Broadway to Downing, Mississippi to Evans
|So…is it Platte Park or Platt Park? That is the question…|
Named in the 1860’s as “Platte Park” using the letter “e”, there is some confusion if the intention was to name the neighborhood after the South Platte River or to name it after James Platt, founder of Platt Paper Company and early Denver leader, like the park. Today, the accepted spelling and official name of the neighborhood is Platt Park.
Platt Park was originally a portion of the area that was incorporated as the Town of South Denver in 1886. Formed to limit the creation of more saloons and roadhouses, the Town instituted many ordinances to prohibit any nuisance and misdemeanor possible—even including a liquor license fee of $2,500!
James Fleming was the first and only mayor of South Denver and originally came from Pennsylvania. His estate, built in 1882 at Grant and Florida streets, initially covered the entire block and included an orchard known as Fleming’s Grove. The property was sold to the Town in 1891 and was converted into the jail, library, and town hall.
After being annexed to the City of Denver in 1894, the Fleming estate continued to serve the community—being used as a library until 1913 and later as the location of the Platt Park Senior Center, built in 1974.
With the extension of the Denver Tramway Company’s trolley car line south along Pearl Street from Alameda to Evans and east to the University of Denver, the surrounding neighborhoods, including Platt Park, began to boom. Between 1900 and 1915 many buildings were completed along this street, both residential and commercial. Businesses including barber and beauty shops, hardware stores, pharmacies, mechanics, movies, and diners popped up to serve the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. Much of the architecture in the neighborhood is turn-of the-century Victorian and bungalows from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s.
As throughout the country, the Stock Market Crash and Great Depression impacted the businesses along Old South Pearl and many were forced to shut their doors. However, as the neighborhood continued to grow new businesses continued to move in. With the completion of Interstate 25 in the 50’s, the original South Pearl Street corridor was cut in half.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, many businesses were again forced to close as larger scale retailing drew customers away from the area. Artisans were attracted to the vacant buildings by cheap rents and moved in. In 1978, the Old South Pearl Merchant’s Association began holding its annual street fair and focused energy on improving the look of South Pearl Street. With grants from the City, the association installed the old fashioned street lamps and cobbled pavers.
Today, Old South Pearl Street and its quaint shops, along with Platt Park, and the new light rail station expected to be completed within the next few years, make the Platt Park neighborhood one of the most popular in Central Denver.