Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

The rumble of freight trains and trucks is constant and the smell of diesel and the nearby refineries competes with that of the native flowers. But when Riverside Cemetery opened in 1876, Denver was a young city hoping to appear civilized by dedicating a park-like setting to remember its dead. In 1876, Decoration Day was also a relatively new observance, created to honor soldiers killed during the Civil War
Today, Riverside Cemetery is home to over 1,200 Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, who came to Colorado after the war to seek their fortunes in the gold fields, homestead, ranch or farm. Others found work on the railroads, as storekeepers, tradesmen, lawmen, politicians and preachers. Block 27, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Block, is the location of the majority of Union soldiers buried at Riverside. 
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization open to all men who had honorably served in the Union Army or Navy, regardless of race. The motto of the GAR was "Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty" and the organization lived up to its ideals, with members looking out for former soldiers in the area. A needy veteran and his family might find a box of groceries or a load of coal on their doorstep. The fraternal was instrumental in obtaining increased government pensions, the creation of federal and state veterans' homes and government-supplied headstones. In Denver, any veteran who was financially unable to afford a funeral was given one paid for by the post.
As the veterans of the Civil War passed away, the GAR also faded into history. There are many ways to hear their stories at Riverside Cemetery, including several self-guided tours and booklets.
(Information about the GAR can be found in a booklet by Raymond C. Thal "The Civil War at Riverside" available from the visitor's center at Riverside, open Thursday and the 1st Wednesday of each month from 10:am to 3:00 pm. 5201 Brighton Blvd. Denver, CO 80216    303-293-2466) 

Decoration Day 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Once a Major Employer...

ASARCO's Globe Plant, once a major employer in the Globeville and surrounding neighborhoods, is now vacant. According to Globeville I, LLC, remediation of the environmentally contaminated site is on schedule, with the demolition of the external buildings completed in March 2012. Once cleaned up, the site will be home to a new "Globeville Commerce Center" with a potential 1.1 million square feet of commercial space. Although restoration of the area has been a goal of the community for a long time, it is hoped that the stories of the men who worked there will not be lost. 

51st and Logan, October 2011

51st and Logan, January 2012

51st and Logan, May 2012

55th and Washington, July 2016

Thursday, May 10, 2012

John and Katherine Peketz

The story of John and Katherine Peketz is one of opportunity and upward mobility in America. An immigrant from Slovenia, John Peketz is listed as a laborer in the 1905 edition of the Denver city directory, but by 1911 he is recorded as working as a bartender at John Predovich's saloon. In 1915, Peketz opens his own tavern at 4511 Washington Street.
Before Prohibition (Colorado went dry in 1916, four years before the rest of the nation) immigrant saloons operated as banks, social clubs and clearinghouses for newcomers where a recent arrival could get a drink, a good meal, news from the Old Country, a place to stay, a loan, and advice concerning jobs and meeting other young and single people from home. Tavern owners like Peketz knew everyone and everything happening in Globeville.
By Globeville's standards Peketz was prosperous, owning his own home and operating a successful business, but he never forgot his humble beginnings. Peketz helped found the Western Slavonic Association (WSA), a fraternal organization that provided financial help to families in case of sickness or injury. Katherine Peketz then formed a women's branch of the association, Holy Rosary Lodge, Number 7, which focused on service to the community. Using their business and fraternal connections, the couple then worked to raise money to build Holy Rosary Church in 1919. Their lives and contributions can be remembered in two windows in the church that feature St. Catherine and St. John the Baptist.
Top photo: John and Katherine Peketz in their grocery store. After Colorado went dry in 1916, many former taverns became grocery stores. Photo used with written permission from Don Snider
Second photo: 4511 Washington, site of the Peketz Saloon
Third photo: Location of Western Slavonic Hall, today the McDonald's on Washington Street. Photo used with written permission from Joe Sadar
Bottom photo: Peketz windows in Holy Rosary Church.

Western Slavonic Association
Holy Rosary Church