Sunday, March 25, 2012

Swansea - a Real Estate Development

Smelting (separating the valuable metal from the ore) was the Holy Grail of economics in Colorado during the 1870s, holding out the promise of untold riches and prosperity to those who could make the process profitable. A new smelter gave rise to the village of Swansea, a real estate development relying on the promise of jobs in the smelter and affordable housing
The Denver Smelting and Refining Company was incorporated in 1872 by Hiram C. Bond, Mein Fisher and Charles Reuter near the junction of the Colorado Central and Kansas Pacific tracks (about 40th and Josephine). Promoters set to work immediately, laying out parcels for home sites and, in anticipation of growth, Episcopalians dedicated the cornerstone for a church. Bishop Randall gushed, “…we see the walls of the church rising almost simultaneously with the wall of the laboratory which is to detect and develop the hidden riches of the land.” * The city directory for 1877 lists several employees of the smelter, but by 1880, the business was foundering, while the Boston and Colorado Smelter was a resounding success at nearby Argo. Although the settlement of Swansea had a town council in the 1870s, and was partially annexed to Denver in 1883, the community never formally incorporated.
Nonetheless, the area grew. Cheap housing was available for men who worked at the industrial jobs in the area: railroads, packinghouses and the Argo, Grant, and Globe Smelters. Yet the neighborhood retained its bucolic setting with a sparse population, modest homes, small farms, dairies and ranches. As the population increased, the Swansea School was built in 1890 and served children from both the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods. The Mt. Olivet Baptist church was built in 1891 on the 4500 block of Thompson Court and there was the 7th Day Church of God on the 4300 block of Clayton Street. A period of growth in the 1920s produced more opportunities for jobs with the Eaton Metal Works, Ralston Purina, Rocky Mountain Paper Company, Colorado Serum, Denver Serum, Sunshine Biscuit, and Brannon Sand and Gravel Company. The increase in families with children prompted the construction of an additional building north of the original Swansea School in the 1920s.
Today, the Swansea neighborhood is referred to as Elyria/Swansea and struggles to survive amid industrial encroachment, deliberate neglect by the city of Denver, and the proposed widening of I-70. 
(The citizens of both Elyria and Swansea came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but didn’t settle in ethnic enclaves. Both neighborhoods were annexed to Denver in 1902.)
*Rocky Mountain News, May 14, 1873

Affordable houses in the Swansea neighborhood

Eaton Metal Products still provides jobs in Swansea

The Purina Plant looms over the highway.

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