Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Crossroads Commerce Park - No Trace of the Globe Smelter

Crossroads Commerce Park on the site of the
Globe Smelter. Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Islands of fresh landscaping and parking lots surround new warehouses on the hill at 55th and Washington. There is no statue, no plaque, no historical marker to indicate that this site was once home to the American Smelting and Refining Company's [ASARCO] Globe Smelter. There is no mention of the men who worked 12 hours a day, six and seven days a week in crushing heat and toxic chemicals in order to separate gold, silver and lead from the ores that held them. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that, by 1900, the area’s three smelters, the Boston and Colorado, the Omaha and Grant, and the Globe, processed nearly two-fifths of the ore mined in Colorado. 1. 

Globe Smelter about 1900, William Henry Jackson,
Photo Denver Public Library

The Omaha and Grant, Globeville's largest smelter, closed during the bitter labor battle of 1903 and Globeville's first smelter, the Boston and Colorado, was gradually dismantled after a fire in September 1906. After 1906, ASARCO's Globe Plant was the only remaining smelter in the neighborhood.
The Globe Plant struggled. High-grade ores were harder to come by and newer technologies had been developed to treat low-grade ores at other plants. Demand for metals reached a high point during World War I and fell off dramatically afterward. In 1919, ASARCO decided to discontinue smelting at the Globe plant, “...closing down all stacks,” using the plant to recover valuable elements in ores shipped from other plants. 2. The work force of about 100 men extracted whatever was useful from the flue dust that arrived in covered railroad gondola cars, including cadmium, thallium, indium, copper and lead.

Cell house about 1926,
Photo used with written permission from Steve Stevens
During World War II, the Globe concentrated on recovering cadmium, a rust-proof element considered essential to the nation’s defense and used to coat airplanes, tanks and radio equipment. The company supplied nearly 60 percent of the nation’s cadmium, operating seven days a week.

An award from the National Safety Council in December 1960
for one million man hours worked without an accident or lost time from work.
 left to right, Steve Stevens, Ralph Rickenbaugh, Jim Ryan, Margaret Philpot,
Max Coats, Lou Landers, Bill Miles

Photo used with written permission from Steve Stevens

The plant was considered a safe place to work, but the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act [OSHA] of 1970 changed the criteria for measuring safety in the workplace and would hold companies accountable to different standards. The result was more than twenty years of health studies, regulation, environmental claims and landmark lawsuits. By 2003, ASARCO was facing claims in excess of $100 million to cleanup its sites throughout the country. An environmental trust fund was established, but the money would not cover all the remediation that needed to be done. The EPA prioritized restoration of residences, businesses, schools, parks, which had been completed by the time the trust fund was set up. Work on the Globe Plant itself had not.
On August 9, 2005, ASARCO filed for protection under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and said it would then attempt to sell the property for “brownfield redevelopment,” a process in which a contaminated property is cleaned and developed for a nonpolluting use. In February 2008, the Colorado Legislature passed a measure that would allow a municipality to include unincorporated county land in an urban renewal project, but by the end of the year the economy was faltering and Brownfield Partners was unable to proceed with the acquisition. Gradually, collaboration, creative financing and federal loans allowed the project to move forward.
In May 2011, a public-private partnership was created that included both Denver and Adams Counties, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA), the State of Colorado and developer EFG Brownfield Partners (who later merged with EnviroFinance Group), and its subsidiary, Globeville I, LLC. Denver and Adams Counties funded the infrastructure, and in 2014, Denver developer Trammell Crow agreed to buy the smelter site from EnviroFinance Group and build the biggest industrial park in central metro Denver.
Today, the $85 million Crossroads Commerce Park contains warehouse, distribution and light-manufacturing buildings encompassing 1 million square feet and could bring an estimated 800 to 1,500 jobs to the Globeville neighborhood. 3.
Perhaps Trammell Crow would consider some visual commemoration of the Globe Smelter site that would honor the contributions of the immigrant laborers who toiled there and settled the Globeville neighborhood.

1. Fell, James E., Ores to Metals, The Rocky Mountain Smelting Industry, University of Nebraska Press, 1979

2. “Smelter to Cut Force to 100 Men,” Denver Post, May 28, 1919
3.  Trammell Crow signs on to redevelop ASARCO site in Globeville, Denver Post, October 29, 2014 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Westerkamp Grocery - 5106 Washington Street

Pepsi Cola, Carlson Frink Dairy, Beef 39¢ a Pound, Fruit, Vegetables and Free Delivery! The building on 51st and Washington is still in existence, but, compared to the former Westerkamp Market, doesn't have much personality.
August Westerkamp was born in New York City in 1861, moved to Ohio and then Colorado, where he found a job with the Globe Smelter. In 1892, August married Matilda Nelson and they settled in Retreat Park, walking distance from his job, and raised seven children. Sons Francis and Ralph worked at the Globe Mercantile on nights and weekends while they were in high school.
Francis' son, Ed Westerkamp remembered, “That was the old smelter store. They got paid in cash. The grocer just wrote down what you bought and when the paymaster gave out the money, every couple of weeks, he deducted what you owed the store. About 80 percent of their business was on credit. After World War I, anti-trust legislation required the smelter to sell its company store and Francis and Ralph were able to purchase the it in 1919.
“Each customer was assigned a number, which was printed on a box. Each morning, they would take orders, fill the boxes and deliver the groceries. They had three trucks and three delivery men. There was no charge for delivery or for carrying customers until the end of the month. Many people paid their grocery bill in eggs and the store had so many eggs, they began boxing them and selling them to the Union Pacific commissary stores in Wyoming and Nebraska. The business grew and the brothers built a larger store in 1926, located a couple doors south on Washington.”
People in Globeville didn't trust banks (and there wasn't any bank located in the neighborhood) and would ask for a loan from someone they knew, like the Westerkamps. During the Depression, the Westerkamps carried people for several years. Ed recalled, “For years, people have asked me if I was related to Ralph or Francis Westerkamp and I would say ‘yes.’ They’d tell me, ‘Your dad saved our family.’”
Both the Globe Smelter and the Westerkamp Grocery are gone now. But a small grocery with free delivery and a proprietor who knows your name is just what Globeville needs.

One of the delivery trucks in front of the former Globe Smelter Store.
Photo used with written permission from Ed Westerkamp

5106-5108 Washington Street
Photo Denver Public Library

5106-5108 Washington Street, 2016
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Denver Sewer Pipe and Clay - the Brickyards

Established in 1889 at 44th and Fox Street in the town of Argo by James Green of St. Louis, the Denver Sewer Pipe and Clay Company primarily manufactured pipe used in sewers. The firm was purchased in 1892 by William F. Geddes, David D. Seerie, and E. R. Ball.
Geddes and Seerie had formed a contracting business in 1885 and worked on large projects that included the Cheesman Dam, Brown Palace Hotel and the Colorado State Capitol building. The acquisition of the company provided a local source for construction material as well as jobs for the residents of nearby Globeville.
In 1900, the firm added a brick manufacturing plant, and by the 1930s, workers were tending some 50 beehive kilns. Almost every kind of heavy-duty clay product was made there: building bricks, sewer pipe, locomotive arch tile (used in the combustion chambers of steam locomotives), and tile conduit. It was the largest company of its kind between the Missouri River and the Pacific coast, and its workforce had grown from its original 25 to more than 200 employees. Raw clay for the bricks was quarried in the Golden and Parker areas, west and south of Denver. 
In 1956, the company changed its name to Denver Brick and Pipe Company, and built a block-long structure that used a tunnel-kiln process instead of the older beehive method. Eventually the company outgrew its location and, in 1982, built a new facility near Castle Rock, halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs. The firm was renamed Denver Brick.
The 130-foot smokestack that towered over the location at 44th and Fox has been torn down and the beehive kilns that glowed red-hot are gone. So is the marble slab that was embedded in the office reception hall. The message chiseled in its surface read, “Not by frost, nor by fire, nor by flood, nor even by time, are well-burned clay products destroyed.” The Denver Post printing plant occupied the site for several years.

Photo used with permission from the Denver Public Library