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 

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