Saturday, March 17, 2012


Most people in Denver only know Elyria by the odor produced by the Purina Chow facility and only see the area from the highway that decimated the neighborhood. None of these current views does justice to the area.
Once a bucolic suburb marketed to people escaping the grime and industry of Denver, Elyria was platted on March 29, 1881 by Archie C. Fisk, President, and C. F. Leiman, Secretary, of the Denver Land and Improvement Company, who promoted “A Plan Whereby Every Man May Become a Householder.” * The company’s goal was “buying up cheap tracts of land adjoining the city and platting them into town lots, or garden patches.” The promise of horsecar lines with cheap fares attracted men who worked in the smelters, railroads, factories, and meat packing plants but who wanted to raise a family in a rural community away from those industries. The northern boundary was Adams County at 52nd Avenue, the southern boundary was 38th and 40th Avenues, the western boundary was the Platte River, and the eastern boundary was Josephine, now extending all the way to Colorado Boulevard to include the Swansea neighborhood.
Although the settlers of Elyria objected to the smoke and soot from the industries in Denver and Globeville, they embraced any activity that would provide revenue - gambling, prize fights and around-the-clock drinking in 17 saloons. Elyria was a wide-open town.
As more families moved to the area, signs of civility began to appear. The Pilgrim Congregational Church was dedicated in 1884, the Elyria School built in 1885 and the town trustees set aside land for a park. A desire to improve city services and negotiate water, sewer, lighting and transportation convinced a majority of villagers to vote for incorporation in August 1890. An impressive town hall and fire department was constructed in 1894 with a large auditorium where plays, concerts and boxing matches were held.
Elyria’s residents thought of their town as a suburb, but the area was surrounded by the industries that provided jobs: the smelters, railroads, stock yards and meat packing plants. Although many of its citizens were immigrants, there was no concentration of any one group and no ethnic churches.
As Denver plans to widen the highway that destroyed the neighborhood, it might be worthwhile to look at what has been lost.

*Prospectus, Denver Land and Improvement Company, Rocky Mountain News, 1880
A great book about the area is Elyria: Denver's Forgotten Suburb 1881 - 1941 by Elizabeth L. Macmillan.

Matt Sadar Saloon 3rd and Powell Streets in 1903
photo used with written permission from Joe Sadar

4601 Race Street about 1960
photo used with written permission from Betty Macmillan

Modest homes 4736 Vine Street about 1960 
photo used with written permission from Betty Macmillan


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