The month of May traditionally is devoted to preservation, but in Denver, be careful. However, La Alma Lincoln Park, there is a glimmer of hope to save history, memory, and architecture.

Still smarting over the unfortunate scrape of the Channel7 Building, it takes a while to clear out the anger, so it was necessary to wander around Denver last week to seeing what is going on – and up or down. But yesterday, it was time to drive around La Alma Lincoln Park to get a sense of  the essence of that neighborhood. 

Recently, there was a second virtual meeting to discuss the application for La Alma Lincoln Park to create a Historic Cultural District. It would follow in the footsteps of the Five Points Historic Cultural District. It has only nine buildings considered contributing to the cultural district, but those buildings are choice. These include the Rossonian, the Alta Cousins Terrace, the Douglass Undertaking Building, and Fire Station #3. 

The construction along Welton Street could be called the Welton Canyon, which has sprouted large apartment buildings, but if you drive around, you’ll find good examples of old and new. The new buildings have gone through the preservation steps so that architects create designs that are done well. 

What was so interesting about the second meeting was the discussion of the application for designation for the La Alma Lincoln Park Historic Cultural District. The work on the document began in 2017. Some of those who created the application were on that virtual meeting. As one person, Fatima Hirji said, “This community is connected, not fossilized” (she is one of the people who signed onto the application). And, yes, there are some mid-rise buildings that are new, but the predominant collection of homes is still alive.

(The photograph above by Evan Semón is from a slide show in Westword. The images are evocative, alive, and real.)

This paragraph below pretty much sums up the core of the application: 

“Starting in the late 1870s through the 1920s, the neighborhood’s residents, many who were immigrants, were employed by the nearby industries, such as the railroads (Denver & Rio Grande/Burnham Yards) and flour mills (Mullen and Davis Four Mill), which were within walking distance. Employed by these local industries, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Mexican residents settled in the neighborhood. A tightknit community developed, along with a strong sense of belonging to the Westside among those who lived or grew up in the area. By the mid-twentieth century, due to new waves of in-migration, La Alma Lincoln Park had a large population of Latinos, Hispanos, and Mexican American residents and homeowners, including many who became influential Chicano Movement leaders.”

Yes, why fossilize anything when those who live there love their community? And as Emanuel Martinez, an important artist and muralist, noted that they “consider contributions of our community, not erase our community.”

As for the architecture in the potential La Alma Lincoln Park district, there are numerous small homes that resemble larger homes elsewhere in Denver, exhibiting the flair of Queen Anne and Italianate. At the conclusion of the application, there is this:

“The La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood and the Historic Cultural District boundaries retain the historic integrity of the buildings, the historic park and the people’s stories and cultural heritage housed within the walls of the district’s structures. The complete history of La Alma Lincoln Park is one of activism, resilience, and perseverance to improve the quality of life for one’s family and community across two centuries. This neighborhood has two significant periods that have contributed to the history of Denver from the early days of the city’s founding to the mid-century that was influential in Denver’s Chicano Movement. This layered history is significant to tell the full story of not only the neighborhood and its buildings, but Denver, its people, and its culture.” 

The application will be presented at the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission on June 15. When it moves forward – I cannot imagine it would not move forward — the process will go to the planning board and then to a public hearing at Denver City Council, at some point in August.  The Denver City Council member who represents District 3 was quoted in The Denver Post about this: 

“ ‘The desired effect of a historic district is it architecturally retains some of the identity and feel of the homes that are there, and the style of home that was built in La Alma Lincoln Park is the early 1900s,’ said Jamie Torres, the councilwoman for District 3 where the neighborhood is located. ‘It doesn’t make it impossible to do upgrades, renovate or make additions. It just has to then go through this design criteria.’ ”

One can hope that historic context projects will turn to other under-represented communities, including African American, Indigenous, and Asian Americans. 

Several links are below, beginning with the meeting on YouTube, the application, information from Community Planning and Development, the slide show from Westword, and the document of the Five Points Historic Cultural District.|95c94ae0-247e-4b0c-b511-f9439cc122bd|c4f1b630-3cf4-4ec1-8110-c4784b6aa32e|en-US

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