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