West 38th Avenue to West 32nd Avenue, Zuni Street to Federal Boulevard
A reverend armed with saving the wild, uncivilized souls of Denver as his goal is to be credited with the development of the Highlands area of the city. Prior to his arrival, during the Gold Rush of 1858-1859, three main towns had been established—Auraria (between Platt River and Cherry Creek), Denver City, and Highland (directly to the west of the Platte River). These three combined in 1861, with Highland becoming “North Denver.” Reverend Walter McDuffie Potter came to Denver in 1863 with his sister Lucy and homesteaded 320 acres West of the Platte River. By 1872, 36 subdivisions had been platted.Bragging about its cleaner air and water above the pollution of Denver—and also touting its “high morals,” “Highlands” was incorporated as its own city in 1875. “Boulevard F” or “The Boulevard” (now Federal Boulevard) was the primary street bordered by ornate mansions and trees. Residents of the area so lovingly nurtured their gardens and trees the Highlands came to be called “Garden City of the Plains.”
The discovery of artesian water by R.L. McCormick provided clean drinking water to the neighborhood residents beginning in 1886. Denver residents at the time were still straining water from their taps to remove small fish! Though intended to be its own city, transportation problems crossing the Platte River into Denver as well as the financial problems resulting from the Silver Crash led residents to vote to join Denver in 1896.
Unlike most of Denver, blocks were laid out in Potter-Highlands as squares. This allowed for all homes to be facing streets as well as for a carriage turnaround in the center of the block. Today many of these center blocks have been distributed among adjoining properties, though some center lots remain.
The majority of the homes in the Potter-Highlands area were constructed between 1893 and 1939. Mansions were built to attract buyers to the area with the limit of one mansion per block. Later, subdividing occurred and lots were filled with more modest construction. One of Denver’s earliest streetcar suburbs, the West Highlands area had its own shopping district at 32nd and Lowell, that today is one of the most charming in the city.
Highlands, because of the clean air and water, became a very popular location for tuberculosis sufferers to come for treatment. Many sanitariums were located here—The Oakes Home at 32nd and Decatur being the largest.
Peppered with many examples of Queen Anne architecture, Potter-Highlands was designated a historic district in 1979 with its boundaries expanded to Federal to Zuni, 32nd to 38th Avenues in 1987.