Auraria Denver Urban Hike Through Denver's Historical Beginnings

Auraria Denver Urban Hike Through Denver's Historical Beginnings

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The Auraria neighborhood overlooks the confluence of the Platte River and Cherry Creek. Many folks know Auraria as the home to three college campuses or as the site of the original Denver. But the one common denominator that pulls together this neighborhood would be the rise and fall of political agendas. For this Denver Neighborhood walk, you'll take an urban hike through Auraria, learn about the impact the 1965 flood had on an entire community, get a whiff of social injustice and discover a rich history of the wax and wane of Denver.

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Auraria Urban Hiking--Where Denver Politics Began Many folks know Auraria as the home to three college campuses or as the site of the original Denver. But t

Denver's history actually started up river near the Dry Creek and Platte River confluence at what is now Grant Frontier Park in a town originally called Montana City. When the wished-for gold didn't appear, the settlers moved down river to the confluence of the Cherry Creek and Platte River. Here, two brothers from Auraria, Georgia (named after the chemical element for gold, Au), resettled their community, still hoping for the big gold strike. It never came at the confluence, but gold did strike just down river at the confluence of the Clear Creek and the Platte, where you can still pan for gold!

None the less, Auraria sprouted up quickly. It drew the attention of General William Larimer who arrived to town and established the competing town of Denver, named after the Kansas Territorial Governor James W Denver, across from the confluence. Tousling and politicking began. Soon, Auraria gave way to Denver, and Denver became the queen of the Platte River. Legend says that the Auraria coalition lost to the Denver coalition in naming rights over a whiskey and a duel. Thus, Denver overtook Auraria.

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By the way, ever wondered why there are so many five-pointed intersections in Denver? Auraria laid out its streets parallel to the Cherry Creek and Denver laid them out parallel to the Platte River. When the joined, the cattywompus streets came together in five-way intersections.

As you're walking through what is now the Higher Ed Campus, you'll see the old Tivoli Brewing building, which is now a student-run brewery inside the student center. Historically, with people came beer, of course. The Tivoli Brewing company established in 1864 and grew quickly, changing hands many times. After the 1965 flood and employee strike, it closed, only to return later as part of the college campus.

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Why Is there an Historic District in the Middle of a College Campus?

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When the 1965 flood invaded Auraria and destroyed much of the vibrant Hispanic neighborhood that originally settled in this area, Denver leaders gathered to decide how to renovate and restore the destruction. Ultimately politicking their way to building an Higher Education campus to home UC Denver, Metro State, and Community College of Denver, Denver politicians' decisions displaced the remaining Hispanic population and created the 9th Avenue Historic District. Many of the original members of the Hispanic population moved to the Lincoln/La Alma neighborhood. The original church, St Cajetan, still remains on the campus and is now the student center. Students who can claim heritage to the original Hispanic families receive scholarships to any of the Auraria campus school.

In the 9th Avenue Historic District, you'll find many examples of uniquely-Denver architecture, Golda Meir's home, and department offices.

Amusement Parks!

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Shortly following the campus designation, Elitch Gardens moved in (which is moving out in 2021.) Then, not to be outdone by the other large event arenas in the area, the City put in the Pepsi Center in 1999 where Celine Dion opened the venue. Thus by the early 2000s, not much remained of the original neighborhoods but the regional politicking continues.

Neighborhood Boundaries

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The existing Auraria neighborhood boundaries make a  triangle shape of I25, the Cherry Creek and West Colfax.

The Route

To enjoy an urban hike through Auraria and to hit on the top spots mentioned above, you can do a nice 3.5 mile route in and around the campus. Start at the Auraria Library (take public transit to get there, 1100 Lawrence St, Denver, CO 80204.) Head east toward downtown, crossing Speer and catching the ramp down to Cherry Creek. Cross the creek then take a left on the pedestrian path, avoiding the bikes only path on the south side of the creek.

Notice all of the street art along the walls that bank the creek. Funded by the Denver Arts and Venues, these murals change often, so return often. Right before arriving at the confluence of the Platte River and the Cherry Creek, take the ramp up and then across Cherry Creek.

Continue around the bend at the confluence, staying on the east side of the Platte. You'll pass Centennial Gardens, patterned after Gardens of Versailles, that has paths and patterned flowerbeds showcasing native species. You'll then pass Elitch Gardens, an amusement park full of roller coasters, which was once on the outskirts of town and was then relocated to this location in 1995. It's moving again in 2021.

Pass under Bronco bridge, then veer to the left past the small, blue parking building. Cross the railroad tracks and then the light rail tracks, staying on the sidewalk as it bends slightly to the right. You'll arrive back on the Auraria campus. At 8th Street, take a right.

Walk one block, take a left and then take a right on 9th Street. You'll see the 9th Street Historic District in front of you. On the right is the St Cajetan's church. Once the cultural and religious center of the community, it now serves as venue to the universities and community events. Continue down the street, passing Golda Meir's house. Be sure to read the plaques in front of each home, and you'll discover stories of the locals, the architecture and more history of the area.

At the end of the sidewalk, make a u-turn and continue up the other side of 9th Street Historic District, and continue to read the plaques along the way. When you reach the mercantile, take a right on Curtis Street and a left on 10th Street, returning back to where you started at the library.

Click here to see the route, map, and turn by turn directions.

Walking Auraria Neighborhood and Supporting Denver By Foot

If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family.

Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!

West Highland Neighborhood Denver Walk Hike

West Highland Urban Hiking Denver

The story of West Highland is very similar to Highland (notice no "s", according to the official list of Denver neighborhoods.) Like its eastern neighbor Highland, West Highland formed out of the desire for folks to get out of the smokey bottom lands of Denver and find cleaner air. So it's no wonder the neighborhood is filled with turn-of-the century Victorians, a few TB sanitariums, and smaller homes that filled in where the larger homes gave way.

The First Female Zookeeper

Also "out in West Highland", rose the famous Elitch’s Zoological Gardens. Run by Mary Elitch, the first female zookeeper, botanic gardener, and theatre owner in the US, this once a booming entertainment complex with live shows, amusements, carousels, and concerts, its theatre and famous labyrinth remain. Sadly the gardens are gone, but the amusements and rides are now in the Central Platte Valley, also known as LoDo (Denver.) The Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation now owns and runs the current venue.

Tony Lived Here!

While walking the neighborhood, be sure to pass through what the locals hope is a future Packard Historic District between Lowell and the alley between Perry and Osceola, 32nd and 35th. This area is where many famous women used to live, including Antoinette Perry, namesake of the “Tony Awards”.

The Alleys Are Fun, Too

You'll find some treats along this walk, including a bedpost art display, hanging tapestries, and fanciful painted homes. It's 3 miles of historic fun.

Click here to see the route, map, and turn by turn directions.

Buy my ebook that has all the 78 neighborhoods and their interactive maps, Walking Denver's 78 Neighborhoods.

The Route:

Start at 3271 Wolff St. Walk north to W 36th Ave, take a right. At Vrain St, take a left and walk up through the playground. Pass by the old lady in a shoe piece on the playground, making your way to the Sprouts parking lot.

At the parking lot, turn right and see the large green building on your right. This is the old Elitch Theatre. Continue walking to the west and see the old pavilion where the carousel once was. If it's empty, go in and walk the labyrinth while also reading the instructions for enjoying it written on the wall. Exit onto W 37 Ave.

Walk easterly to Quitman St, take a right. Take a left on W 35th Ave. At the alley between Perry and Osceola, turn right. Enjoy the historic and restored garages in the alley. At W 33rd Ave, turn left. Cross Irving St and walk southeasterly along W Fair View Place to Highland Park.

Walk a few steps along Grove St at the park then take a right on Green Court. Cross Speer on to W 32nd.

Enjoy the shops on W 32nd, keeping your eye out for the Ford House, which is west of Lowell Boulevard, between Osceloa and Newton streets. It is the home of the famous female physician, Mary Ford and her partner, Helene Byington — whose daughter, Spring Byington, was a Hollywood actress from 1930 to 1960.

Take a right on Perry St and then a left on W 33rd. At Wolff St, take a left, returning you back to the start.

What did you like best about this walk?

~See you on the trail


Sunnyside Neighborhood Denver Walk Hike

Sunny on This Side, Sunnyside

Taking an urban hike through Sunnyside provides an interesting and engaging opportunity to see how diversity and variety can cohabitat. I loved Sunnyside.

Sunnyside, with boundaries of the Union Pacific Railroad lines on the east, Interstate 70 on the north, Federal Boulevard on the West and 38th Avenue on the south, has a mix of housing, with everything from income-qualified blocks of homes to restored large turn-of-the century homes and WWII cottages intermingled within.

Good Neighbors

A good community has good neighbors. In Sunnyside, the neighbors have created the Sunnyside Music Fest, held in Chaffee Park in September. They also formed the Troy Chavez Memorial Peace Garden, in response to gang violence, to provide local kids with health after-school activities. In addition, Sunnyside's downtown area thrives with the excellent Sunny's Cafe (get the Hipster!) and rumors of a new brewery coming to Zuni.

From income-qualified homes to old treasures, Sunnyside's growth has waxed and waned. But it remembers its past, embraces its present, and thinks about its future. The artwork in alleys honors Sunnsyide's Native American street-naming conventions. So, while walking in Sunnyside, be sure to see the entire neighborhood, not just some of its more popular areas.

The Route:

Start at 4202 Lipan St. Head north, enjoying the artwork on the dumpsters around the income-qualified housing. Take a left on W 46th Ave. At Tejon St, head south.

You'll pass Chaffee Park on the left. Drop down and see Artist Mark Lansdon’s ‘Garden of Flowers', then come back up and go west on W 44th Ave.

Drop in on Common Grounds for a cuppa or if you need to use the restroom. Continue toward Zuni, walking through the small commercial area, Sunny's Cafe, and the darling auto shop on the side side of the street. Take a left on Zuni.

Take a right on W 43rd Ave then a left on Bryant St. At W 39th Ave, turn east (left).

At Tejon, take a right and then a left into the first alley. Walk in the ally until you come to the Troy Chavez Garden. Walk through the garden, reading the signs and artwork, making sure you see the tiles on the columns at the entry.  Exit the garden at Shoshone, turning north.

Take a right on W 40th Ave, then a left on the alley between Osage and Navajo, then a right on W 41st Ave.

At Navajo, head north, noticing the artwork in the street and the gorgeous Horace Mann school, now Trevista. At W 42nd St, take a right and return back to Lipan where you began this 3.5-mile amble.

Click here to see the route, map, and turn by turn directions.

Sloan Lake Neighborhood Denver Walk Hike

Sloan's Leaky Lake

Let's first start with what the official name of this neighborhood is. Well, actually, we have to go back to before was 1860 and Thomas M Sloan decided he needed some water for his farm. So he drilled a well, and "supposedly" punched a whole into the unknown aquifer below. It sprang a leak, and 24 hours later, the lake was born.

What's It Really Called?

It had names. Sloan's Leak, Sloan Lake, and Sloan's Lake. For decades, the names interchanged. In the early 1990s, the local residents gathered together a petition for the name to officially be Sloan's Lake. The City of Denver then changed all the names designating the neighborhood to be Sloan's Lake Park. But someone forgot to tell the copy writer in the City, and thus, the City officially calls the neighborhood, "Sloan Lake." Since this blog is about tempting you with fun walks in all of Denver's official 78 neighborhoods, we'll go with Sloan Lake.

 It's Big

Thus, Sloan Lake neighborhood's boundaries are 29th Avenue to the North, 17th Avenue to the South, Federal Boulevard to East, and Sheridan Boulevard to the West. The lake is the largest in the City, encompassing both Compass Lake and Sloan Lake for a total of 177 acres. The surrounding park around the lake makes the entire area be Denver's second largest park. But, now that the Northfield Parks are open in north Stapleton, I wonder if its second in size will change.

Ostrich-drawn Cinderella Carriages?

Lots of fun has been had on the lake. From the historic Manhattan Beach, which housed circles acts, ostrich-drawn Cinderella sleds, elephants, and even flying human cannons, to pleasure boats that cruised the lake yet ultimately sank, Sloan Lake has invited Denverites to its shores for over a century. Now the banks have sail boats, paddle boats, and if it ever gets cold enough again for the lake to freeze for consecutive days, ice skating.

A Square, a Victorian and a WWII...

Surrounding the lake is a neighborhood that has waxed and waned with the times. Surprisingly, the homes on each block can vary from recent moderns to Denver Squares with WWII housing sprinkled in between. One block had a modern on the corner, two WWII houses in the middle, a Denver Square, a brick Victorian, and a Santa Fe adobe style home.

And a Centrally Located School

The original high school turned junior high is actually outside of the official Denver boundaries of Sloan Lake. But an elementary school with vibrant playground walls sits in the middle of the neighborhood, anchoring the neighborhood northeast of the lake.

Despite its un-agreed-upon name, our 3.3 mile walk took us through this fun and architecturally intriguing neighborhood, Sloan Lake.

The Route:

Start at 3798 W 29th Ave. Be sure to pay attention to the parking signs. Walk west to Osceola St and turn left. Continue to W 26th Ave, take a right.

At Perry St, take a left, then a right on W 25th Ave. Cross the grassy park to the lake, and walk along the lake to the southeast. You'll pass the marina, the area where Manhattan Beach was, and a white stone statue of a pelican.

Enjoy the lake to W 20th Ave. Go west to Newton St. Take a left on Newton and then a right on W 21st Ave.

At Irving St go left (north) to W 24th Ave and then take a right on Julian St. Take a left on W 25th Ave.

You'll come to the neighborhood school. Take a right on King St, enjoying the artwork along the playground's wall. Cross 26th, continuing north on King.

At W 29th Ave, take a left, returning back to your start.
Click here to see the route, map, and turn by turn directions.

Regis Neighborhood Denver Walk Hike

Regis Urban Hiking Denver

Sitting on the hill just north of I70 is Regis, a neighborhood that broke itself off from its southern celery farmers in Berkeley. Bounded by 52nd St to the north, Federal to the east, Harlan to the west and I70 to the south, Regis separated from Berkeley in order to become its own enclave of higher society.

Custom Homes and Homes for Everyone

Regardless of the reasons to live in Regis, it's a great neighborhood for an interesting urban hike of over 4 miles. Originally, William Lang built 35 beautiful custom homes to attract the middle class away from the smokey bottoms of the Platte and away from snooty Cap Hill. Although only a few of those original homes still stand, the neighborhood's big features now are the Willis Case Golf Course and Regis University.

And a University, Too!

The Jesuit school, Regis University, attracts students from all backgrounds and religions. Although it was originally Las Vegas College in New Mexico and the College of the Sacred Heart in Morrison, it eventually found its home here by way of a land donation from the controversial and fantastical  John Brisben Walker. Upon its move north of Berkeley, the school became Regis College and then Regis University, ultimately becoming the namesake of the neighborhood.

But Wait, There's More!

Also within the neighborhood is the old El Jezbel Shrine (now turning into condos) and a Buddist monastery as well. Around every corner is a surprise. We even found a shoe garden!

Across from Regis sits the antique-school-turned-housing, Berkeley School apartments. At one time, a tunnel ran from the main school building to its northern expansion, and the children practiced bomb sheltering in the tunnel. Each class had its own spot along the wall to gather to wait out the bomb drills.

Fun and Frivolity

To the very west end of the neighborhood is Inspiration Point--known by many Denver teenagers. During the day, the views across the front range hold imaginations of adventure and travel. Mayor Speer created the area as part of his City Beautiful campaign.

This walk takes you through some of the major and a few minor features of this interesting neighborhood.

The Route:

Start at 5000 Tennyson. Walk to the west along 50th where it ends at the El Jezbel temple, now becoming a condo complex and is across from the Willis Case Golf Course club house. Return back to Tennyson and head south.

Pass some of the original homes built in the former North Denver nee Berkeley Hills nee Regis. Take a left on W 49th Ave, walking past more beautiful, original homes. At Newton St, take a left, heading north.

At W 50th Ave, take a right then a left on Lowell Blvd. Notice the old Berkeley School on the left and then cross over Lowell into the Regis University Campus.

Make your way to the center of the campus to look north at the original Regis building. Read the various plaques, then make your way behind the building. Just to the north and west of the building is a small foot path that takes you to a secluded, private area. In this area is a small table and a statue of Jesus Christ. The statue has a very different perspective of how Jesus appeared. When finished, return to the south of the historic building.

Make your way easterly across the main campus courtyard to the Admissions Building. Just to the north of the building is a statue to James Joyce, and it's worth an interesting stop.

When finished thinking about the Dubliners and other Joyce novels, continue south to the front of the campus and enjoy additional religion-inspired artwork. When finished exploring the campus, exit it on W 50th Ave, continuing to the east.

Take a right on Grove St, then a right on W 49th Ave.

Take a left on Julian Street then a right on W 48th Ave. Pass the monastery. At the end of 48th, there is a little sidewalk path that sneaks to Lowell Blvd.

At Lowell, turn north (right). Pass the famous Goldspot Brewing Company and the Noshery. As you continue north along this street where the trolley once ran, also notice the old and older gas stations along the way. Take a left on W 50th Ave.

Take a right on Meade St. Take a left on W 51st St. You'll be walking in the newer section of Regis, dating from the 1950s or so. Take a left on Raleigh St. Watch out for pirates!

Take a right on W 50th returning back to your start.
Click here to see the route, map, and turn by turn directions.

What did you enjoy most about this walk? Let me know!

~See you on the trail