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Capitol Hill History

8th Avenue to Colfax, Sherman to Corona


Capitol Hill has undergone more change in the past century than any other neighborhood in Denver. Henry Brown laid claim to a desolate hill in 1864 and for years afterward it was laughingly called “Brown’s Bluff.” Brown envisioned the high ground as the logical place to build a state capitol building, and in 1868, he donated the area between Colfax Avenue, Lincoln Street, Grant Street and Fourteenth Avenue for this purpose. The remainder was platted into a true east-west grid (going against the diagonal of the Downtown Area) for residential use.

While Mr. Brown visualized a grand residential area, it took Mr J. W. Smith to bring water to the area and the city. Without the building of “Smith’s Ditch” central Denver could not have been developed. Once water was available, Capitol Hill became the place to live. The wealthy of Denver flocked to “Millionaires Row” (now Grant Street) on “Quality Hill,” and along East Colfax Avenue where they outdid each other, constructing luxurious mansions. Architecture that incorporated a variety of classical styles was noted for its flamboyance became known as the “Denver Style.” Each owner whimsically added turrets, spires and porches and the finished home rarely bore any resemblance to the original design.

Following the 1893 “Silver Crash” and into the early 20th century, development in Capitol Hill became more modest; and middle-class apartment buildings were constructed. Stately mansions along East colfax gave way to commercial development and by the mid 1920s, the face of Capitol Hill had changed. The “Depression Era” brought harder times still; many of the once-splendid homes fell into disrepair and were demolished or converted into apartments. After World War II, multi-family housing for the returning GIs and their families sprung up in the neighborhood. For the next twenty years more of the stately old homes were treated to the wrecking-ball to make way for the construction of apartment/condominium complexes. Recently, however, Denverites, in an effort to preserve some of the historical character of Capitol Hill, have rejected the wholesale construction of multi-family high rise units and favored rehabilitation and renovation of the turn-of-the-century homes.

Today, past and present reside comfortably side by side in Capitol Hill. Many of Colorado’s leading historical figures lived at one time or another in Capitol Hill. The “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Horace and “Baby Doe” Tabor, James B. Grant, and Walter Cheesman, whose home at 8th Avenue and Logan survives today as the Colorado Governor’s Mansion, were some of the early inhabitants.

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