was a large interchange and east-west arterial along 46th Avenue, that would cut through the heart of Globeville.
By July 1946, an agreement had been reached between the state, federal and city officials to purchase all of the right-of-way, with construction slated to begin in 1947. While the newspapers were brimming with enthusiasm, Globeville residents were sick at heart. The high-speed artery along 46th Avenue would cut their community in two.
In April 1947, Ernest P. Marranzino was running for the City Council seat in District 9, which included Globeville, Swansea, and Elyria. Marranzino was a thirty-one-year-old veteran who had seen combat in the Pacific and now hoped to fight the well-armed, national, state and city juggernaut that backed the highway’s construction through his district. At a meeting on April 27 in the home of John Wolf, Marranzino stated, “As the East 46th Avenue Highway now looks, it means the destruction of Denver’s industrial hub, the blighting of three of Denver’s oldest and finest communities and inconvenience to thousands of persons.”
Marranzino won the council seat and raised enough doubt about the project for the City Council to postpone a vote for six weeks of further study. As the Council continued to debate, the number of angry citizens attending council meetings continued to grow. Some 700 in attendance at a June 30 meeting heard Joseph A. Byers of the Globeville and Elyria Business Association lambaste the council for not providing the neighborhoods with specific information. Mayor Quigg Newton assured people that the city would deal with them fairly, establishing an office to “assist persons in finding new homes and business sites, and to aid them in solving other related problems.”
Sarah Wolf was not impressed. “We went to many council meetings. When it’s your home you have to stand up.” On July 8, 1947, City Council authorized the highway’s construction and the meeting exploded with angry Globeville residents. Two squad cars of police escorted Councilmen James Fresques and Clarence Stafford, chief proponents of the highway, through the crowd that was “in an ugly mood.”
In the end, Sarah Wolf’s family negotiated their own agreement with the city: the city would move their house to a new lot in Globeville and pay the expenses involved. Others were faced with accepting whatever money the city offered and finding a comparable home somewhere else. Residents felt bullied by city appraisers, who threatened them with condemnation of their property and low assessments of their home’s value.
Ground was broken for the highway project on November 19, 1948. Homes were leveled, the city continued to acquire property and residents who remained pondered their future in Globeville. Many feared that the east-west artery along 46th Avenue would eventually be expanded, divide Globeville in two, and lead to the destruction of the community. People contemplated moving to newer, larger homes in the suburbs with better city services, new schools and shopping malls. Returning veterans were lured by low-interest VA loans.
The north-south Valley Highway was completed in 1958, but the question of whether to stay or leave Globeville was one that would trouble residents for decades to come.

Map of the proposed Valley Highway,
Denver Post, January 12, 1945

Construction of the Valley Highway,
used with written permission from Janet Wagner

Construction of the Valley Highway,
Grant Smelter Stack in the distance
used with written permission from Janet Wagner

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Red Scare 1920s

They were misunderstood from the beginning. The newcomers had large families, were Catholic or Orthodox, had come from regions in eastern Europe and Russia that were riddled with anarchists, and didn't speak English. Were the Volga Deutsche German? Or Russian? Why was Holy Transfiguration Church topped with a gold onion dome? Who are the Carpatho-Rusyns? 

Immigrants in Globeville had been recruited by smelters, railroads and the beet industry during the economic boom of the 1880s to supply cheap, abundant labor. After the economic downturn in 1893, they were not welcome and retreated to their enclaves, worshiping in old-world churches, socializing with people from the same region of Europe, and congregating in their ethnic saloons, which increased suspicion and misunderstanding.

The devastation of World War I and Spanish Influenza caused Americans and Coloradans to pull back from foreign entanglements. The war had not made the world "safe for democracy" - Europe was still in turmoil - and the Bolshevik's revolt in Russia resulted in civil war, famine and Communist rule. Anything and anyone associated with Bolsheviks, anarchists, foreign agitators, or radical labor unions were considered dangerous.

In the mind of the public, unions were linked with violence, anarchy and Communism. People remembered that smelter workers in Globeville, members of the Mill and Smeltermen, (a subsidiary of the Western Federation of Miners) had participated in the violent strikes in 1903. Labor unrest after World War I, supposedly incited by Bolsheviks spurred the Colorado legislature to pass a law in 1919 forbidding the display of the “red flag” in public. The headquarters of the International Workers of the World in Pueblo were raided and suspected radicals rounded up; and in Denver an ordinance was passed forbidding any person from speaking in a manner that could incite “rebellion.” The most dramatic example of the “red scare” occurred in the summer of 1920, when unionized employees of the Denver Tramway Company went on strike to protest wage cuts. When the company imported strikebreakers, violence erupted, cars were overturned and burned in downtown Denver. In the public's opinion, unions were violent and dangerous.
Residents of Globeville took notice of public opinion. Fraternal organizations displayed large American flags during their gatherings, and many business hung American flags in their windows. Some people left Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church, while others

“Americanized” their names - Staresinich was shortened to “Star,” Snidersich changed to “Snyder,” Yakin became “Jackson.” 

Gradually the “red scare” subsided, but the negative attitudes toward immigrants remained. Bowing to the growing fear that people from eastern Europe threatened the nation's very existence, Congress passed a law in 1924* that effectively ended immigration from eastern Europe.

* The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed into the United States through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia. 

1921 Convention WSA, Pueblo
Photo used with written permission from Joseph Skrabec

Sjedinjenih "One for All" Orthodox Lodge
used with written permission from Steve Machuga

Polish Constitution Day Parade, 1940
used with written permission from Jan Gisewski Garland

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nathaniel P. Hill - Boston and Colorado Smelter

Most photos of Nathaniel P. Hill show the mature businessman, distinguished-looking U.S. Senator and publisher of the Denver Republican Newspaper. But it was the thirty-two-year old Hill who pioneered smelting methods and saved Colorado's fledgling mining industry.

A professor of chemistry at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, young Hill was already a rising star in scientific and business circles when he was contacted by mining men and investors in the Colorado territory to solve a problem with ores.

Gold had been discovered in Colorado in the fall of 1858, and fortune seekers rushed to the territory the following spring, finding "free gold" - nuggets and flakes - in their sluice boxes. But most of Colorado's valuable minerals were not "free" but bound up in complex ores. Without a method to economically separate minerals from the sulfides and bromides that trapped them, mining was fruitless. By 1864, the territory faced a crisis as prospectors and investors withdrew their money, mines closed, camps were deserted and settlements evaporated.

Hill arrived in Central City in 1864, intrigued by the challenge, but also attracted to the West as the place to make a name for himself. Hill observed first hand the problems of separating gold and silver from complex sulfide ores and methodically investigated various European smelting technologies, settling on a process developed in Swansea, Wales. With four other investors, Hill organized the Boston and Colorado Smelting Company in Black Hawk and by 1868 the smelter was in operation. 

For ten years, the Boston and Colorado was the only smelting operation in the Rockies to attain both technical and financial success, with production growing from $271,000 in 1868 to $2,260,000 in 1878. By 1878, the company needed to expand and relocated to an area of high ground between west 44th and 48th Avenues and Delaware to Fox Streets, taking advantage of the nearby Colorado Central and Denver Pacific Railroads. The Boston and Colorado built a company town known as Argo, and many people referred to the smelter as the Argo Smelter. (in Greek mythology, Argo is the name of a ship whose captain, Jason, hopes to find the golden fleece and claim his inheritance). The success of the plant prompted the construction of two smelters nearby: the Omaha and Grant in 1882 and the Globe Smelter in 1889.

Hill’s achievements led to a political career: he was elected mayor of Black Hawk in 1871, then Colorado‘s Republican Senator from 1879 to 1885, serving on the Committee on Mines and Mining and advocating for free coinage of silver. After his term ended, Hill purchased the Denver Republican newspaper to promote Republican causes. 

Hill's business success is well known, but his relations with his employees differed from that of his competitors. During the national recession of 1893, both the Grant and Globe Smelters closed, laid of workers and waited for economic conditions to improve. When those plants reopened, new hires were forced to take a 10 to 15 percent reduction in pay, leading to resentment, unrest and strikes. During the same period, Hill reduced his own salary, but not that of his employees saying that he could stand the loss better than they could.* (Because the Boston and Colorado processed ores containing gold, the plant was able to operate without layoffs). Hill's employees never joined the Mill and Smeltermen's Union.

Hill died in Denver on May 22, 1900 and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery. 

*“Did Not Cut Wages at Argo Smelter in 1893 and Said He Could Stand Loss Better Than Men.” Denver Times, June 13, 1899

Senator Nathaniel P. Hill, photo Matthew Brady

Boston and Colorado Smelter at Argo, photo Denver Public Library

Hill residence at 14th and Welton,
built in 1884. photo Denver Public Library

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blini, Brats, Beer and Slivovitz - Festivals in Globeville

Globeville's ethnic heritage can best be experienced in the parish food festivals, the first of which is the Orthodox Food Festival and Old Globeville Days, July 16 and 17th at Argo Park. Every kind of food, entertainment, games for the children, crafts and tours of beautiful Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. Don't miss it!

Next in the summer calendar of events is the Polish Food Festival, August 20 and 21st at St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church. Polish food, music, dancers, beer and a chance to interact with your neighbors.
Sunday, September 4th is the date of the Holy Rosary Bazaar, with food being served from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm. There will be a 50/50 raffle for cash and prizes, entertainment, music, games for the children and the GRAND PRIZE raffle for a brand new Jeep Patriot.