In 1979 I bought a small 1893 brick bungalow in North Denver a few blocks north of Mile High Stadium. Though the neighborhood was a little rough, it had almost instant access to a thriving downtown. As folks continued to flow into Denver, I could see this neighborhood was prime for rediscovery. What I couldn't see is oil prices crashing in 1981 leading Denver into an almost decade long recession.
My rough neighborhood got a lot rougher. Eventually things turned around. I stopped crossing names off my rolodex (that's what we used back then) as friends left for Chicago and elsewhere. Landlords pried the plywood off the boarded up duplexes across the street.
Today Jefferson Park is a vibrant gem with more bustle than when nineteenth century streetcars clanged past my house on steel rails - still visible when the City's paving falls behind schedule. Something like 5,000 people a month move into Colorado. A surprising number find their way into boxlike town homes and other developments replacing the traditional neighborhood housing. Idle five years ago, today there's no such thing as an unemployed construction worker. Never knowing when the next recession will rise up and engulf us, developers are making hay while the sun shines.
My corner lot backs onto a steep pitched narrow ally. Two houses sit on the far side of the alley, both owned by my neighbor Jim. Over the years Jim's told me stories about the bigger house in which he lives.
In 1900 a lawyer named Anderson lived there. While representing Colorado's most famous cannibal, Alferd Packer, Anderson shot two of its best known newspaper magnates, Harry Tammen and Frederick Bonfils. Their newspaper, The Denver Post, survives as Denver's only daily and Colorado's leading paper.
While I suspected Jim was pulling my leg, the story turns out to be true. Bonfils and Tammen were renowned as extortionate scallywags and ink barrel black-mailers. When they turned their attention to Anderson, he fought back. Ultimately the jury acquitted Anderson. Jurors may have been enchanted by Anderson's reputed police statement immediately after the shooting "Boys, arrest me. I just shot a couple of skunks."
Today a developer, Nathan Adams, has the property under contract with plans to build 18 townhouses. While I look forward to meeting some new neighbors, I'm not keen on losing a historical touchstone with such a fine story to it. Fortunately Jim says some other developers have figured out how to pay him just as much while retaining the Anderson house.
Monday night City Council votes on a historical designation for the Anderson house. That would prohibit its demolition.
Adams has put in a lot of time and money planning his development. I'd hate to see him lose his investment; but not as much as I'd hate to lose the Anderson house. I'm hoping Council votes yes.