Friday, October 12, 2018

3543 Brighton Boulevard

One of my favorite houses is gone. I travel through Globeville at least once a week and drive around to check on the places I love - barns, iron fences, shotgun homes built of railroad lumber. I reflect on the pride settlers must have felt in building these structures.
I hadn’t been on Brighton Boulevard for some time because of all the construction, and when I discovered the home at 3543 Brighton was gone, it felt like losing a family member.
Brighton Boulevard was once called Wewatta Street, and the area was platted as part of the Ironton subdivision in 1881. There were jobs nearby: Rocky Mountain Ore Production Works, Denver Rolling Mill, Colorado Iron Works (where The Source is today), Denver Ore Sampling Works, and the Omaha and Grant Smelter. By the late 1880s, single-family homes on 25-foot lots were starting to sprout up along Wewatta and Delgany Streets, close to the heavy industries. (It was advantageous to be able to walk to your job).   
The home at 3543 Wewatta was built in 1888 by William A. Farrow, who worked as a stone cutter for R.C. Greenlee and Sons, a firm that specialized in masonry and decorative architectural elements. Farrow demonstrated his artistic skill on his own home. Delicately carved lintels and faces adorn the windows, and stone quoins mark the corners. Even the chimney is decorated. This exquisite little gem is gone. If you google 3543 Brighton Boulevard, you can see what’s being built there now.
I get it - this tiny home sold for $400,000 and is worth more as redevelopment than as a historical site. Although the RiNo (RiverNorth) neighborhood touts its industrial roots, evidence of that story is being systematically erased, and with it, the community’s history and personality. The generic condos and apartments that line Brighton Boulevard could be anywhere - Glendale, Broomfield or Aurora. The area once attracted artists, painters, sculptors, and fabric designers, because is was more affordable than lower downtown. Can artists even consider the district now?
One artist, William A. Farrow, has had his work demolished. Farrow will join the nameless craftsmen whose artifacts are acquired by salvage firms and find another life in some new condo or trendy tavern - maybe even in RiNo.

With the completion of the Broadway Extension project,
Wewatta Street was renamed Brighton Boulevard
by the Denver City Council in 1924. Denver Urbanism

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Stapleton Public Housing Project

The October 8, 1952 issue of the Denver Post enthusiastically reported, $3 Million Housing Project Announced for Globeville. The project was the fourth largest in Denver’s history and would be erected in February 1953 beside the new Valley super highway.” Three hundred brick homes ranging from one to five bedrooms were to be built between 51st and 52nd Avenues, from Logan to Acoma Streets, and would be rented at low cost to eligible families. Each family would have a lot of approximately 1,700 square feet. The article continued, “Four old houses at East Fifty-first avenue and Logan street are the only structures that will have to be razed. If the Denver Post seemed excited about the venture, long-time citizens of Globeville were not. The heavy-handed construction of the new Valley super highway” had displaced residents on the western edge of the neighborhood without adequate compensation, and now the city was again making plans for Globeville without considering the wishes of the community.
The immigrant families who settled Globeville initially fabricated dwellings of tar paper, and then graduated to shotgun homes of about 500 square feet. These old timers viewed those who relied on public assistance as lacking in moral fiber and lazy. Worse yet, the city was bringing in “outsiders” - Mexicans and Blacks - who would be handed homes built of brick, with one to five bedrooms, and up to 1,700 square feet of living space.
But Blacks and Hispanics had fewer options for housing than Globeville's residents. Banks seldom granted loans to minorities, many landlords wouldn't rent to them and large areas of the city were off limits to them. For the Molock family, the projects promised stability and a better education for the children. Jacquelyn Molock remembers, “We were living on Grove Street and they were raising the rent again. My dad was working for Dr. Pepper and my mom was doing day work. She wanted to get some training to get a better job. We walked over to the projects to be interviewed to get in. My mother was worried because we were not on welfare, but we got in.
Both Jacquelyn and sister Roberta remember the good times. “We all walked to Garden Place School, under I-70, and we got along with all the German, Slovak and Polish kids. There were lots of children and places to play. In the projects, there was a common area with the homes all around it and we felt really safe there. We used to play and everyone would look out for us. 
We lived in the projects for about ten years and then we got a house at 5063 Logan Street. We did our grocery shopping at Westerkamps. The house belonged to them and they sold it to my mom.”
Jacquelyn west to East High, CU Boulder, joined the Air Force and traveled, while Roberta had a successful career with Wayside Upholstery in Boulder. Both have fond memories of the growing up in the projects and now call Globeville home. Roberta smiles, “You know how they say 'It takes a village?' We had that in Globeville.

Sisters Roberta and Jacquelyn Molock, 2016
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Globeville-Elyria-Swansea Memory Project

I could be in any church for any occasion, but a whiff of bees wax candles, or the spicy scent of incense calls up memories of Holy Rosary Church during Holy Week. My recollections are of the days before Vatican II, of Latin hymns, Tantum Ergo and Panis Angelicus. It is the Globeville neighborhood of that era that is etched in my memory: still intact, neat as a model train layout with small homes, tidy yards, barns and sheds, steeples and smokestacks.
What triggers a memory of the neighborhood for you? The sound of a trail whistle? The smell of the stockyards? A snapshot of the family home? History Colorado wants to hear reminiscences of both long-time and new residents of the Globeville-Elyria-Swansea Neighborhoods.
History Colorado uses site-based remembering techniques to jump-start writing and storytelling that reanimates the community history of a place. Neighbors write stories of resilience and community connection that forge stronger identities.
Wednesdays, September 26, October 3 and October 10
6:30 - 8:30 pm, Swansea Recreation Center
2650 East 49th Avenue
Denver, CO 80216
Call 303-866-4584 to schedule a time
What to Bring:
Pen, paper, an object of importance from your neighborhood/community,
lots of memories, family and friends!
A culminating Community Exhibit will take place on November 15th from 6–8 pm.

History Colorado presenta el
Proyecto Recuerdos de los Barrios: Globeville-Elyria-Swansea
El Proyecto Recuerdos de los Barrios es un programa de narración de historias que se centra en los residentes antiguos y actuales de barrios específicos. Empleamos técnicas de reminiscencia basadas en el sitio con el fin de estimular escritos y narraciones que reanimen la historia de la comunidad. Los vecinos escriben historias de resiliencia y conexión comunitaria que sirven para reforzar su identidad.
Qué traer:
Bolígrafo, papel, un objeto de importancia de su barrio/comunidad,
muchos recuerdos,  ¡Familia y Amigos!
Finalizaremos con una Exposición de la Comunidad el 15 de Noviembre de 6–8 pm.
Miercoles 6:30–8:30 pm
Swansea Recreation Center   •     2650 E. 49th Ave,    •     Denver, CO 80216
September 26, October 3 y October 10

Holy Rosary Church ® Mary Lou Egan

Intact 4500 block of Sherman Street before I-70
® Mary Lou Egan

Friday, August 10, 2018

Lorraine Granado - Cross Community Coalition

“Look at all these wonderful opportunities to make it better.” Those were the words of Lorraine Granado, a fourth-generation resident of the industrial neighborhood of Elyria who wanted a better life for her three sons and her grandchildren. Where others saw interstate highways, heavy industry, pollution, unemployment and inadequate city services, Granado saw possibilities. Granado created the Cross Community Coalition in 1987, that brought together the neighborhoods of Globeville, Swansea and Elyria. *.
The Coalition established its Family Resource Center in the shadow of elevated I-70 in a storefront at 46th and Josephine, and offered classes in English, GED preparation, job readiness and studies toward citizenship. There were programs for young adults: after-school tutoring, leadership development, conflict resolution and environmental education. Classes were also available in small business development, housing rehabilitation and home ownership.
Through the organization, citizens successfully fought the city's proposed medical waste incinerator, and a tent city for the homeless. The Coalition also joined a class-action lawsuit that required the ASARCO smelter to clean up yards and compensate residents for decreased property values. 
In 2005, the Coalition moved into a new 9,000-square-foot community center at 2501 East 48th Avenue. Poor health forced Granado to retire in 2009, but her efforts and those of the organization helped many individuals realize their goals, and the Globeville, Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods develop a strong voice for environmental justice.
On October 31, 2017, Denver Public Schools and CDOT's Central 70 project team dedicated the new east wing of Swansea Elementary to Granado. Her compassion, kindness and peaceful resolution skills brought diverse groups of people together to make positive changes in those communities. Although Granado couldn't be present for the event, a plaque near the main entrance to Swansea School commemorates her commitment to treating people with respect and love.
* The Board of Directors listed when the Cross Community Coalition was created included: Mary Miera Saragosa, Kenneth Mondragon, Michael Maes, Paul Garcia, Alvin Lewis, Shirley Castro, and Dana Louria. The Coalition was dissolved in 2011. Focus Points Resource Center occupies the space and continues the work.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Festivals in Globeville

The eastern European immigrants who settled Globeville in the 1880s are long gone, but they left a robust legacy of their native cultures in the neighborhood. To experience the ethnic churches, food, crafts, dancing, singing and beer! of the old country, attend one or all of the church festivals.
The first of these celebrations will be the 15th Annual Orthodox Food Festival at Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral, 349 E 47th Avenue (at Logan Street). This grand event will be held only one day, Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 11:00 am to 7:30 pm. Bring Tupperware and stock up on astounding array of cuisine from Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Eritrea, Italy, Greece and Mexico, as well as grilled lamb, hot dogs, craft beer and Slivovitz (Slovenian plum brandy). 
There will be live entertainment, games for children, crafts, and an exhibit of iconography. The jewel in this festival is the beautiful (and newly painted) Orthodox Cathedral. Any building that's one-hundred-twenty years old has stories to tell (their three bells were a gift of the last Czar) and a tour of the cathedral is one you will remember. Globeville Orthodox Festival

Take a tour of the historic cathedral

So much food, such variety!

The next big thing is the Polish Food Festival at St. Joseph Polish Parish at the corner of 46th Avenue and Pearl Street - this is the red church spire visible from I-70. Check the program for prices of food and Polish beer, and the schedule of entertainment. Polish Food Festival

Krakowiacy Polish dancers

Celebrations for the festival at Holy Rosary Church are still in the planning stages. Save the date, Saturday October 6th. There will be food! Check the website for information. Holy Rosary Denver

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Immigrants and American Flags

How many American flags are in each of these photos? They seem almost as prominent as the people in the photos and they are just as significant. 
The first photo was taken of the ten-year-old Western Slavonic Association, a fraternal insurance organization that provided sick and death benefits for its members. The delegates to this convention in Leadville in 1919 are proud that their society survived and had been growing for a decade. In addition, members of the Western Slavonic wanted to make a strong statement about their loyalty to their new country.
After World War I, Americans sought to distance themselves from the rest of the world and turned inward. The Great War had cost American lives, but had failed to make the world safe for Democracy. The violence and anarchy of the Bolshevik Revolution was the last straw.
While the United States had welcomed and even recruited immigrants from the 1880s to World War I, it seemed time to be much more selective, and Globeville's immigrants received increased scrutiny.
Who were these people anyway? Slovenes? Croats? Their passports said Austria. And German Russians - were they German or Russian? Carpatho-Russians? Are they Bolsheviks?
These groups had large families, were Papists (Catholic) or Orthodox, clannish, and came from regions of the world rife with revolutions and assassinations. They might be anarchists! And they didn't speak English.
Even though many of their sons had served in the U. S. military during World War I, ethnic groups in Globeville were suspect. Aware of the distrust leveled at them, people prominently displayed American flags at church and lodge gatherings. A strong statement to emphasize their loyalty. 

 1919 convention of the Western Slavonic Association

Gathering of Serboban Lodge

Polish National Alliance, May Day parade on Washington Street

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lalo and Eumelia C. de Baca, Community Leaders

“Cabeza de Vaca, head of the cow,” Lalo C. de Baca explained. “That’s the full name. There was a Spanish explorer named Alvar Cabeza de Vaca who spent about six years living with the Indians in New Mexico in the 1500s and we’re related to him. Of course, our name has shrunk from Cabeza de Vaca to Cabeza de Baca, C. de Baca and Baca. My dad’s uncle, Ezequiel C. de Baca, was governor of New Mexico in 1917. So we’ve been here awhile.
Born in 1919 on a small farm near Las Vegas, New Mexico, Lalo grew up in a family that included three girls and three boys. "We raised corn, beans and cows and it was real hard work...we were really poor but everyone else was too."
Like his Spanish ancestors, Lalo left his home in search of opportunity, arriving in Denver in 1936, and working a variety of temporary and seasonal jobs before joining the National Guard. His unit was mobilized in 1940, and he served in Fort Sill, Oklahoma during World War II.
1942 was a year of milestones, with Lalo being discharged from the Army, beginning a job at Swift & Company and marrying his childhood sweetheart, Eumelia Medina. Lalo and Eumelia would have seven daughters and one son, and instill in them a love for their Spanish heritage and culture.
Lalo moved his family moved to Globeville in 1960, "I bought the house on Sherman Street from Caspar Yeada because I could walk to work. I could walk everywhere I needed to go."
Lalo and Eumelia got involved in their new neighborhood right away. "I thought we ought to have light here on the street so I went to Public Service and got them to put it in." And Eumelia created a neighborhood watch, going from house to house to promote the program and wearing a whistle in case she was bothered by gang members. Lalo remembered, "There were some tough kids in the neighborhood at that time." Lalo and Eumelia became active in the Globeville Civic Association, battling the city's efforts to turn Globeville into an industrial area, and fighting the placement of halfway houses in nearby Denargo Market. There would be bigger battles ahead.
In 1997, Lalo, Eumelia and 390 of their neighbors filed a lawsuit against the the American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO, for contamination of the south side of Globeville. The company settled before the case even went to trial, agreeing to pay $12 million dollars to homeowners, renters and attorneys, and clean up the area south of I-70. 
A lot has happened in Globeville since the settlement. The south side of Globeville was eventually remediated, neighbors were compensated and the ASARCO site has been cleaned and redeveloped into warehouse space.
Eumelia passed away in 2003 and Lalo in 2014, but they are remembered in Globeville. C. de Bacas are held up as examples of persistence, caring for their community and the power of individuals to battle the city and a multinational corporation. They leave eight children, seventeen grandchildren, eighteen great grandchildren, four great great grandchildren, and a community that is grateful for their service.
* Between 1528 and 1536 Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca traveled between Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. An exciting account can be found by Tony Horwitz, “A Voyage Long and Strange. Rediscovering the New World” 2008 Henry Holt and Company LLC.

 Eumelia and Lalo C. de Baca

Thursday, April 26, 2018

John Zapien - Community Activist

Maybe its his oversized voice or his intense personality, but John Zapien seems much larger than he is. Although he has never been elected to public office, Zapien has been a force of nature in Globeville, representing residents concerns almost as soon as he arrived in 1958.
“Im originally from Kansas City in an area thats a lot like Globeville. A lot of Croatian, Serbian, Polish and Belgian. Im the only one in my family who lives in Colorado, courtesy of Uncle Sam. When I first moved to Globeville, I worked construction and then got on at Wilson Meatpacking.” Both construction and meatpacking were seasonal and when Zapien left Wilson, he went to work as a paralegal for the Model Cities Program (part of Lyndon Johnsons Great Society and War on Poverty Program). The program gave participants a crash course in “Poverty Law,” which Zapien used to battle a proposed rendering plant (PepCol) along Washington. The application for the plant was denied and led to the health departments regulation of industry odors. “That had never been done before,” Zapien remarked.
In 1974, Zapien was appointed by Joe Shoemaker, Chairman of the Platte River Development Committee (PRDC), to work with committee members to revitalize the polluted waterway. Without city funds and no legal authority, Zapien used his persuasive methods to get polluters (including the city of Denver) to not only cease dumping, but to clean up their immediate area. In 1976, the PRDC became The Greenway Foundation and its 100 miles of riverside trails and parks are a testament to the early efforts of the organization.
In 1975, Zapien and Globeville neighbors battled the Denver Planning Boards goal of letting the  neighborhood “evolve into an industrial area. Zapien is remembered for inviting the Board to a meeting in the community, then presenting a meat cleaver to them for “carving up Globeville.” The Board withdrew the plan in 1977.
Zapiens theatrical antics have garnered some criticism, but his unorthodox methods have also produced results, including the defeat of a proposed medical incinerator, the removal of an unwanted homeless shelter, and increased voter registration.
Residents of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea (GES) trust Zapien to stand up for them. And so he does. As the only Voting Community Member of the 13-member board of the National Westerns Center,  Zapien remarked, “This is the best chance our neighborhoods have in moving forward and we are all excited for the educational, cultural and economic opportunities this campus will bring our community.” The communities are counting on Zapien, and by whatever tactics are necessary, he will be their voice.
 John Zapien, Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Monday, March 26, 2018

Reverend Jan Mucha, St. Joseph's Polish Church in Globeville

Father Jan Mucha first came to St. Joseph's Polish Church in 1970 while visiting relatives in the United States. Parishioners liked the young Polish priest and asked him to stay. Mucha accepted their invitation, assisting the pastor, Father Fraczkowski, and assuming the pastorate in January, 1974, after the death of Fraczkowski. 
Under Father Mucha's pastorate, the parish embraced its Polish traditions - the Saturday blessing of Easter baskets, and the Corpus Christi procession through the Globeville neighborhood. Masses were celebrated in both English and Polish. Father Mucha completed a full restoration of the church in time for the parish’s 75th anniversary in 1977 and presided over the 100th anniversary of the parish in 2002. After the fall of Communism, Father Mucha welcomed a new generation of Poles, who brought traditions like the Krakowiacy Polish dancers, Polish food festivals and language lessons in the school.
Father Mucha seemed to exude joy - he genuinely enjoyed his calling, his parishioners and his small parish in an urban neighborhood. In July 2010, Father Mucha retired to Mullen Home where he remained until his passing on March 21st, 2018. Visitation will be held Tuesday, March 27th, at 1:00 pm, followed by a Rosary at 2:00 pm at Mullen Home, 3629 W. 29th Avenue, Denver 80211.
Visitation, also on Tuesday, March 27th,5:00 pm, followed by a Rosary at 6:00 pm at St. Joseph's Polish Church, 517 E 46th Avenue, Denver 80216. Funeral Mass Wednesday, March 28th, 10:00 am at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Burial at Mt Olivet.
Sign the condolence book at 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Fences and gates in Globeville

Globeville has been around for more than a century and a walk through the neighborhood is almost like viewing an archaeological site: remnants of every stage of its development are still visible. Before the 1880s, the prairie north of Denver was grassland, sparsely settled by American-born farmers and homesteaders. With the arrival of the railroads, three large smelters, factories, foundries, brickyards and meat packers, the area evolved into an industrial town populated by immigrants. The newcomers built what they could afford on tiny lots, often using railroad lumber purchased from the Burlington shops. Property was hard to come by in the old country and the settlers from eastern Europe and Russia took great pride in owning a home.
Once the house was built, owners would build a fence to keep livestock out and the children in the yard. Many of those iron fences and gates remain - sturdy reminders of those proud pioneers.

Beautiful ironwork, flagstone sidewalks
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

A heritage rose hugs and old fence
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Richter Iron Works, a foundry at 32nd and Blake
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Community Activist - Sarah Wolf

“The highways ruined Globeville,” Sarah Wolf explained.“Before the highways, Globeville was the best place in the world. We had people from all over the world - Austrians, Swedes, Germans, Russians, Polacks, Irish and one black family - and we all got along.” 
For years, rumors about construction of interstate highways were whispered and debated. In 1950, the Valley Highway (I-25) sliced off the western edge of the neighborhood, and in 1960 work began on I-70, the east-west thoroughfare that cut through the heart of the community. Battling the Valley Highway led to Sarahs first experience fighting the city.  
“We had meetings at St. Jacobs Hall, at churches, businesses and at city hall. When its your home, you have to stand up. The neighbors even hired lawyers, but the decision to build the freeways through Globeville had been made long ago. Construction began and many long-time residents moved away. Not Sarah Wolf. I was born in this house. 
The house was built by her father, John Wolf. Sarah had a faraway look in her eyes.“My dad worked for the Globe Smelter for a dollar a day, using a wheelbarrow to move ore around. He worked nights, and during the day, he built this house. As soon as he saved a little money, he sent for other family members from the old country. My dads family and my mothers family were all here and we all lived on Leaf Court.
“When they were in Russia, they had no say about their lives and had to answer to the czar. In this country, my dad, a poor immigrant, was elected a trustee of Globeville. He really liked having a say in making his town a good place to live. 
Sarah inherited her fathers pride in his community as well as his talent for organizing. When plans to enlarge the Mousetrap were revealed in the mid 1970s, ramps to the neighborhood had been eliminated. Sarahs voice rose. Globeville would be cut off. There would be no access for the people who live here, fire trucks and ambulances would take longer to answer calls, and trucks would have to go through the neighborhood to get to their plants. 
We held meetings at the churches, the lodges and the Globeville Civic Association. I persuaded the presidents of Noble Sysco and Anheuser Busch to write letters, and I got Councilmen Eugene DiManna and State Representative Ted Bendelow involved.” 
The letters and meetings paid off.
A bridge at 48th Avenue to the Pecos Street interchange was built and dedicated on August 30, 1978. Shortly after the bridge opened, Sarahs neighbors petitioned the city to have the bridge named in her honor. In 1988, their wish was granted by Mayor Federico Peña. A bronze plaque that read Sarahs Bridgewas embedded in the base on the east side. The plaque represents much of what Sarah believed: that in America, an immigrant can make good, that persistence can prevail, and that the city government can be held accountable to all its citizens.   

The family of John Wolf about 1914.
Front row, left to right, Grandfather Peter Wolf, David,
John Wolf Sr., Sarah, Ann Marie (nee Kilthau).
Standing, left to right, Christine, Katherine, Adam, John and Hulda.
Used with written permission from Sarah Wolf.

Dedication ceremony, August 30, 1978
Left to right,
Councilman Larry Perry, Councilman Sal Carpio,
Sarah Wolf and
Manager of Public Works Harold Cook,

Used with written permission from Sarah Wolf.