Monday, May 23, 2011


According to historian Jerome C. Smiley in 1901,“...their [smelters] economic value to the city of Denver far exceeds that of any other industry; indeed, it may be said that it overshadows that of all other industries.”1. The remnants of one of the state’s most significant smelters, the Globe, rests on a hill just west of the neighborhood that shares it’s name. 
The plant began life as the Holden Smelter and was organized in 1886 by entrepreneur Edward R. Holden as a silver/lead smelter, using the latest technology. Holden was known as a promoter and speculator and had borrowed great sums from the Colorado National Bank to build the operation. When the smelter veered toward bankruptcy under Holden, the bank appointed Dennis Sheedy manager and he reorganized the firm as the Globe Smelting and Refining Company on January 16, 1889. A company store, hotel and houses surrounding the plant, once called “Holdenville” were then referred to as “Globeville.”2
The Globe Smelter was “integrated” with its own sampling works, crushing mills, roasting units, blast furnaces, refinery and was considered a major force in the industry. In 1899, the Globe joined a number of other smelting concerns to form a powerful trust, the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), with the clout to negotiate rates for labor, freight, ore, smelting and political influence. 
The price of metals increased during World War I and mines and smelters prospered, but by 1919, market conditions had changed and many of the nation's rich ores had been depleted. The Globe discontinued smelting operations and turned to producing cadmium, becoming a leading supplier of the element used as a protective coating for aircraft during World War II. In 1993 the firm again changed direction and focused on the development of specialty metals, such as bismuth.
1993 is also the year a group of residents won a lawsuit against the corporate giant, alleging air, soil and groundwater pollution. A second group of citizens were awarded funds in 1997 to remediate the soil in the southern section of Globeville. ASARCO declared bankruptcy in 2006 and the plant sat empty and abandoned.
2011 marks the beginning of a new life for the area as EFB Brownfield Partners plans remediation and development for the property. It is hoped that an industry once so vital to the economy of the region could bring life and rebirth to the Globeville neighborhood.
1. Smiley, Jerome C. History of Denver, Denver, Colorado: The Times-Sun Publishing Company, 1901, page 556
2. Fell Jr., James E., Ores to Metals, The Rocky Mountain Smelting Industry, 1979,
University of Nebraska Press pg 149.

3. Contaminated Globeville May Get a Second Chance, March 24, 2011,

top photo. Globe Smelter 1890, Denver Public Library
middle photo, Globe Smelter about 1926, photo used with written permission from Steve Stevens
bottom photo, Globe plant today

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Omaha and Grant Smelter

Denver's second smelter, the Omaha and Grant, moved to Denver from Leadville in 1882 to a site where the Denver Coliseum stands today. The plant used a different technology than the Boston and Colorado to recover silver and lead, accepting ore from the mountains via the Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad and shipping bullion to Omaha via the Union Pacific Railroad. By 1886, the Omaha and Grant Company was a highly integrated firm with its own mines, sampling works, reduction plants, refinery and even a marketing department. In 1892, Denver's largest smelter expanded, building a giant 350-foot chimney, the tallest structure in the region and a visible symbol of an industry considered vital to the region. A year after the completion of the stack, the nation experienced an economic depression that hit mining and smelting hard. Changes in technology, the depletion of rich ores and the long, violent labor strike of 1903 resulted in the closing of the smelter, leaving the massive plant unoccupied and 375 men unemployed. Over the years, the plant was gradually dismantled, leaving only the giant chimney as a reminder of the glory days of the city's largest smelting company. The chimney was demolished February 26, 1950 to make way for the Denver Coliseum.