Park Hill East: Colfax to 23rd, Holly to Monaco
Park Hill West: Colfax to 23rd, Albion to Hudson
The American Planning Association selected Park Hill
as one of the 10 “Great Neighborhoods” in America for 2008.
|How did a fall from a horse, straight into the mud, lead to the rise of Park Hill, one of Denver’s most treasured neighborhoods? On assignment to deliver a message to Kaiser Wilhelm I, Baron von Winckler gallantly galloped up, waved to a watching crowd (which included his lady love), and proceeded to fall over his horse’s head into a mud puddle at the feet of the Kaiser! Leaving his country in disgrace, the Baron arrived in Denver in 1884. With Baron von Richthofen, he bought a large tract of real estate east of City Park. The partnership dissolved, but Winckler platted Park Hill (Colorado Boulevard to Dahlia, Montview to 26th) in 1887.The Baron was creative in promoting his new neighborhood—he built a horse racing track and imported fabulous horses and jockeys to lure investors. He offered some of his property to be used for Colorado volunteers preparing for the Spanish-American War in 1898. With not much success, the Baron committed suicide in 1898. Little did he know that his pet project would soon be a thriving, diverse community!
David B. Gamble led a syndicate that bought the Baron’s land holdings after his death and by 1912; Park Hill had become one of the most popular residential districts in Denver, with a population of 2,500. Many families from Europe settled here, as well as a few African-American families.
Other subdivisions were platted, including Hartman’s Addition (Colorado to Dahlia, Colfax to Montview) and More’s Park Heights (Dahlia to Holly, Montview to 23rd). Caspar R. Hartman platted his area in larger, square, one-acre lots called Park Hill Squares. Downington (Forest Street Parkway to Monaco, Colfax to Montview) was one of the largest additions and was platted in 1886.
With all of these areas, the extension of streetcar lines was vital to neighborhood growth and development. Jacob M. Downington, partnered with Warwick M. Downing (Mayor Speer’s Parks Commissioner) and created more boulevards and parkways in this neighborhood than any other in Denver. Additionally, Downington created restrictive covenants on building that prevented stores, hospitals, apartments from being constructed—he went further, and also defined the community as “whites-only, despite the fact that African-Americans such as Zenon Brinckler were among the first settlers of Park Hill. In the early 1900’s, classes at Park Hill Elementary School were integrated though socializing with whites was forbidden.
Known for its dairy farms and soil, which was perfect for brick making and utilized throughout Denver for building, the area that was originally platted as Park Hill became home to Colorado’s first airports. Curtis Humphrey Field (26th and Oneida) was the state’s first commercial airport and began regional passenger service in 1919. Lowry Field opened in 1938 as a training center for the Colorado Air National Guard—and was even visited by Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart! Mayor Stapleton spearheaded the drive to create a city airport and dedicated Denver Municipal Airport in 1929. Renamed Stapleton in 1994, it underwent tremendous expansion until closing in 1995 when Denver International Airport was built.
Park Hill became the site of one of the earliest struggles for integration in the Untied States. In the post WWII housing shortage, Five Points was becoming severely overcrowded with over 13,000 residents. Denver Mayor Quigg Newton pushed for Park Hill to allow African-Americans to move to the newest subdivision located at 35th and Dahlia. Racially restrictive covenants were ruled by the US Supreme Court to be unenforceable in 1949. Colorado improved its anti-discrimination and fair housing laws, and African-Americans began to migrate to Park Hill.
When Barett Elementary School opened at 29th and Jackson in 1960 and facilitated the movement of African-American students from Park Hill to Barett, a group of seven African-Americans sued Denver Public Schools, arguing that their children were denied their constitutional rights. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1973 that DPS must rearrange the school boundaries and institute forced busing.