Freeway fighters in Denver, 1948-1975

Material Information

Freeway fighters in Denver, 1948-1975
Litvak, Dianna
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
ix, 132 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
1900 - 1999 ( fast )
Express highways -- History -- Colorado -- Denver -- 20th century ( lcsh )
City planning -- History -- Colorado -- Denver -- 20th century ( lcsh )
NIMBY syndrome -- History -- Colorado -- Denver -- 20th century ( lcsh )
City planning ( fast )
Express highways ( fast )
NIMBY syndrome ( fast )
History -- Interstate 70 ( lcsh )
History -- Interstate 25 ( lcsh )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
United States -- Interstate 25 ( fast )
United States -- Interstate 70 ( fast )
History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 125-132).
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Dianna Litvak.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
181338968 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L57 2007m L57 ( lcc )

Full Text
Dianna Litvak
B.A., Colorado College, 1991
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Dianna Litvak
has been approved
Pamela W. Laird

Litvak, Dianna (M.A., History)
Freeway Fighters in Denver, 1948-1975
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Pamela W. Laird
This thesis analyzes the relationships between city planners, elected
officials, neighborhood activists, and federal and state highway engineers during the
planning and construction of the Valley Highway and 1-70 through older
neighborhoods in north Denver. These groups participated in surprisingly dense and
detailed negotiations that revealed their clashing goals, desires, and biases. The time
period of this study, 1948 to 1975, began with unsuccessful freeway protests within
working-class neighborhoods, but ended with shrewd, city-wide efforts to fight
unwanted freeways through several of Denvers wealthiest historic neighborhoods.
Even though early freeway fighters were unsuccessful, their experiences influenced
protesters in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Political experience, connections, and
acculturation into the citys elite ensured success for later freeway opponents.
The Interstate Highway System is arguably the countrys most significant civil
works achievement, but it also created a number of unintended consequences.
These included a schism between highway engineers and some city planners who had
initially supported the interstate system but demanded specific changes during the
construction of urban interstate segments. Citizens complained about the
destruction of older neighborhoods, parks, and other beloved parts of their
communities due to interstates, adding new momentum to the historic preservation
movement to actively preserve and protect historic neighborhoods. The freeway
protest movement in Denver involved more than Not in My Backyard, or
NIMBY, interests. It was a legitimate grassroots movement of Americans from all
backgrounds and economic classes.
Some interstate critics have pointed to the reluctance of many highway
engineers to fully understand complex urban planning issues, but this does not
adequately explain the complicated relationship that existed between highway
engineers and planners, who had cooperated on numerous municipal transportation
projects prior to the interstate highway system. Concluding that engineers and other

professionals who crafted the interstate program had largely honorable intentions,
this thesis argues that no one involved fully understood the massive social impacts
the system unleashed.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Pamela W. Laird

To Brian, Allison, and Emily Winn:
my family, my life.

I wish to acknowledge the efforts of my advisor, Pamela W. Laird, who helped me
refine this project and demonstrated the art of crafting historical arguments. I also
wish to thank Tom Noel and Mark Foster for their insights, understanding, and
assistance in seeing this project through to its conclusion. Dr. Noels unmatched
knowledge of Denver history and its practitioners guided me through my research,
and Dr. Fosters numerous books about transportation history and several key
people involved in transportation exposed me to the breadth of this field. The
dedication of all of my committee members to professional history, and its joys and
rigors, will always be a source of inspiration for me.
I also want to thank employees of the Colorado Department of Transportation who
assisted me during the course of my research. These include Douglas Bennett from
Right-of-Way, Lisa Schoch from Environmental Programs, Dennis VanPatter and
Chris Robbins from Public Information, Sally Pearce from Scenic and Historic
Byways, and Olivia Martinez and Terri Mouhieddine in Central Files. A wealth of
resources can be found in this agencys files concerning Colorados highway history,
none of which would be available without the help and knowledge of the staff.

1. INTRODUCTION........................................1
Twentieth-Century City Planning in Denver.......10
PARKWAYS IN NORTH DENVER.......................................14
Neighborhood History............................14
Denvers Park and Parkway System................20
The Paries of Northwest Denver..................25
The Decentralization of Denver..................28
The Valley Highway..............................38
The Valley Highway Protests.....................40
4. INTERSTATE HIGHWAY PROTESTS, 1957-1962.............47
The Beginning of Interstate Revolts in the United States.47
Interstate CostsNationally and in Denver.......54

Denvers Urban Renewal Era...........................56
Demographics of Northwest Denver in 1960.............60
The W. 48th Avenue Freeway (Interstate 70)............64
The Community Speaks: The Public Hearing for
W. 48th Avenue.......................................77
5. BUILDING THE URBAN PORTION OF 1-70,1961-1966..............89
E. 46th Avenue Freeway Impacts.......................91
W. 48th Avenue Freeway Impacts.......................95
Denver Citizens Speak Out Against Inner-City Freeways.103
Denvers Beltway Interstates, 1-225,1-270 and 1-470.110
7. CONCLUSION..............................................116
WORKS CITED.......................................................125

1. Map of Part of 1-70 and 1-25 Through Urban Denver................15
2. Detail Map of Berkeley Neighborhood in Extreme Northwest Denver 15
3. Detail Map of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea in North Denver....15
4. Dirt Street in Globeville, Circa 1900-1930.......................19
5. Park and Boulevard System of Denver..............................23
6. George Kesslers 1907 Plan for the Park and Parkway System
of Denver........................................................24
7. Saco R. DeBoers 1929 Plan for the Park and Parkway System.......37
8. The Valley Highway System........................................39
9. The National System of Interstate and Defense Highways...........66
10. Houses Razed on E. 46th Avenue and Pearl Street for the Freeway.94
11. New Segment of Highway 70 is Officially Opened..................98
12. Engineers Who Worked on the W. 48th Project....................102
13. The Completed Freeway Skirting the North Shore of Berkeley Lake... 102
14. Phil Milstein, Chair of the Denver Planning Board, Accepts
Petitions from Members of POWTJR................................107

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Interstate Highway System in
2006, transportation organizations and advocacy groups launched websites, discussion
forums, and celebratory events. All recounted the milestones of interstate history and
the massive organizational and logistical efforts to construct what many believe is the
greatest public works project undertaken in the United States. I have chosen to explore
a handful of unexpected consequences of interstates, such as freeway protests,
neighborhood activism, and a revitalized historic preservation movement. As a public
historian who has worked for a transportation agency, I am especially interested in the
dialogues and negotiations between engineers and the public concerning the
construction of interstates through neighborhoods and parks. By looking into the initial
challenges engineers faced when building the interstates, I hope to gain a better
understanding of the controversies that continue to swirl around the expansion of
interstates and the provision for mass transit systems, including light rail, monorail, and
other high-speed transit, in major U.S. cities.
1 For examples, see websites of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Celebrating 50 Years: The
Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, n.d. :
American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), The Interstate is 50,
n.d. : and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) 50th
Anniversary of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, n.d.
. All accessed January 10, 2007.

Many people might wonder today why interstates sliced through established
neighborhoods instead of bypassing them, and I find this an intriguing historical
question. In Denver, many of the residents who live in the northern part of the city
continue to be rankled by the segment of 1-70 between Sheridan and York boulevards
that changed the appearance and functionality of their neighborhoods. This question of
urban interstate route selection might be easily answered by assuming that in the 1950s,
people placed less value on community parks and old neighborhoods. Not until the
revitalization of historic preservation movement in the 1960s did people begin to
understand the importance of protecting these institutions. Did highway engineers,
trained in technical matters, care about impacts to neighborhoods as they planned the
interstate system? Is their truth to rumors that city and state officials colluded on
agreements or single-mindedly thought only of municipal benefits at the expense of
private citizens? Historical research uncovers documents that help us to understand
events according to their time and place in history. In this case, the documents show
that people cared a great deal about parks and old neighborhoods in the 1950s and
1960s. Engineers at local, state, and federal levels built thousands of miles of rural and
urban interstates without controversy, yet are remembered for those segments where
protests erupted. Public officials sometimes made decisions that might appear poorly
conceived today, but at the time, made perfect sense.
In this thesis I focus on anti-freeway efforts in Denver between 1948 and 1975.1
have started prior to the interstate program to include the protests that occurred in

Denver as part of the Valley Highway development, the states first limited-access
freeway. Immediately after the announcement of the interstate routes in Denver in 1956,
local citizens attempted, but failed, to stop the urban portion of Interstate 70 on 48th
Avenue. In 1966, grassroots citizen groups waged a successful campaign to halt
planning for additional inner-city freeways on corridors such as Sixth Avenue, Quebec
Street, and Downing Street. 1 chose to end in 1975, when Richard D. Lamm became
Colorados governor and rejected the 1-470 beltway in the southwest metro area, a
controversial regional transportation decision. During the 1970s,.the Colorado
Department of Highways (DOH) experienced extensive administrative changes as a
result of the nascent environmental and historic preservation movements and Lamms
election. His controlled-growth administration and attempts to divert interstate funds
into mass transit created a distinct enmity between the highway department and the
governors office. Representing a transition from the old guard of engineers to the new,
Lamm selected the first outsider to head the DOH, Jack Kinstlinger, in 1975 after the
retirement of DOH veteran Charles Shumate.2
The so-called era of freeway protests that began in the late 1950s typically
involved three major stakeholders: citizen and neighborhood groups; state and federal
highway engineers; and those responsible for city management issues, including city
planners, elected officials and city employees. While city officials, planners, and the
2 Marion Wiley. The High Road (Denver: Colorado Department of Highways, 1976), 67-69.

public initially supported interstates, immediately after engineers began planning and
constructing urban segments that destroyed older neighborhoods and districts in major
U.S. cities, a backlash against the program began. Federal and state engineers expressed
genuine surprise concerning the substantial challenges generated by civic groups,
neighborhood organizations, and municipalities who protested the destruction of older
urban neighborhoods. City planners began to openly criticize highway engineers shortly
after the program started. Social commentator, writer, and architectural historian Lewis
Mumford, who had spoken and written about his opposition to freeways since the
1920s, addressed a meeting between federal highway officials and city planners in
Hartford, Connecticut in September 1957 by attacking the Federal Aid Highway Act of
1956, and the men who created it. Mumfords criticized highway officials who, he
believed, had not conducted sufficient studies of the real problems of cities. Relying
overwhelmingly upon highways and automobiles, he said, would ruin
the pedestrian scale of distances to the interior of the city, [that makes it]
possible for the pedestrian to exist.. We are faced, it is fairly obvious to me,
with the blunders of one-dimensional thinking, or thinking very expertly about
a single characteristic, a single feature that we are interested in, and forgetting
the realities that surround us.3
Urging highway officials to put the motor car in its place, Mumford eloquently
expressed the growing frustration of many city planners with the interstate system.4 The
3 Richard Weingroff, The Genie in the Bottle: The Interstate System and Urban Problems, 1939-1957.
Public Roads, Vol. 64, No. 2 (September/October 2000).
http:/ />: accessed January 18, 2007.
4 Weingroff, Genie in the Bottle.

conference became a confrontation between highway engineers and city planners, and
some of the planners shocked highway engineers with a plea to halt any urban interstate
segments until detailed studies for alternative corridors could be made. While some
planners opposed freeways because of their decentralizing effect upon inner cities as
early as the 1930s, many planners have since concluded that the Hartford conference
became known as an important turning point in the planning profession.5
I have included the efforts of city planners and city officials during the twentieth
century in this examination of urban highway protests in Denver because they developed
the urban transportation plans that became the foundation for the citys interstate
system. One of the most popular criticisms of the interstate program after 1956 was that
engineers did not understand city planning but made crucial decisions that had
tremendous effects upon cities. Planners played significant roles in urban transportation
plans during the twentieth century, including fostering an overwhelming reliance upon
automobiles in metropolitan areas. With this history, why did city planners and highway
engineers both perceive a schism between the two professions as a result of the Federal
Aid Highway Act of 1956? How did the involvement of city planners change during the
interstate highway program? These questions spurred me to dig deeper into the actions
of city planners to develop freeways as solutions to regional transportation problems.
5 Mark Foster. From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation, 1900-1940
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 149; Gary T. Schwartz, Urban Freeways and the Interstate
System. Southern Cali)omia haw Review 49 (March 1976): 510-11.

During planning of the interstate highway system in the 1940s, leaders in
trucking, engineering, construction, planning, and politics united to support the
construction of interstates to improve traffic flows, stimulate economic growth, and
stem problems associated with decentralization in urban areas. But each interest group
had specific points of view on how, where, and why interstates should be built. They
also had varying levels of power, with federal engineers at the Bureau of Public Roads
(BPR) dominating the other partners and effectively blocking the efforts of those who
sought to prepare broader plans that attempted to address social issues and alternative
transportation methods. Local politicians wanted to ensure the equitable distribution of
funds and focused upon desirable outcomes of highways in their regions. Business
advocates, urban planners, and state engineers wanted to correct traffic problems in their
cities and cited traffic statistics, decentralization, and urban renewal when choosing
routes for interstates.6
But on the federal level, engineers focused upon creating general policies of
interstate planning and construction to create a uniform, standardized system. These
standards mandated that all interstates had to have at least four lanes of traffic (in urban
areas this number ballooned to ten or twelve lanes), divided in the middle by guardrails,
and with grade separations at intersections of streets, railroads, and other crossovers to
allow for unobstructed traffic flow. Interchanges provided ingress and egress points.7
Federal engineers also dictated that transportation through metropolitan areas should
6 Mark Rose, Interstate: Express Highway Politics, 1941-1989 (University of Tennessee Press, 1990), 98
7 Wiley, 35.

involve the clearance of poorer neighborhoods often found within the core or on the
periphery of cities and populated by minority groups. But even though this involved
understanding social issues and the needs of local communities, engineers remained
ambivalent about the impacts of interstates to peoples lives and neighborhoods.
Given the lofty goals of the program, the criticism that highway engineers
ignored city planning does not sufficiently explain the relationship between the planning
of highways and municipalities. In all fairness to the largely honorable intentions of
engineers and other individuals who crafted the interstate program, no one involved fully
understood the massive social impacts the system unleashed. City planners crafted
urban transportation plans prior to the passage of the Interstate Highway Act in 1956,
and overwhelmingly supported the use of automobiles as the primary mode of
transportation in many U.S. cities.8 But the destruction of urban neighborhoods due to
high-speed freeways led to drastic changes in the construction of urban highways and the
heightened involvement of citizen groups, local politicians, and city departments. Ever
since its inception, the program has been tinkered with to counteract some of the
negative effects, adding substantial planning and environmental phases to highway
Criticism of the interstate era also tends to diminish the participation of city
officials and employees, as if they merely approved the maps and plans submitted by
engineers. But city officials actively requested approval of federal-aid highway routes in
8 Foster, 5.

the late 1940s and 1950s. Some interstate critics have also charged that cities had no
choice but to accept interstates within their boundaries, regardless of the corridor
chosen, because they did not want to face the consequences of losing precious interstate
funding. To some extent this is true, given that many Denver officials did not want a
neighboring county to reap all of the benefits of the system when they believed the core
city desperately needed highways. But at the same time, city officials had partnered in
the program from its inception, and knew its benefits and drawbacks. They also played a
critical role in determining interstate route selections and mediating citizen concerns.
During the pre and post World War II years, as cities began planning for future
growth and improved transportation, planners designated many urban freeways to
improve traffic and congestion to and from suburbs and the city center. The fact that
city planners demanded a greater role in interstate highway planning cannot be disputed.
But in many cases they had participated in highway planning for decades prior to the
interstate highway system, which makes the eventual distrust and distaste expressed by
many urban planners during the late 1950s for the program even more significant.
In Denver, city planners recommended the first regional highways, many of
which later became freeways. In addition, they addressed streets, parkways, and parks
according to hierarchical needs. Even though they strived to maintain and add to park
and parkway systems, planners, hampered by the lack of available funds, often resorted
to utilitarian approaches to solve traffic problems, with parks suffering as a result.
Notable landscape architects and city planners developed park and parkway systems for

the city of Denver, which were only partially implemented prior to 1956. While some
highway engineers made planning decisions without any professional expertise in this
realm, they also in many cases did coordinate with trained city planners.
The initial freeway protests involved individuals who typically supported
highways unless they impacted their own residences or businesses, and they demanded
moving the route elsewhere in the city, unconcerned about destruction in another area as
a result. While Not In My Backyard, or NIMBY, sentiments initially sparked the
movement, as it grew larger, it became a grassroots effort as scores of citizens not
directly affected began to decry the destruction wrought by interstates. Freeway
opposition also grew out of changing conditions in society in which protests for
numerous causes blossomedincluding civil rights, environmental causes, and anti-war
By 1965, highway critics had a great deal to complain about, pointing to the
astronomical cost of constructing interstates in cities, the failure to connect interstates
with mass transit, and the destruction of natural and built environments. Highways were
only one of several large-scale projects to destroy natural and cultural resources, resulting
in even more criticism heaped upon federal agencies. The expansion of urban renewal
programs, the flooding of valleys for dams and reservoirs by the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, and the replacement of older federal buildings with new facilities by the

General Services Administration destroyed numerous historic and prehistoric resources
and provoked complaint from many sectors of U.S. society.9
Twentieth-Century City Planning in Denver
Shordy after the turn of the twentieth century, as automobile registrations
swelled in Denver and other U.S. cities, planners revamped existing streets and opened
new streets for automobile traffic. Denver officials turned to the emerging professions
of landscape architecture and city planning to integrate landscape design, park
development, transportation planning, and other concerns into what became known as
The Denver Plan, in an attempt to manage growth according to geography, history,
population, natural resources, and industrial development of the city. City planners in
Denver chose automobiles as the primary method of transport and created the first plans
to efficiendy move automobiles through cities.10
The first major transportation changes in Denver after 1900 originated with the
City Beautiful movement and included the development of elegant, tree-lined parkways
to connect neighborhoods of the city. These roadways, designed specifically for
9 Special Committee on Historic Preservation, U.S. Conference of Mayors. With Heritage So Rich
(Washington, D.C.: National Trust for Historic Preservation, third printing, 1999), 10-11.
10 The Denver Planning Commission began publishing The Denver Plan in 1929 with Volume 1: Major
Streets, Parks and Boulevards, Recreational Facilities. The tenth and final volume of the series appeared in 1947.
See also Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgren, Denver: The City Beautiful (Denver: Historic Denver, Inc.,
1987), 150-151.

automobiles, limited trucks, streetcars, and buses. When planners began looking for
routes for high-speed corridors to ease congestion after World War II, they extended the
original parkway system to serve growing suburbs with low levels of density per acre on
the fringe of Denver. As the suburbs spread outward and grew exponentially, Denvers
population decreased and inner city areas declined. When state highway engineers began
selecting routes for interstate highways in the late 1940s and 1950s they used sections of
the citys parkway system, some of which had never been built, and targeted declining
areas as well as industrial areas and neighborhoods with predominantly lower and lower-
middle-class populations.
Even though planners provided workable solutions to improve transportation in
Denver, few were actually implemented because the city lacked the funds and the ability
to coordinate such massive improvements. As a result, after World War II, when
Denver faced drastic growth and crises in housing and transportation, freeway planners
filled the vacuum left by unrealized city master plans. They oftentimes overlaid freeways
on those corridors suggested by city planners. In Denver, this included a partially
implemented park and parkway system in sections of the city that became the foundation
of Denvers modern freeway system.
The planning and construction of the Valley Highway in Denver, the citys first
north/south limited-access freeway, stirred some concern among citizens beginning in
1945. But because the freeway ran through lower-income neighborhoods within the city
core, including Argo and Globeville near the railroad yards in an industrial section of the

city, effectively severing the two communities from one another, most Denverites easily
accepted the sacrifice of these neighborhoods for the good of the whole city.
In 1957, after state highway officials announced that a major east-west freeway
would occupy portions of E. 46th Avenue and W. 48th Avenue near the northern city
limits, residents in these areas began writing to the DOH to express their concerns.
Most of the opposition came from the quiet residential neighborhood of Berkeley in the
northwest corner of Denver where the freeway would slice through two beloved public
parks with natural lakes: Berkeley Park and Rocky Mountain Lake Park. The North
Denver Civic Association spearheaded these efforts, led by Robert Keating, a Berkeley
resident, attorney, and city council president representing this section of Denver. The
protestors included professionals, working-class people, and housewives such as Mae
Dallasta, who had never before been involved in a citizen protest but who joined
Keating and others in appeals to federal officials in Washington, D.C. and in Denver at
the BPR. Keating and Dallasta helped gather signatures on petitions to the DOH to
oppose the routing of the highway along 48th Avenue, in favor of a route north of 52nd
Avenue, outside of the Denver city limits.
Despite their letters and meetings with highway engineers, the time and energy
they spent at endless public hearings, and at least two visits to federal highway officials in
Washington, D.C., the protestors did not achieve their goals. They lost because of a
number of reasons, including pressure by state officials on local councilmen to keep the
route within the city of Denver; the belief that to be effective, highways must be placed

where traffic was at its worst; cost and user benefit calculations that proved the
economic gains of this route; and an unflagging intention by DOH engineers to keep the
route along E. 46th and W. 48th avenues according to reports and plans that dated to the
Even though the Berkeley residents were unsuccessful, their experience
influenced protesters in the 1960s who succeeded in halting plans to build several
freeway routes through the older neighborhoods of Denver. The Berkeley residents
developed a much greater level of opposition than the residents of Globeville, Swansea,
and Elyria who, when faced with the construction of the freeway along E. 46th through
their neighborhood, tried but failed to change the appearance of the freeway. The
Berkeley neighborhood, solidly white, largely native-born, and lower middle-class, had
stronger political connections than the working-class residents of Globeville. Had the
neighborhoods along the path of 1-70 been able to unite into one cohesive group, they
might have had a better chance of influencing the BPR and the DOH to change the
location of the route. An effective citywide organization, Preserve Our Way of Urban
Residence (POWUR), dedicated to fighting freeways emerged in the late 1960s, but this
coalition developed too late for the neighborhoods of northwest Denver.

This prelude chapter provides a brief historical background for the people
involved in the protests against the Valley Highway and 1-70 in Denver, and includes the
origins of the historic late nineteenth-century neighborhoods that the freeways affected,
the history of city planning and the park and parkway system in Denver, and the trends
that created the decentralization of Denver during the early decades of the twentieth
century. It also includes a brief description of Denvers post-war development, including
massive growth, federal investments, and skyrocketing motor-vehicle registrations, which
helped transform the city into a metropolitan area.
Neighborhood History
The construction of 1-70 in the early 1960s just south of Denvers northern city
limits sliced through the neighborhoods Berkeley, Argo, GlobeviJJe, Elyria and Swansea
in north Denver. The northeast section of Denver had not yet been developed, except
for the growing neighborhood of Park Hill well south of the freeway. I focus upon the
established neighborhoods impacted by the freeway, which includes the area between
52nd Avenue on the north (the northern city limits of Denver), Sheridan on the west

Figure 1. Map of Part of 1-70 and 1-25 Through Urban Denver.
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Figure 2. Detail Map of Berkeley Neighborhood in Extreme Northwest Denver
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Figure 3. Detail Map of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea in North Denver

(also the western city limit for Denver), Colorado Boulevard on the east, and 46lh Avenue
on the south.
As a gateway into Denver since the discovery of gold in 1858, the northwest
corner of the city served as an important link in the citys transportation systems. A
stagecoach route dating at least to the late 1850s between early Denver and the gold
diggings in the Boulder and Golden regions ran from the confluence of Cherry Creek
and the South Platte River to a watering hole now known as Rocky Mountain Lake. The
convergence of railroad lines upon Denver transformed it into the largest urban center in
the Rocky Mountain West, with many yards and shops built northeast of downtown. By
the 1880s, the city flourished as the major center for supplies and shipping, becoming
the primary market for communities of the Front Range, the mountains to the west, and
the plains on the east. 1
The origins of the late nineteenth-century neighborhoods in this corner of the
city made them likely targets for an interstate highway. Long shunned by middle and
upper class families who desired addresses in streetcar suburbs directly east or south of
downtown, north Denver became a haven for lower, working-class populations, many of
whom had either been immigrants or their offspring. Unskilled and semi-skilled
immigrants who sought work in the citys noxious but bustling smelters settled in
Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea, while middle and lower-class families who desired home 1
1 Ruth Eloise Wiberg, Rediscovering Northwest Denver Its History, Its People, Its Landmarks (Niwot: University
Press of Colorado, 1995), 165. Glenn R. Scott, Historic Trail Map of the Greater Denver Area, Colorado
(Denver: United States Geological Survey, 1976, Reprinted 2004).

ownership in a streetcar suburb, but could not afford lots in Highlands, Congress Park,
or Capitol Hill, instead turned to areas such as Berkeley.
Founded in 1888, Berkeleys boundaries included 52nd Avenue on the north,
Sheridan Boulevard on the west, and a stair stepped boundary on the east and south,
along Tennyson, Perry, and Federal streets between 38th and 52nd avenues. According to
northwest Denver historian Ruth Wiberg, a high ridge at 46th Avenue divided the
neighborhood long before the construction of 1-70. Lower Berkeley occupied the area
south of the ridge to 38th Avenue, while Berkeley Hill, north of 46th Avenue, had separate
streetcar lines, churches, and schools. The suburb grew steadily during the twentieth
century, with more than twelve hundred homes built before 1919, including at least
thirty homes designed by Denver architect William Lang featuring brick, stone, and
shingle exteriors, towers, and second story porches. Other modest architectural styles in
the neighborhood included single story ranch houses, cottages, and bungalows.2
Industrialization played an important role in the development east of Berkeley.
By 1890, smelting had emerged as Denvers largest industry, established next to the
railroad yards in industrial suburbs approximately four miles from downtown. There,
black smoke from smelter furnaces fouled the air, but also symbolized economic success
and fueled the citys population growth. The first smelter opened in 1878, quickly
followed by the Omaha and Grant Smelter and the Holden Smelter at West Washington
Street and 52nd Avenue. In 1889, the Globe Smelter and Refining Company bought the
2 Wiberg, 165-167,171,174.

Holden Smelter and named the nearby settlement Globeville. The town occupied a
shallow pocket of land between 52nd Avenue on the north, the Platte River on the east,
the railroad yards and 42nd Avenue on the south, and Broadway Street on the west.
Other similar settlements for smelter workers included Argo (west of Globeville), and
Elyria and Swansea (east of Globeville).3
The vast smelter sites, largely removed from the rest of the city, required armies
of laborers, including pools of immigrants from Russia, Poland, Austria, Hungary,
Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Czechoslovakia. Some settled in company-built houses,
but many built their own wooden shanties, small kitchen gardens, livestock pens,
summer kitchens, and sheds in their backyards. Brothers, cousins, and friends helped
one another find work, and families from the same country typically settled near one
another, establishing ethnic groupings within the neighborhood to share and preserve
their religious and cultural traditions.4
Great disparities existed in the neighborhoods of Denver in keeping with the
economic status of the inhabitants. The husbands who settled their families in Berkeley
typically worked in the shops and factories of Denver, and their modest homes and well-
kept streets reflected their solid, hard-working status. Services such as schools, sewage,
3 Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Denver Mining Camp to Metropolis (Niwot: University Press of
Colorado, 1990), 58. Carl Abbott, Stephen J. Leonard, Thomas J. Noel, Colorado: A History of the Centennial
State, Fourth Edition (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 2005), 130, 199.
4 Rebecca Ann Hunt, Urban Pioneers: Continuity and Change in the Ethnic Communities in Two
Denver, Colorado Neighborhoods: 18751998 (Ph.D. diss., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1999), 52.
Daniel Doeppers, The Globeville Neighborhood in Denver. The Geographical Review 57, No. 4 (October
1967): 509.

water, electricity, ice deliver}7, streetcars, and telephones could be found in Berkeley, but
were scarce in the communities of Globeville and Argo. Unskilled and semiskilled
workers occupied the parts of the city where no one else would live. Separated by a
maze of railroad tracks, the closest streetcar was almost a mile from Globeville, on 38th
Avenue. In 1892, a horse-drawn streetcar served the area between the 38th Avenue stop
and Globeville. The city of Denver annexed Berkeley in 1902, followed in 1903 with the
annexation of Globeville, Argo, Elyria, and Swansea.5
Residents in Globeville and the other
nearby neighborhoods anticipated new and
improved municipal sendees after annexation,
but still were overlooked. They did not have
paved streets or sidewalks, adequate sewage
systems, street lighting, or recreational
opportunities until well into the 1970s. While
several philanthropists remedied some of these problems, the residents themselves
bettered their conditions. They typically kept their properties neat and orderly, building
additions or improvements as their families grew and their economic conditions
bettered. When work in the smelters declined, they turned to the nearby brick factor}7
and meatpacking plants and labored during the summers in the sugar beet fields in
Figure 4: Dirt Street in Globeville, Circa
1900-1930, Denver Public Library, X-22414
5 Hunt, 8, 51, 255.

northeastern Colorado. But they frequented only local saloons and stores, and
participated in the neighborhoods ethnic clubs, fraternal lodges, and brotherhood
organizations. Their economic conditions still lagged far behind the other
neighborhoods of Denver. Few Globeville residents could afford automobiles until after
World War II.6
Denvers Park and Parkway System, 1894-1920
Perhaps the ultimate form of social adaptation to automobiles during the
twentieth century resulted in the willingness of local officials to reconstruct cities to
accommodate automobiles. Some city planners debated the logic of implementing grand
municipal designs when so many basic, practical needs in lower income neighborhoods
were ignored. But these concerns went largely unheeded as planners, many of whom
championed automobiles as the primary form of transportation in cities, implemented
City Beautiful plans in major cities prior to 1920. Denvers experience mirrors that of
other cities in the first decades of the twentieth century when the City Beautiful
movement advocated creating central civic districts, usually by razing older, deteriorating
buildings, and constructing in their place neo-classical monuments to state and city
government. Planners connected the civic center to radiating suburban neighborhoods
via wide parkways and boulevards with six lanes or more of traffic that usually restricted
truck and bus use. Engineers repaved and widened streets throughout cities to improve
6 Hunt, 10, 247, 256.

traffic conditions and built sturdy bridges to replace many outdated forms of technology,
while state legislators established highway departments that developed coordinated
networks of roads and eventually resulted in even greater impacts upon not only cities,
but rural landscapes as well.7
Conceived in 1894, Denvers earliest comprehensive parkway plan attempted to
knit together the various sections of Denver with a system of elegant, tree-lined
parkways. The Park and Boulevard System of Denver, prepared by Edward Rollandet,
included a detailed map depicting a series of larger parks on the citys peripheries, where
water could be stored for irrigation and recreation. Connected by greenbelts, or
parkways, the parks had superior scenic views and helped distinguish Denvers
boundaries from surrounding rural areas. Parkways within the city connected smaller
parks and neighborhood libraries, schools, and fire stations. The plan failed to win
public support and languished until revived as part of city beautification plans of Denver
mayor Robert Speer. 8
Mayor Speer laid the foundation for the citys parks, parkways, mountain parks,
playgrounds, public libraries, and museums, the first time a public official had articulated
such an encompassing vision for the city. In 1907, Speer hired nationally known
landscape architect George Kessler, who had designed parkway systems for many major
7 Clay McShane, Doom the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1994), 212.
8 Carolyn and Don Etter, City of Parks: The Preservation of Denvers Park and Parkway System (Denver: The
Denver Public Library, 2006), 6, 8.

American cities, to develop and implement Denvers master park and parkway plan
based upon a 1906 report prepared by Charles Mulford Robinson, another nationally-
known city planner. Kessler expanded upon the 1894 plan for his overlay of parkways
on Denvers existing city grid, connecting parks throughout the city as well as an outer
ring of parkways surrounding the city with a greenbelt. He emphasized parks with lakes
and spectacular views of the mountains, two defining features of Denvers park and
parkway system. His plan, depicted here as Figure 6 on page 24, included parkways that
connected the parks of north Denver along W. 48th and E. 46th avenues, intended for
carriage rides and pedestrian use.9
While some have expressed the idea that parks and parkways represented
democracyopen and accessible to all residents regardless of race, age, or economic
statusothers have found that the original parkways in major U.S. cities served only
those who could afford carriages and, after the turn of the twentieth century,
automobiles. In addition, the parkways provided some of the more beautiful and
prestigious addresses for wealthy citizens who purchased lots along these roads.10
9 Thomas J. Noel and Barbara Norgren, Denver The City Beautiful and Its Architects, 1893-1941 (Denver:
Historic Denver, 1987), 10, 16; Don Etter, The Denver Park and Parkway System (Denver: Colorado
Historical Society, 1986), 11. Phil Goodstein, Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic (Denver: New
Social Publications, 1995), 30.
10 Etter, The Denver Park and Parkway System, Section 7, pp. 1-3 and Section 8, pp. 1-3, describes the
democratic intentions of parkways. Clay McShane, in Down the Asphalt Path found that the original
parkway systems designed by Frederic Law Olmstead were intended for, and largely used by, upper and
middle class citizens, 31-38.

Figure 5: Park and Boulevard System of Denver
This drawing is from the original 1894 plan signed by Edward Rollandet, draughtsman. Map collection,
Western History Collection, Denver Public Library. Scanned from City of'Parks: The Preservation of Denvers
Park and Parkway System, by Carolyn and Don Etter, 2006, p. 6.

Figure 6: George Kesslers 1907 Plan for the Park and Parkway System of Denver.
Note the parkways on 46th and 48th avenues between Colorado and Federal (Boulevard F), which became
the path of 1-70. Map, from the Western His tor}- Collection, Denver Public Library. Scanned from Denver
The City Beautiful, by Thomas J. Noel and Barbara Norgren, p. 17.

The Parks of Northwest Denver
Denvers parks and parkways benefited from many of the recommendations
made by landscape architect George Kessler, including those in northwest Denver. But
by the time the Colorado Department of Highways constructed the interstate through
this area in the 1960s, some of Kesslers recommendations had been either severely
compromised or lost altogether, and the highway obliterated other original features.
Kessler recommended transforming the streets into parkways between Highland Park,
west of Federal at the northern terminus of Speer Boulevard, and the cluster of parks
along 46th Avenue, including Berkeley Park, Rocky Mountain Lake Park, and Inspiration
Point. All of these parks are still in existence today.
Mayor Speer acquired Berkeley Park in 1906, the largest and most scenic of the
neighborhood parks. Roadways within the park became popular for pleasure drives, but
had to be closed off because they became clogged with cars trying to bypass city streets.
The park had a golf course, a warming house for ice skaters, a bathhouse and beach on
the south shore of the lake, two rustic shelters, and the Smiley Branch of the Denver
Public Library built in 1918. 11
Following Kesslers recommendation, Mayor Speer purchased a high ridge above
Clear Creek outside the city limits slightly northwest of Berkeley Park and developed it
into Inspiration Point Park. The city could not legally buy land outside of its boundaries,
but Speer said, Id be willing to go to jail for [the land] as long as the people of Denver 11
11 Etter, The Denver Park and Parkway System65-66.

got the use of it, referring to the outstanding scenic views of the Front Range from the
finger-shaped park.12 The park featured a long U-shaped retaining wall that kept visitors
from venturing over the edge of the high bluff. Its sloping grassy fields also included a
ponderosa pine grove and drought resistant plant species.
Saco Rienk DeBoer, the citys landscape architect between 1910 and 1958,
designed much of the landscaping for the parks, such as Inspiration Point and Berkeley,
and all of the original parkways in Denver. Originally from the Netherlands, DeBoer
came to Denver seeking a cure from tuberculosis. Before his death, in 1974 in Denver at
the age of 91, he had a tremendous influence upon city planning in Denver and other
major U.S. cities. Along the Front Range of Colorado, he produced plans for the
communities of Lakewood, Greenwood Village, Longmont, Loveland, and Fort Collins.
He planted American elms along both sides of Federal Boulevard in 1915, as well as
double rows of honey locusts and single rows of cottonwoods and maples along 46th
Avenue between Rocky Mountain and Berkeley parks. When the city ripped out the
trees along Federal Boulevard in the 1950s as part of a widening project, he decried the
action as wholesale slaughter.... The sad fact is that the street could have been widened
without touching the trees.. ..[and] some of the [other] parkways are still in danger.
12 Etter, The Denver Park and Parkway System, 67; Saco Rienk DeBoer, Plans, Parks, and People. The Green
Thumb 29, No. 5 (December 1972): 162.

Enough of the original W. 46,h Avenue parkway design remained in 1986 to list this
portion in the National Register of Historic Places.13
North Denver residents had long complained that more attention had been
lavished upon parks in East and South Denver, where City Park and Washington Park
served as the crown jewels. Some observers suggested this resulted from the lack of
political clout of the residents in North Denver with its solidly lower and middle class
neighborhoods populated for the most part by Irish-Americans, German-Americans, and
Italian-Americans, and pockets of upper class enclaves in Highlands. Because most of
the residents were less affluent, they paid lower property tax assessments, one of the
primary means of financing the acquisition of parklands, and therefore had less park
acreage in their neighborhoods. DeBoer attempted to bolster the parks of North Denver
by proposing a tree-lined parkway along Wolff and Tennyson Streets between Berkeley
and Sloans Lake in west Denver to connect with parkways in east Denver, but it failed
due to lack of public support.14
13 As quoted in Wiberg, 182-183; Etter, The Denver Park and Parkway System, 63. Don Etter, A Legacy of
Green. Colorado Heritage, 1986, Issue 3,12; No author, A Gallery of Boosters, Colorado Heritage, 1995,
Issue 3, 36. Saco Rienk DeBoer, A Master Plan for Denvers Parks: Study and Plan of Development" (Denver;
Department of Improvements and Parks, June, 1949), 88.
14 Etter, The Denver Park and Parkway System, 61. Noel and Norgren, 22. DeBoer, Plans, Parks, and
People, 178.

The Decentralization of Denver
Even before highways, urban renewal, and federal programs changed the face of
American cities, streetcar systems began the trend of decentralization. Streetcars had
started thin spines of suburban development that spread outward from overpopulated
cities beginning in 1890. Except for the very poor, who often could not afford a nickel
fare, all types of citizens rode streetcars, and their usage increased 700 percent between
1890 and 1920.15 Families who moved up to their own detached single-family homes
with spacious front and back yards relied upon streetcars and trolleys to travel to and
from the downtown district. After 1915, suburbanites increasingly used cars for the
same reason, and developers built new neighborhoods much farther from the city and
filled in the gaps between streetcar lines.
In the 1920s, most planners believed that automobiles solved many pressing
urban problems, and mass transit declined because those people who could afford
automobiles overwhelmingly preferred them instead of streetcars. Because roads and
highways carried all different classes, from wealthy citizens in their own cars to poor
citizens in buses, planners and engineers considered new and improved roads an
appropriately democratic approach to transportation. During the lean years of the
Depression, scores of downtrodden people found work on thousands of highway, road,
and bridge construction projects. And while the onslaught of automobile motorists on
15 Mark S. Foster, From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation, 19001940
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 14.

roads sometimes caused problems, engineers and planners reworked the streets,
implemented new traffic controls, or created additional lanes, believing that innovative
engineering solutions were better than other transportation options, including streetcars
or urban railways. Critics voiced concern about automobile usage early in the century,
but they rarely spurred major changes. For example, by the late 1930s, some planners
became concerned with the problems of decentralization, in formerly bustling
neighborhoods now plagued by poverty, unemployment, and deteriorating buildings.
But they were unable to combine their energies to redirect urban growth back into the
center of cities, or limit the influence of automobiles as the primary transportation
Many planners rejected mass transit plans in the 1920s and 1930s, but they had
sound reasons for their actions. They did not merely follow the path of least resistance,
or become swayed by powerful highway lobbyists. They did, however, lack political
power in the face of influential planning commission members and politicians who
advocated roads over mass transit. For the most part, dedicated public servants believed
that automobiles should be the primary transportation in cities due to a lack of
coordinated planning and the pressures of allocating scant municipal resources to a host
of demanding issues. Many planners and citizens also rejected mass transit plans due to
16 Mark Foster, From Streetcar to Superhighway, 62, 149.

concern over congestion caused by trolleys on city streets, suspicion of corrupt street
railway companies, and the excessive expense to build new streetcar systems.17
By the 1920s, automobile usage became integral to everyday life for many
citizens in the United States, closely associated with systems of industry, retail,
commerce, family life, real estate, education, city planning, and transportation. Even
though the Depression created slumps in the production of materials to build cars, New
Deal era programs stimulated and supported the auto industry and road building by
improving labor conditions for autoworkers and rebuilding the countrys roads and
bridges. Only massive expenditures for defense and the halt of civilian purchases of
automobiles during World War II curtailed major increases in registrations. American
automakers significantly ramped up production after World War II to meet insatiable
consumer demands, and vehicle registrations surged to more than 50 million throughout
the United States by 1950. Ten years later the total reached nearly 74 million, an increase
of 148 percent.18
In Colorado, as in other states, motor vehicle registrations had remained fairly
stagnant before World War II, and in fact registrations slumped some years because of
hard economic times and wartime restrictions. But with rapid population growth after
17 Foster, 89-90.
18 U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1900-1970. Accessed from ycars.html. January 22, 2007. Rae, John B. The American
Automobile: A Brief History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1965); James J. Flink, America Adopts
the Automobile, 1895-1901 (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1970), 59, 294. James J. Flink, The Car Culture
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1975), 167-190. Mark Foster, A Nation on Wheels: The Automobile Culture in America
Since 1945 (Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2003), 44.

World War II in the Denver metropolitan area, registrations soared. Between 1930 and
1945, motor vehicle registrations in Colorado (including cars, trucks, and buses) grew
from 311,000 to 348,000, an 11 percent increase. But by 1960, Colorado motor vehicle
registrations had jumped to 924,000, a 165 percent increase from 1945. Denvers motor
vehicle registrations reflected statewide conditions. Between 1929 and 1947, motor
vehicle registrations in the city and county of Denver increased from 89,000 to 113,500,
an increase of 27 percent. In 1960, the city recorded more than 250,000 registrations, a
120 percent increase from 1947.
The explosive growth of the metropolitan area immediately after World War II
largely occurred in suburban counties encircling Denver. The city and county of Denver
grew steadily between 1940 and 1960, from 322,412 to 493,887 residents (an increase of
more than 53 percent). But the suburbs had monumental growth spurts, with Adams
County recording the greatest leap, from 22,481 residents in 1940 to more than 120,296
in 1960 (435 percent increase); Jefferson County, from 30,725 to 127,520 (315 percent
increase); and Arapahoe County, from 32,150 to 113,426 (252 percent increase). In all,
Denvers share of the population of the metropolitan area decreased from 72.4 percent
in 1941 to 35.8 percent in 1976.19
These new citizens overwhelmingly chose automobiles to commute through the
metropolitan area, placing severe demands on the citys street system. Traffic worsened
19 1940 to 1960 figures from decennial U.S. Censuses; Carl Abbott, Suburb and City: Changing Patterns
of Socioeconomic Status in Metropolitan Denver Since 1940, Social Science History, Vol. II, No. 1 (Fall
1977), 53-54.

on the citys main thoroughfares such as Santa Fe Drive on the south, Federal Boulevard
on the west, Colfax Avenue on the east and west, and Washington Street on the north.
The highway department started building the states first limited-access freeway in 1948,
the Valley Highway in Denver, despite protests from bypassed tourist camp owners on
Santa Fe Drive and the citizens who had to relocate for the freeway. State and federal
highway officials anticipated even greater improvements to the states highway network
and promised many of Colorados communities that soon they would be connected to
the rest of the country by the vanguard of transcontinental transportation, the interstate
highway system. But some citizens who chafed under government plans that drastically
changed their neighborhoods used their polidcal experience and connections to wage the
first freeway protests. Joined by compatriots in neighborhoods throughout the
United States, their efforts resulted in significant changes to the building and planning of
highways during the late 1960s.

Between 1900 and 1940 Denver city planners implemented significant changes to
accommodate growing numbers of automobiles, which significandy augmented the
decentralization started by streetcar suburbs in the late nineteenth century. By 1950, the
citys streetcar trolley lines had closed altogether. During these years city officials
realized the challenges that automobiles placed upon city development and answered
these challenges with solutions that stressed utilitarian, rather than aesthetic, concerns.1
The Denver Planning Commission, created in 1926, began publishing yearly
plans in 1929 with recommendations that echo those made by other city planners
throughout the nation grappling with automobiles in major urban centers in the early
twentieth century. Saco Rienk DeBoer became directly involved in writing these plans as
the citys planner between 1923 and 1958. In 1929, he issued another park and parkway
master plan for Denver, declaring that the system should be preserved as an integral part
of Denvers image and the quality of life of its residents while also recommending new
boulevards to connect the citys parks and to improve connections between Denver and
its growing suburbs. His plan, still utilizing the existing city grid, resembled a wagon 1
1 Mark Foster, From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation, 1900-1940
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 45.

wheel. Civic Center Park served as the wheels hub; parks on the periphery of the city
were the rim; and the parkways served as the spokes, joining the two together. His
recommendations included continuing Speer Boulevard past Federal to connect directly
to Berkeley Park, and extending 20th Street from downtown to Rocky Mountain Lake
Park. He also found the need to widen 46th Avenue on the south boundary of the parks
and to make the street into a parkway all the way to Quebec, thus anticipating the need
for 1-70.2
DeBoers practical approach attempted to solve the citys increased dependence
on automobiles by adding several new highways on the citys periphery to move traffic
more efficiently. Denvers greatest struggles occurred with the traffic that flowed into
and out of the city on regional highways. These roads became sufficiently congested as
early as 1933 for planners to consider building additional highways through Denver and
to widen existing routes. These included U.S. 40 along Colfax Avenue, which connected
Denver to Golden on the west and Aurora on the east; the Brighton Road, or U.S. 285, a
truck route between Denver, Commerce City industries, and the northern farming
regions; S.H. 72, or Federal Boulevard, used for travel between Denver and Fort Collins,
Boulder, and other northern cities; and U.S. 85, or Santa Fe Boulevard, used primarily by
Colorado Springs traffic. According to traffic counts, all of these highways carried
volumes beyond their designed capacities, and also had problems with grading,
insufficient width, and unsightly and smelly dumps on the outskirts of the city. In the
2 Etter, A Legacy of Green, Colorado Heritage 1986 Summer, 12-13; The Denver Planning Commission,
The Denver Plan, Vol. I 1929, 27-28. Thomas J. Noel and Barbara Norgren, Denver: The City Beautiful
(Denver: Historic Denver Inc., 1987), 140,144-150.

process of improving highways, planners recognized that some privately owned buildings
would have to be removed, a necessity to improve the traffic conditions.3
Like many city planners around the country before World War II, DeBoer
attempted to safeguard public parks from the air and noise pollution caused by cars, but
also helped lay the groundwork for cities to become crisscrossed by high-speed roadways
and devoted primarily to automobiles During these years planners contended with a
number of demanding issues, with transportation having to compete for resources with
health and safety, water supply and flood control, as well as economic setbacks and a
rapid increase in unemployment during the Depression. These demands edged out the
needs of parks, which suffered from lack of maintenance, and prevented many cities
from purchasing new acreage for parks for many years. Mass transit plans also became
casualties during these years, when high costs to implement new systems or improve
existing systems discouraged many planners and city officials. Planners also lacked
political power in the face of influential city officials and politicians who represented
citizenry that overwhelmingly wanted more highways and widened streets. The Denver
Planning Commission remained a relatively weak advisory board and many of its
recommendations for improved streets and highways failed to be implemented.4
With their energies and interests already engaged in municipal management,
Denver officials, like those in many cities, did not participate in interstate highway
planning until after the Great Depression. Business lobbies and trade groups, federal
3 The Denver Planning Commission, The Denver Plan, Vol. 4, 1933, 12.
4 Foster, From Streetcar to Superhighway, 67. Noel and Norgren, 150-151

and state government bureaucrats, and congressional committees all shared the
responsibility of highway planning throughout most of the 1920s, although the dominant
partners were the expert highway engineers at the federal Bureau of Public Roads
(BPR), who promoted their conception of a national superhighway network based upon
sound engineering principles. But during the Depression years, as more cities and
counties received funds from federal make work programs to improve their local
roads and bridges, the highway community grew larger, and the new partners demanded
a different approach to highway building. These demands included solving the
simmering conflict between rural and urban highway needs. Until the 1930s, most
highway improvements connected towns with populations of 2,500 or more. Roads
through unpopulated regions were understandably easier to build than those through
dense cities. As the number of automobile registrations increased in urban areas, so did
the attendant problems of congestion, accidents, and decentralization that hastened the
decay of inner cities. Politicians stepped into the fray, challenging the technical and
rational approach of the BPR. The BPR attempted to regain its superiority by providing
more funds and expertise to solve urban highway issues. In Denver, city and state
officials pushed ahead with their plan to build the Valley Highway to solve growing
traffic issues.5
5 Bruce Seely, Building the American Highway System: Engineers as Policy Makers (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1987), 222.

Figure 7: Saco R. DeBoers 1929 plan for the park and parkway system. Scanned from The Denver
Plan, Vol. I, 1929, p. 32

The Valley Highway
The idea for a limited-access freeway through Denver originated in 1938 as a
New Deal project, part of the Public Works Administration programs. Studies
recommended a route through the South Platte River Valley to connect the northern and
southern parts of the city, dubbed the Platte Valley Drive Road. But due to limited
funds and the complexity of building through industrial and residential areas, only two
segments of the proposed road were built by 1940: a short stretch between south Denver
and Colfax Avenue and another between Denargo Market and 38th Avenue. Charles
Vail, chief engineer of the Department of Highways (DOH) during the early 1940s, had
formerly been Denvers parks manager. Using his knowledge of Denvers streets, he
spearheaded the revival of the Platte Valley Drive Road. In 1943, with Vails urging, the
state legislature passed the Colorado Freeway Act authorizing the State Highway
Advisory Board, with the approval of the governor, to designate any portion of a state
highway as a freeway. It also provided the foundation for the DOH to plan and
construct Denvers Valley Highway.
In 1944 the Denver consulting firm of Crocker and Ryan prepared an in-depth
report for Vail that detailed design specifications, costs, and other issues to construct the
Valley Highway along the Platte River, between 52nd Avenue on the north and Evans
Avenue on the south. The state timed the report to dovetail with the Federal Highway
Act of 1944, which authorized a system of interstate highways and directed states to

begin planning interstate routes. The 1944 legislation did not provide the federal
financial windfall that later made the construction of the interstates possible, but it did
lay the groundwork for states to begin their planning.6
The planners
designed the Valley
Highway to be the citys
first independent artery
for traffic, virtually
unimpeded by
intersections, traffic lights,
or access to roadside
businesses and other
destinations. It followed
federal standards for
interstate highways with
at least four lanes of
divided traffic. The
primary goals of the freeway, and for any freeway built in the Denver region in ensuing
decades, was to save motorists time and money and to increase road safety. Highway
6 Crocker and Ryan, Preliminary Report on a North-South Limited-Access Highway Through Denver. (Denver:
Colorado Highway Department, 1944), 1,15. Marion Wiley, The High Road (Denver: State Department of
Highways, 1976), 30-31, 41.

planners calculated cost savings due to the shorter travel times made possible by the
Valley Highway. Crocker and Ryan estimated that on the highway, drivers of trucks and
cars would cover the entire length of the city in 12 to 15 minutes, compared to 35 to 60
minutes for travel on city streets. By factoring in the cost to build, operate, and maintain
the highway against the savings from improved travel times, they used a calculus that
balanced the expenditure of public funds with private costs to operate motor vehicles
and travel throughout the city. According to this equation, they estimated the highway
would be paid for in thirteen years (it actually took fifteen years). They also computed
additional economic benefits from improvements to major east-west connections, such
as the corridor between Colorado Boulevard and Sheridan Boulevard along 46th and 48th
avenues, considered by many to be the most congested streets in the city.7
An important component of the Valley Highway plan included the East 46th
Avenue Freeway and the W. 48th Avenue Freeway to solve severe congestion and
bottlenecks. East of the Valley Highway the problems included the coliseum complex,
stockyards and meat packing plants, railroad tracks, and rush hour traffic volumes in the
vicinity of Globeville. West of the Valley Highway, between Federal and Sheridan
boulevards, W. 48th Avenue was clogged with high numbers of vehicles on local trips, in
addition to vehicles traveling through Denver to Golden and beyond. Planners
envisioned a major east-west freeway along these thoroughfares, connecting to the Valley
Highway via a cloverleaf interchange later nicknamed the Mousetrap.
7 Crocker and Ryan, 12, 26-27, 39-41. Wiley, 41-42.

The Valley Highway Protests
After World War II, Denver began its transformation into a booming
metropolis, spurred by massive population growth and federal investments in
infrastructure, housing, and transportation. Promising to deal with Denvers housing
crisis and outdated building codes, Quigg Newton ousted five-term mayor Ben Stapleton
in 1947 and proceeded to clean out city hall, expand and improve city services, and lead
the city into a new transportation age focused upon automobility and aviation. During
his two terms, he replaced the weak Denver Planning Commission with the Denver
Planning Office, and helped create the Intercounty Regional Planning Commission that
began to tackle issues such as governmental cooperation in transportation.8
Just one month after taking office in June 1947 Mayor Newton faced protests
against the Valley Highway. The opposition, brewing since April, stalled plans and
caused considerable mayhem in public meetings of the Denver City Council. While
campaigning for a seat on city council Ernest Marranzino spoke for the residents of
Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea, who would be isolated from the rest of the city by the
Valley Highway. Criticizing the project as a virtual blockade for the thousands of
workers who travel to packing houses, steel plants, and railroad shops in the area, he
8 Mark Foster, Citizen Quigg (Golden: Fulcrum Publishing, 2006), vi, 89; Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J.
Noel, Denver Mining Camp to Metropolis (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990), 243-244, 246; Sam
Lusky, Newton Declares Housing Crisis Typical Unsolved City Problem, Rocky Mountain News, April 30,
1947, 8.

organized several meetings to enlist support for locating the highway to the north of
Globeville. At one of these meetings he clarified his position:
I am for progress in Denver, but not at the expense of the district I hope
to represent. The highway is a fine idea, but it cannot be allowed to
blight northeast Denver and nip in the bud industrial expansion of this
vital area.9
Cottage camp business owners along Santa Fe Boulevard, who protested
diverting tourist traffic from their corridor to the new highway, forced the city council to
delay any decision on the Valley Highway for six weeks. Another persistent critic,
Gordon Tamblyn, founder of the Denver Taxpayers Protective Association, published
his views in the associations biweekly Municipal News. Tamblyn questioned the legality
of the city ordinance passed to build the Valley Highway given that the city did not
possess enough funds to adequately purchase the right-of-way to build the road. This
problem indeed plagued construction of the freeway when the city ran out of funds after
paying just over two million dollars (more than 16 million in 2007) of the more than ten
million (nearly 70 million in 2007) required for the right-of-way. The state paid for the
remainder. When its funds were depleted just before the passage of the Interstate
Highway Act in 1956, the highway department waited for legislation to be enacted to
take advantage of the 90/10 federal-state matching funds to pay for the rest of the
9 Proposed Super Highway Rapped as Virtual Blockade Across City, Rocky Mountain News, April 27,
1947,17; Marranzino Protests Limited-Access Road, Rocky Mountain News, April 30,1947, p. 8.
10 Municipal News, April 5,1948, April 16, 1948, May 6,1948.

Perhaps the Rocky Mountain News provided the best synopsis of the thoughts of
many Denver citizens in an editorial entitled Denver Needs the Valley Highway. The
editorial questioned whether people forced to move would be adequately protected, but
it still supported the cosdy project for the common good of the city. Even though
Globeville had once been an important part of the citys industrial success, the new
growth and development of the metropolitan area required constructing the highway and
splitting the community in half. 11
The new mayor strongly supported the Valley Highway as a bold, far-sighted
approach to Denvers growing traffic problems.11 12 He believed that the Stapleton
administration had stalled on the issue long enough and he knew that Denver had to fix
its traffic problems immediately to take advantage of available funds and to avoid costly
fixes at a later time. Furthermore, he believed the project to have been planned carefully
to meet the urgent needs of Denver residents, and that it limited its hardship on the few
who must necessarily sacrifice for the benefit of the many.13 According to a local
history of Globeville, one of the mayors closest advisors, Andrew Wysowatky,
attempted to convince the mayor to move the freeway away from his native
neighborhood, but to no avail.14
11 Denver Needs the Valley Highway, Rocky Mountain New, July 9, 1947, 14.
12 Immediate Release from the Mayors Office to City Council, June 26, 1947. WH1327 James Quigg
Newton, Jr. Collection, Box 2, FF11. Western History Collection, Denver Public Library.
13 For Immediate Release from the Mayors Office to City Council, WH1327 James Quigg Newton, Jr.
14 Our Parish and the Globeville Community, Holy Transfiguration Church, 2004. Accessed from

On June 30, 1947, before a crowd of 600 vociferous protesters, the city council
approved the highway, expected to cost approximately $16 million (roughly $145 million
in 2007). Because the audience resorted to angry retorts, jibes, and cheers, the council
called in policemen to quell the disturbances. Despite the opposition, the council
members voted seven to two to approve the measure because they believed that the
highway would solve some of Denvers traffic problems.
Councilman Ernest Marranzino reiterated his concern over the lack of plans to
minimize damage to Globeville. He introduced a substitute measure to approve these
minimization plans, but the measure lost by a vote of 5 to 4. 15 Marranzino wanted to
lessen the impact of the highway on his constituents and had reason to be concerned
given that the city had never before relocated citizens to make way for a freeway, and
had to do so during a severe housing shortage. The city proved its ignorance and lack of
concern for the issues confronting those affected by the highway by referring to them as
Displaced Persons, or DPs, the same term used for war refugees from Europe.
Why city officials chose to use the same term for those displaced by highway
construction to those who had lost everything due to war has not been recorded. By
cutting a highway through their neighborhood, the residents already knew that the city
thought they were second-class citizens. Adding insult to injury, the city then referred to
these residents using impersonal terminology. Even though this demonstrated a glaring
Accessed March 21,
15 John Buchanan, Council Approves Road Act, The Denver Post, July 1, 1947,1; Mark Foster, Citizen
Quig& 144.

bureaucratic insensitivity, the city did provide assistance to relocate residences and
businesses and paid owners their fair market values.16 In addition, one of Mayor
Newtons campaign promises included the creation of the Mayors Commission on
Human Relations to help minority groups join with the majority to ensure they were
adequately represented in government. The commission also attempted to eliminate
discrimination of minorities in city offices. 17
Who were the people displaced by the Valley Highway? In 1950 the residents of
Globeville were, for the most part, the working-class sons, daughters, and grandchildren
of Eastern-European immigrants, predominantly Volga-Deutsch (Germans from Russia)
and Slavs, who worked in meatpacking plants and other nearby industries. Their
neighborhood remained fairly stable until the construction of the Valley Highway in
1948 and the Stapleton public housing project north of 51s' Avenue in 1956, which
precipitated many of the second-generation families to move to suburbs to the north and
west such as Westminster, Arvada, and Wheat Ridge.
The Valley Highway, constructed between 1948 and 1958, cost $33 million ($230
million in 2007), more than twice as much as initial estimates. After passage of the 1956
Interstate Highways Act, DOH engineers extended the freeway as a link in Interstate 25,
16 Mayor Spurs Valley Plan, The Denver Post, June 30, 1947, 3. Doris Gruenwald, Denver Rabbi Urges
U.S. to Accept D.P.s, The Denver Post, June 16, 1947. City Will Help Highway DPs Find New Homes,
Rocky Mountain News, July 11, 1947; Denvers Displaced Persons: A City Responsibility, The Denver Post,
July 9, 1947. Daniel Doeppers, The Globeville Neighborhood in Denver, The Geographical Review 57,
No. 4 (October 1967): 514.
17 James Atkins, Human Relations in Colorado (Denver: Colorado Department of Education, 1968), 157-159.

Colorados primary north-south highway. Soon after it opened it reached full capacity
and was expanded to eight lanes between Santa Fe Drive and the Boulder Turnpike.18
The Valley Highway skirted the western periphery of Globeville west of
Broadway, removing at least seventy structures and truck farms in the area between
Globeville and Argo, two of Denvers most overlooked and forgotten neighborhoods.
As the dumping ground for less desirable industries, these neighborhoods still lacked
many of the basic services found elsewhere in the city, but the residents had stable jobs,
a thriving community, and well-kept houses and lawns. The removal of these citizens
garnered little attention from either the DOH or the City of Denver. But nearby
residents remembered the displacements and began to complain quietly about proposed
freeways in their neighborhoods, setting the stage for controversies during the interstate
highway era.
18 Wiley, 45.

The Beginning of Interstate Revolts in the United States
Interstates transformed unused and agricultural lands between cities into
productive, economic corridors, connected American cities coast to coast, and provided
access to the nations diverse natural and historical parks and monuments along uniform
ribbons of asphalt and concrete. But even though interstates had numerous benefits for
rural and undeveloped areas, in urban areas they created more problems than they
solved. Before World War II, when the majority of the countrys freight and long-
distance traffic still moved by rail, the countrys greatest traffic problems festered in
urban areas where metropolitan growth had created sprawl and traffic congestion for
suburban dwellers traveling to and from the central business district. Suburban growth
left some inner-city neighborhoods de-populated and subject to blighted conditions,
occupied by those who could not afford to move, including elderly and poor residents
and minority groups. Major cities, and the politicians representing them, became
staunch advocates for superhighways to address the problems created in metropolitan
areas by suburban development.
In addition to solving transportation issues related to national defense and
boosting the economic system, interstates had been intended to fix urban problems, but

they did more to destroy cities than any other federal program. Touted as a single-shot
solution for traffic congestion, blight, and the decline of downtowns due to
decentralization, interstate projects became the cornerstone for urban renewal initiatives
in many cities. Pro-growth mayors throughout the country eagerly welcomed the federal
investment and economic stimulation promised by freeways, creating an almost universal
acceptance of the highway program. The backlash against urban freeways, which began
immediately after controversial projects destroyed older inner-city neighborhoods and
downtowns in several American cities, came largely from residents who had stayed in the
cities. These people were the first to recognize highway policies as detrimental to
communities and neighborhoods. After 1956, growing numbers of Americans criticized
highway engineers for making decisions solely on technical issues while disregarding
social and community issues, and placing the needs of highway users above those direcdy
impacted by highways in their neighborhoods.1
In Building the American Highway System, technology historian Bruce E. Seely
argued that while the engineers at the federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) who
supervised the building of a national road network in the United States promoted
themselves as apolitical and technical experts, the reality of their involvement was more
complex. As automobiles spread throughout America in the 1910s and 1920s, a small
group of men at the BPR orchestrated promotional, legislative, and technical
1 Richard Weingroff, The Genie in the Bottle: The Interstate System and Urban Problems, Public Reads
64, No. 2 (September/October 2000). Available from the Public Roads website of the FHWA,
http: / / /pubrds /septoctOO7index.htm: accessed January 18, 2007.

developments to create and control the nations road-building program.2 While BPR
engineers faced significant challenges through the years, they received almost unanimous
support from the general public, business owners, politicians, and bureaucrats until the
late 1950s. State highway engineers enjoyed virtually the same level of acceptance until
they began to design and build freeways through cities.
Dramatic changes occurred in civil engineering in the late 1950s to prepare for
the interstate system. Highway departments across the country hired armies of engineers
fresh from college to complete a variety of new tasks, such as meeting federal design
criteria and preparing cost estimates and plans and specifications, as well as support staff
to handle the new accounting and auditing requirements of the legislation. The program
also required the use of new data processors to compute engineering costs and
problems, work that had previously been done manually. At the federal level, engineers
developed a maze of plans and procedures that had to be followed. Private contractors
scrambled to purchase new equipment and hired engineers to manage highway contracts.
All of this represented a significant new direction for highway building.3
Occupied as they were with statistics, standard designs, and procedures, it is not
surprising that narrow federal and state policies turned some members of the public
against highways. It is also true that construction went fairly smoothly along thousands
of miles of both rural and urban interstates. Some Americans decried the plan-less
2 Bruce E. Seely, Building, the American Highway System: Engineers as Policy Makers (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1987), 10.
3 Marion Wiley, The High Road (Denver: Colorado Department of Highways, 1976), 35.

planning of highway building advocated by the BPR and implemented by state highway
departments, which placed too much emphasis upon automobiles instead of mass
transit, targeted the destruction of older, poorer neighborhoods with largely black or
ethnic populations, destroyed natural environments and landscapes, and failed to
consider other alternatives. As state highway engineers attempted to solve these new
problems, federal engineers struggled to supervise the interstate highway construction
projects that grew in complexity and duration due to increased levels of citizen
In the late 1980s historians Mark Rose and Bruce Seely interviewed senior
highway engineers as part of a project for the American Association of State and
Highway Transportation Officials to collect the history of engineers who participated in
the construction of the Interstate Highway System. The project documented significant
changes experienced by highway engineers between the late 1950s and 1960s, when
environmental and social concerns competed with technical concerns. Many of the
engineers, including several involved in the W. 48th Avenue Freeway in Denver,
expressed surprise about the criticism from the public, business leaders, and politicians
over urban interstate projects. They had previously exercised considerable autonomy in
planning and building the nations road network, legitimized by their positions as
technical experts and as stewards for hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid.4
4 The States and the Interstates: Research on the Planning, Design, and Construction of the Interstate and Defense Highway
System. (Washington, D.C.: American Association of State Highway Officials, 1991), vi, 60-62, Appendix.

While in the past, critics blamed road builders for not building roads fast enough
to meet public demand, by the late 1950s the criticism turned to serious discontent and
distrust of highway engineers. As urban projects became more controversial, critics paid
more attention to the failures of the interstate program than its successes. More groups
demanded a voice in determining route location and ensuring that social needs were met,
including charges that highway engineers deliberately located interstate routes primarily
through African American and other minority, low-income neighborhoods.
State highway officials countered that their opponents did not have the
experience or knowledge to tamper with highway decision-making. For a profession that
traditionally relied upon economic indicators, traffic counts, and efficiency studies to
make engineering decisions, admitting that other concerns might be legitimate was an
indication of weakness. This conflict between engineering and social values
characterized the majority of freeway protests throughout the U.S., as citizen groups
wanting to preserve their environments attempted to negotiate with highway engineers.
Engineers believed the protestors wanted to protect their private interests at the expense
of the public good. But others stressed that freeway revolts actually resulted from
competing public interests. Protecting individual privacy and preserving housing stock
in viable, stable neighborhoods were as much in the public interest as the building of
freeways used for private transportation. Many urban freeway protests illustrated this
conflict between public values, especially given the possession of enormous amounts of

rights-of-way by state highway departments, which at the peak of the interstate
construction demolished some 70,000 housing units each year.5
In a 1976 review of the indictments against the Interstate Highway System, Gary
T. Schwartz noted that during the late 1950s and early 1960s highway engineers openly
preferred to route interstates through parklands, along shorelines, and through low-
income neighborhoods. Parklands were especially vulnerable, given the variance in
usage and condemnation laws in municipalities throughout the country. In addition,
local planning officials supported the routing of highways through neighborhoods
considered to be slums to clear these areas as part of urban renewal projects. But rather
than labeling highway officials and local planners as racist and unconcerned with low
income neighborhoods, Schwartz argued that many urban freeways, of necessity, had to
follow the geographical path of least political resistance. The perversity here lies with
our entire political system rather than any particular federal program. 6 Another similar
argument recognized that until the 1970s, most highway engineers or local officials were
ignorant of the significance of lower-income ethnic communitiesthe architecture,
shops, churches, and schoolsthat gave a place its unique character. Where these
5 The States and the Interstates, 62-63.
6 Gary T. Schwartz, Urban Freeways and the Interstate System. Southern California Taw Review 49 (March
1976): 484.

officials saw poverty and lack of political power, they also failed to recognize the
contributions the residents of these neighborhoods made to the overall city.7
Urban freeways also harbored controversies because state highway engineers had
little or no experience building highways in cities, having concentrated before 1956 on
less expensive rural projects. The limits of their understanding focused upon technical
and engineering matters and they wanted to avoid the massive social problems they
encountered when building urban freeways. Schwartz maintained that cities were never
blackmailed by the threat of losing the 90/10 federal funds. Many cities saw the
interstates as an attempt to address the historic imbalance between the greater
expenditures by urban residents for state gas taxes than their rural counterparts.
Schwartz argued, If cities have been casualties, the injuries have been largely self-
inflicted, as cities knew about the terms and benefits of the program.8 To a certain
extent, this can be said of the Denver city council when it approved the W. 48th Avenue
route. Without the benefit of hindsight, these officials did not know the ramifications of
the urban interstate highway program.
For years after the Freeway Act of 1956 Congress continued to tinker with the
Interstate Highway System to mitigate its many side effects. While many knew the
program was a civil engineering milestone, few fully understood the scope of its social
impacts for thousands of communities throughout the United States. But it should also
7 Rebecca Ann Hunt, Urban Pioneers: Continuity and Change in the Ethnic Communities in Two
Denver, Colorado Neighborhoods: 1875-1998 (Ph.D, diss., University of Colorado, 1999), 23.
8 Schwartz, 488-489.

be noted that even though many of the consequences were unknown, elected officials in
Denver failed to address adequately the concerns of their constituents, believing that the
overall benefits of the interstate system for the whole city would counterbalance the
destruction of older neighborhoods and beloved city parks.
Interstate CostsNationally and in Denver
As interstate highways chewed through urban environments, the nearly
unanimous support of cities and urban planners eroded, and in many cities, protracted
negotiation led to increased project delays and costs. Engineers became particularly
dismayed as city council members and mayors joined the opposition. As a result, costs
for urban freeways soared. In 1956, estimates to construct urban segments had been
four billion dollars of the $27 billion total. Just one year later, planners estimated urban
interstates would cost nearly $13 billion (in 2007, this computes to almost thirty billion
dollars of the more than $200 billion total). The increase in opposition also
demonstrated larger forces joining the initial swell of nimbys in freeway revolts.9 By
9 The States and the Interstates, 69, 73. Richard Weingroff, Essential to the National Interest. Public Roads
69, No. 5 (March/April 2006). Available from the Public Roads website,
: accessed January 18, 2007.

had already been done on the south route. The highway engineers never made these
figures available to the public, and computed them after the completion of a study by an
independent team of engineers that looked only at the north and south routes. Why the
engineers did not pursue the north route because of this cost estimate study is a puzzle,
but it probably points to their predetermination to build the route along 48th Avenue, for
a number of reasons. Primarily, they had spent years planning the project, but the
pressure to keep 1-70 within Denver for tourist and business interests also played a part
in their decision. Actual costs to construct the south route, completed in 1966, between
the Valley Highway and Sheridan, 3 miles in length, were $7.8 million (almost $55 million
in 2007), or $3.1 million less than the 1958 estimate. This figure included $500,000 less
than the original estimate of nearly two million dollars for right-of-way purchases.12
Denvers Urban Renewal Era
Beginning in the 1950s, planners targeted Globeville and other nearby
neighborhoods as ideal locations for urban renewal projects, part of efforts to revitalize
poorer neighborhoods and shabby downtown districts. The Housing Act of 1949 and
the Federal Highway Act of 1956 demolished hundreds of thousands of older houses
and commercial buildings in cities throughout the country, many of which were leveled
and replaced by bland, low-income housing projects, sprawling highway interchanges,
and parking lots. The absence of specific federal policies for residents in inner-city areas,
12 Department of Highways, State of Colorado, Commemorating the Opening of a Segment of Interstate
70 Between the Valley Highway and Sheridan Boulevard, Denver. Denver: 1966.

when compared to those provided for residents in suburban neighborhoods, also helped
hasten the decline. The Federal Housing Administration made conditions especially
favorable for white, middle-class families to purchase their own suburban homes, while
at the same time neglecting to provide similar opportunities for inner-city ethnic groups.
Other measures that encouraged development outside of inner-city areas included tax
breaks to businesses to build new structures instead of renovating older ones.13
In 1955, the city of Denver established the Urban Renewal Commission, a panel
of citizens and municipal staff who evaluated Denvers needs for urban renewal.
Describing it as a natural part of a citys life cycle: growthmaturityobsolescence
urban renewal the commissions explained that because most of Denver was still young,
only the oldest parts of the city had reached the end of their life cycle.14 The
commission consisted of eleven citizens and a technical staff, which identified blighted
areas, created a citywide comprehensive plan, established zoning, health, and housing
codes, developed financial plans, and created a program to involve citizens. Sound
neighborhoods featured stable occupancy rates, active neighborhood associations,
neighborhood pride, and attractive landscaping and maintenance, regardless of property
values. Neighborhoods that did not have these attributes met the criteria for urban
13 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier. The Suburbanization of the United States. (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1985), 190-191.
14 Brown, Giltner, and Nez, Denver Tomorrow: The Denver Comprehensive Flan, Summary of a Long-Range Capital
Improvement Plan (Denver: Hirschfeld Press, 1957), 10. Emphasis in the original.

Some of the larger urban renewal projects included clearing the working-class
and industrial neighborhood west of Cherry Creek for the Auraria campus and razing
most of the residential and commercial structures on 27 downtown blocks for the
Skyline Urban Renewal project. Even tidy and thriving neighborhoods met the
conditions for urban renewal, if they were adjacent to industrial sections where industry,
warehouses, and transportation facilities could be expanded. The neighborhoods of
Argo, Globeville, Elyria, Swansea, and Berkeley fit this description for their proximity to
the city center and as gateways into the city. Surrounded by truck farms to the north and
west and factories to the south, residences in this section of the city appeared to be
Most city officials had little or no understanding of the needs and desires of
immigrant communities and this ignorance often created tremendous changes in these
neighborhoods when they lay in the path of highways or public housing projects. In the
1950s, city officials thought lower-income ethnic neighborhoods like Globeville lacked
community structure, when in reality, few residents in the community had the skills to
represent their needs to the city government. As a result, rapid change could be forced
upon the residents without their consent. As they began to understand the political
institutions of the city, they learned to participate in the decisions that affected them.
Residents in Berkeley were better prepared to engage the city government than those of
Globeville during the late 1950s.15
15 Hunt, 23.

In an attempt to address problems of decentralization in Denvers older
neighborhoods, city officials attempted to articulate a vision through master plans that
examined future growth, recreational facilities, industrial expansion, urban renewal,
natural resources, and transportation, including the development of freeways. Saco
Rienk DeBoer authored a Master Plan for Denver Parks in 1949 and suggested that to
protect recreational opportunities and reduce dust, noise, and congestion, freeways
should never go through or around parks. In 1957, the Planning Commission issued
Denver Tomorrow, the 20-year comprehensive plan, which stated that freeways must
circumvent established neighborhoods to protect their character. Yet the freeway along
46th and 48th avenues within the citys northern limits cut directly through established
neighborhoods and beloved parks. Even though planners wanted to restrict freeways
within the fabric of the city, highway engineers sidestepped or blatantly ignored many of
these plans for the citys freeways. This happened because city planners and highway
engineers had varying degrees of power. After the passage of the 1956 Federal Highway
Act, highway engineers became the dominant force in transforming entire
neighborhoods throughout the country, in direct conflict with the intentions of many
city planners.16
16 S.R. DeBoer, A Master Plan for Denvers Parks: A Study and Plan of Development (Denver: Improvements and
Parks, June 1949, 20; Denver Tomorrow (Denver: City and County of Denver Planning Commission, 1957),
no page number, under section tide Major Circulation and Public Facilities.

Demographics of Northwest Denver in 1960
The area set aside for 1-70 in urban Denver, unlike so many other major cities,
did not pass through neighborhoods historically inhabited by African Americans.
During the 1940s and 1950s, most of Denvers African Americans lived in the Five
Points neighborhood northeast of downtown, well beyond the interstates reach. African
Americans moved into the Stapleton housing project and other homes vacated by
residents fleeing Globeville because of the Valley Highway, and between 1950 and 1960,
increased in population from 22 to 559. Only eleven African Americans lived in
Berkeley according to the 1960 census.
Why did Berkeley residents become so involved in fighting the interstate, while
the Globeville residents are harder to find in the freeway protests? While on the surface
the two neighborhoods would appear to have little in common, they actually shared
several key characteristics that indicated their desirability for urban renewal projects.
These include lower median incomes and low numbers of residents with college degrees.
But they also had high numbers of residents who described themselves as native-born:
nearly 80 percent in Berkeley, and 73 percent in Globeville, and most of them owned
their own homes. Most Berkeley residents were the grandchildren of German, Irish, and
Italian immigrants who had filtered through northwest Denver throughout the twentieth
century, while the second- and third-generations of Eastem-European immigrants
remained in Globeville, maintaining strong connections within their neighborhood, but
not with the rest of the city. Globeville also included higher percentages of Mexican-

American residents (27 percent of the total), as well as African-American residents (ten
The demographic data in the U.S. Census in 1960, during the height of freeway
protests, provides a snapshot of each neighborhood. First of all, in Berkeley, nearly 50
percent of the workers had white-collar jobs, as professionals, technical workers,
managers, or sales and clerical workers. In Globeville, 23 percent of the workers had
these types of jobs. The residents of Berkeley had slightly higher incomes, larger homes,
and more education than those in Globeville. In Berkeley, the total population in 1960
was 8,185. These residents were overwhelmingly white and married, with a median
income of approximately $6,000 in 1959 and averaging 11.3 years of education. Nearly
75 percent of the men, and 36 percent of the women, worked as professionals,
managers, clerical staff, or craftspeople, and 67 percent drove their own cars or
carpooled to and from their jobs. In 1960, less than five percent of the residents had
completed college or earned between $10,000 and $14,999 in income. And they typically
lived in single-family detached homes, which they owned, averaging 2.84 persons per
Globeville gained approximately 1,000 residents between 1950 and 1960, with a
total population of 5,294, due to the Stapleton Housing Project, designed to house 1,400
17 Hunt, 10, 75; U.S. Census, Denver, Housing and Population, 1960.

people.18 Of these, 559 were African-American, and 4,443 white. Twenty-seven percent
of the total population of the neighborhood, or 1,403 residents, had been born in
another country. In 1959 the median income for families in Globeville in 1959 reached
$4,800, and residents averaged 8.4 years of education. The same percentages of men and
women worked in Globeville as in Berkeley (75 percent of men and 35 percent of
women), but most were laborers, craftspeople, or machinists and 67 percent drove their
own cars or carpooled to and from work. Only twelve residents had completed college.
Most of the houses were single-family detached homes, averaging 3.76 people per
household, and more than half of the residents in Globeville owned their own homes.
Many residents of Berkeley in 1960 had moved to the area from the
neighborhood of North Denver. This neighborhood is distinct from the area known as
North Denver today that has been expanded to include Highlands, West Highlands, and
the neighborhood north of Sloans Lake. Part of the original boundaries of Denver,
North Denver formerly included the area between Zuni Street and the Platte River along
the spine of 38th Avenue.
After 1900, when the second-generation German and Irish families began
moving from North Denver into new houses in Highlands and Berkeley, Italian
immigrants moved to the neighborhood and gave North Denver its nickname, Little
Italy. By the 1910s, Italians also started to expand throughout other neighborhoods in
north Denver and many of the children of the families who first settled there built
18 Joan Bossert, Globeville: Changing Patterns in One of Denvers Old Ethnic Neighborhoods
(unpublished paper, geography department, University of Colorado, April 1975), 5. In CDOT
Environmental Program Branch, History Files, Region Six, Globeville.

houses on vacant lots west of Zuni and into Berkeley, especially north and west of
Federal between 32nd and 50th. Entrepreneurs also moved north and opened small
businesses on 44th, in addition to 38th, between Navajo and Sheridan. Several Southern
Italian families established truck farms north of Denver, along 58th Avenue, and along
Broadway west of Globeville after 1910 to supply Denver residents with fresh fruits and
vegetables. Some of these families moved farther north and west to establish truck
farms and greenhouses in Adams and Jefferson counties. 19
Berkeley residents became more involved in halting the construction of a freeway
through their neighborhoods because of acculturation. The census figures that pertain
to the number of residents with professional or managerial jobs demonstrate that many
Berkeley residents had cultivated both professional and political connections that helped
prepare them to fight an unwanted intrusion in their neighborhood. The Globeville
residents, while overwhelmingly native-born, had blue-collar jobs and had not yet filtered
into the rest of the community. They were more willing to live with the changes thrust
upon them by the city and state governments, even if they did not want these changes.
The councilman for Globeville, Joe Ciancio, described the public hearing held for the E.
46th Avenue freeway in 1959 as generally favorable, because most of those who attended
the hearing held common sense opinions about the need to improve the traffic problems
on 46th. But they also asked the highway department to design the highway at grade
level, instead of an elevated highway, so that it was less intrusive. While Ciancio
19 Hunt, 88.

indicated that the highway department negotiated with the residents, the resulting design
included primarily elevated bridge structures. Even though the Globeville residents did
not get what they wanted, they still did not organize to create the same level of
opposition as the Berkeley residents on the 48th Avenue route.20 It was not until the mid
1960s that the Globeville residents created a successful civic organization, formed
effective inter-ethnic coalitions, and began to learn how to block unwanted changes to
their neighborhood.
The W. 48 Denverites knew about plans to build an east-west high-speed freeway that
connected to the Valley Highway as early as 1944. But these plans were almost foiled
when BPR officials announced their intention to terminate Interstate 70 at the Valley
Highway in Denver as part of the 1956 Federal Highway Act. The looming presence of
the Continental Divide more than sixty miles away discouraged federal officials from
planning any kind of interstate for traffic between Denver and the mountain
communities. City and state officials quickly organized a lobbying effort. Colorado
governor Big Ed Johnson and Denver mayor Will Nicholson influenced other Rocky
Mountain politicians and appealed personally to President Eisenhower to include the
20 Transcript of Public Hearing In the Matter of Proposed Plan for the Development of Interstate Route
70 Along the Line of West 48th Avenue between the Valley Highway and Wadsworth, November 9,1961,
40. CDOT, Central Files, Project # CS-072-007. Hereafter cited as Public Hearing Transcript.

300-mile route west of Denver to Utah within the 1,000 additional miles added to the
interstate system.21 By 1958, the western continuation of 1-70 had been approved, a
decision that Colorado Department of Highways (DOH) Chief Engineer Mark Watrous
considered as important to Colorado as the discovery of gold. 22 The first segment of
the proposed freeway providing high-speed, all-weather access to the mountains
proceeded west from the Valley Highway along West 46th and 48th avenues between
Broadway and Sheridan Boulevard.
21 Lyle Dorsett, The Queen City: A History of Denver (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Co., 1977), 265.
22 Associated Cultural Resource Experts, Highway to the Sky: A Context and History of Colorados Highway
System (Denver: Colorado Department of Transportation, 2002) Section 7, page 9.

Figure 9: The National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.
The Bureau of Public Roads reissued the interstate highway map in 1957 to include the additional
mileage added to the system, including the 1-70 west connection between Denver and Cove Fort, Utah.

Beginning in 1947, the city made annual requests to the Colorado Highway
Advisory Board to include 46thAvenue west of York Street as a federal-aid highway. By
1952, the route had been expanded to Quebec Street on the east and Sheridan Boulevard
on the west and had been formally approved by the BPR as the east-west freeway
through Denver. In preparation for interstates, between 1952 and 1957 the city made
annual requests to the DOH to define the route and prepare final plans.23
As early as 1954, residents of the Berkeley neighborhood began signing petitions,
attending meetings, and contacting federal and state engineers and elected officials to
determine the plans for the W. 48th Freeway and express their disapproval of the route.
They were told by state engineers that in 1949 the city and state had researched
alternative northern routes but found 48th Avenue best because it was within Denver but
also near areas of growth in Arvada and other suburbs west of Denver. In addition,
routes north of the city were longer, and had greater costs for right-of-way acquisition,
property damage, construction, and extra travel time for vehicles. But in practically the
same breath, local and state officials assured North Denver residents that the exact route
was still under discussion, especially given the objections by many residents in the area.
In 1954, only two miles of the Valley Highway had been opened for traffic. But
people in northwest Denver who remembered the families and businesses displaced by
the Valley Highway opposed a freeway in their midst. While it might be easy to suppose
23 Colorado Department of Highways, A Proposed Plan for the Development of Interstate Route 70
Along the Line of West 48th Avenue Between the Valley Highway (Interstate 25) and Wadsworth
Boulevard (Colo. 21), 2. (Report prepared for public hearing, November 9, 1961. CDOT Public
Information Office, W. 48*71-70 folder.

that few people at this time were aware of, or cared about, the destructiveness of
freeways unless they were direcdy affected, in the late 1940s and early 1950s Denver
citizens debated the values of parks versus speedways and expressed concerns that
automobiles had overtaken the city. In a 1949 master plan for Denver parks, Saco R.
DeBoer recommended that the W. 48th Freeway should be moved further north to avoid
impacts to the north end of Rocky Mountain Lake Park, Berkeley Park, and Willis Case
Golf Course. In addition, even though the highway department initially claimed that
property destruction and right-of-way costs were greater for land adjacent to 52nd
Avenue, citizens saw the relatively open land in this area, including farms and dumps, the
Sisters of St. Francis campus, and Regis University, ideal for the freeway because it
avoided parkland and established neighborhoods.24
Baffled by the decision that had apparently been made years before by local,
state, and federal officials to build the freeway along W. 48th Avenue, Berkeley residents
turned to the North Denver Civic Association for representation to the city. During the
spring of 1957, the neighborhood group held public meetings with state highway
engineers who explained the plans and showed aerial photos with the superimposed
route. At one such meeting on April 9,1957, the 250 to 300 attendees voted
unanimously to avoid W. 48'\ Members of the group started a neighborhood petition
drive and enlisted the support of local pastors, teachers, and parents, based upon
24 DeBoer, A Master Plan for Denvers Parks, 22.

collective fears that the highway would hurt recreational facilities, local churches and
schools, fire and safety access, and property values.2^
By early 1958, despite these efforts, the highway department remained firm on
the W. 48* Avenue route and hoped that the difficulties with the neighbors could be
resolved. Their efforts in dealing with citizens up to this time appear to have been
thorough and straightforward. For a short time Mark Watrous, the chief engineer of the
department, personally answered citizen opposition letters with thoughtful, lengthy
responses on the difficulties the project posed for local residents. He explained that the
most congested streets in north Denver, 46* and 48th, had high volumes of traffic that
must be alleviated by high-speed freeways. If the highway department moved the
interstate north, the traffic jams and congestion on 46* and 48* would not disappear.
He stressed that the state wanted to design highways to benefit the maximum number of
people, referring to the high number of local trips on these streets, which was far greater
than the traffic heading through Denver to the mountains.25 26
But Watrous also resorted to more overt forms of persuasion when he openly
pressured Denver city council members to approve W. 48* Avenue, resulting in a stern
rebuke from Governor Stephen L.R. McNichols. After formal approval by the BPR for
Interstate 70 from Denver to the mountains in early 1958, city council members
25 Memo from F.K Merten, District Engineer, to Chas. E. Shumate, Administrative Engineer, Colorado
Department of Highways, April 9,1957; B. Frank Moss to Mr. Mertens, May 8, 1957. Both documents
found at CDOT, Central Files, Project No. CS-01-0072-07.
26 J. Darrell White to Mark Watrous, Dec. 26, 1957 and Mark Watrous toj. Darrell White, Jan 14, 1958.
Both documents found at CDOT, Central Files, Proj. No. CS-01-072-007.

prepared to vote on the W. 48th route. Governor Steve McNichols requested a speedy
vote on the part of the council, but then intervened to mediate a prickly situation
developing between the highway department and the city. After Watrous warned the
city it would lose the massive federal investment if the interstate were routed as far north
as W. 66th or W. 84th avenues, McNichols reminded Watrous that the State Highway
Commission developed highway policy and routes, stating, The commission is the
governing body of the highway department. Watrous just builds .... He is not the
spokesman of the highway department.27 McNichols requested an engineering report
that weighed alternate routes by the summer of 1958. The citys potential refusal of the
W. 48th route also threw into jeopardy the E. 46th Avenue route between Colorado and
Broadway through the neighborhoods of Elyria, Swansea, and Globeville. On February
10,1958, the city council killed the first of several bills to consider the 48th Avenue route
until the completion of an engineering study considering alternatives, including right-of-
way costs and construction estimates.28
Freeway opponents expressed little surprise when the engineering report upheld
the recommendation for W. 48th, the south route. In August 1958 an independent firm
of Denver engineers, Barton, Stoddard, Milhollin, and Lupton, concluded that W. 48th
Avenue was superior to the north route along W. 52nd and 54th avenues, primarily
27 Steve Tells Watrous He Just Builds Roads, The Denver Post, Feb. 5, 1958, p. 1.
28 Residents Protest Elevated Freeway, Rocky Mountain News, February 7, 1958, 12; Council Bill 49, series
of 1958, Denver Clerk and Recorder; Ken Pearce, City Councils 7-2 Vote Kills Freeway Agreement on
48th. Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 11,1958.

because right-of-way costs were greater along the north route, but also because the south
route was one-half mile shorter, and had higher traffic counts which resulted in greater
benefits for road users. One of the greatest obstacles of the north route was the possible
abandonment of the Willis Case Golf Course if the highway went on its northern
boundary. Highway engineers preferred the corridor through Berkeley and Rocky
Mountain Lake parks because it apparendy disturbed fewer residences. The south route
included taking 122 houses, two greenhouses and two businesses, whereas the north
route included taking parts of the Mary Crest School, the Regis property, and the Willis
Case Golf Course, as well as four businesses, 143 houses, and industrial property. But
engineers warned that recent industrial developments in the area might result in taking
one hundred or more homes in the neighborhood of Chaffee Park along 52nd to avoid
the recendy constructed factories. In all, the engineers estimated the right-of-way on the
north route might cost nearly $2,000,000 more than 48th Avenue.29
After receiving the engineering report, the Denver city council voted on the issue
once again. City councilman Roland Sonny Mapelli, from North Denver, opposed the
south route, and complained that even though alternative routes had been considered,
the highway department was never going to deviate from their choice. The engineers,
Mapelli said, simply had their minds made up. Well never get a good and honest 07
29 F.K. Merten to Charles Shumate, November 29, 1961,3. CDOT, Central Files, Project No. CS01-0072-

hearing on an alternate as long as W. 48th Avenue is pending.30 He had an ally in Mayor
Will Nicholson, who had worked for Quigg Newton and succeeded him as mayor
between 1955 and 1959. While Nicholson personally campaigned to have 1-70 extend
west of Denver, he supported the residents who wanted the route on 52nd. In a letter to
city council before the evening meeting on August 11, 1958 he stated his position:
It has not been my habit during my term of office to send
communications to City Council on how they should vote on measures.
However, for the first time in three and one-half years, I am going to take
that privilege .... Certainly the people of northwest Denver have
demonstrated they dont want this road where it was originally planned .
. Therefore, I strongly recommend to Council tonight that they grant
permission for the freeway right-of-way along West 52nd Avenue, instead
of West 48th Avenue. I feel confident that the Bureau of Public Roads,
regardless of the opinions of their engineering people, will recognize the
recommendations and the desires of our own Denver people.31
At the meeting, the council voted to reject the route in favor of 52nd Avenue
once again. Despite this decision, stronger forces buffeted the anti-W. 48th Avenue
protests. Adams County7 began its own campaign to oppose an interstate along 52nd
Avenue, at the urging of homeowners along 52nd. Jefferson County, the City of Arvada,
engineering societies, construction companies, businessmen, the Denver Chamber of
Commerce, and other groups echoed this opposition to 52nd Avenue, concerned that
funds for the east-west interstate were not being spent within Denver, especially if the
10 Ken Pearce, City Councils 7-2 Vote Kills Freeway Agreement on 48th, Rockj Mountain News, Feb. 11,
1958, 5.
31 Will Nicholson to George Cavender and Board of Councilmen, August 11, 1958. Western History
Collection 1797, Nicholson, Will, papers, Box 3, File Folder 404.

citys taxpayers would have to pay to widen these roads at a later date. This point proved
to be so strong that the freeway opponents had a hard time countering with an effective
Under these conditions, the city council approved the W. 48th Avenue Freeway
on December 23,1958, with a vote of 6-2, explaining that if the route were built north of
the city, Denver would lose all of the benefits of an interstate highway. Supporters of
the bill included Councilman Philip Milstein from East Denver, a member of the Denver
Planning Board, who played an important role in later freeway developments in Denver.
Milstein assured citizens that the highway department would do all it could to avoid
damage to the parks. To appease park supporters, the council had tried to stipulate that
any acquisition of right-of-way in Berkeley and Rocky Mountain Lake parks must be
approved by voters in Denver in the May 1959 election. These terms, however, were
stricken from the council bill on Dec. 22, 1958.33
After the vote, lawyers for the North Denver Civic Association, led by Anthony
Zarlengo, filed a lawsuit to stop the city and state from building the freeway.34 The suit
used the same arguments as another recent lawsuit that sought to halt the highway
32 Examples of support letters include Aldo Notorianni to Hon. Stephen McNichols, January 14,1958,
Mother M. Elma, Sisters of St. Francis to Mark Watrous, January 28, 1958, East Jefferson Chamber of
Commerce to Hon. Stephen McNichols, January 23, 1958, All from CDOT, Central Files, Project No. CS-
33 Ordinance No. 474, Series of 1958, Councilmans Bill No. 516 introduced by Councilmen Flor,
Harrington, and Ciancio, Denver Clerk and Recorder.
34 Barbara Browne, Zarlengo Files Suit Against Roadway, Reeky Mountain News, Jan. 6, 1959, 5.

department from acquiring portions of City Park to widen Colorado Boulevard on the
parks eastern border. Lawyers representing affected landowners in the City Park case
argued that Denver could not authorize the use of parkland for uses other than parks.
After the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 1960 that the agreement was valid, the
decision carried over to the W. 48th Avenue lawsuit.
Meanwhile, City Auditor Thomas G. Currigan refused to sign the W. 48th Avenue
contract agreement with the State Highway Commission until the suit had been decided.
He believed it gave the highway department too much authority to use parkland for
highway purposes, and as worded, allowed the highway department to take parkland for
a highway without the due process of law under condemnation. Currigan questioned the
authority of the council to grant these rights to the highway department and requested a
change in the wording. However the city attorney, John Banks, found the language
valid, stating that while the city council could not, according to the city charter, construct
a highway through a park, they could approve such a route, just as they could approve a
route that might use private property, assuming the owners were adequately
compensated or the land was legally condemned. Similarly, if the city agreed with the
state on the route of the park, it could assist the state in obtaining right-of-way, but also
retained its right to determine whether or not the route would substantially interfere with
the park. The highway department also had a right to obtain parklands by
condemnation, if necessary, but might or might not be successful. By April 1960 after

the decision in the Zarlengo lawsuit, Currigan signed the original agreement, without any
changes, between the city and state highway commission.35
After the councils approval of the 48th Avenue freeway, the North Denver Civic
Association pursued new and more forceful arguments to persuade federal officials. In a
letter to Bertram Tallamy, Federal Highway Administrator, Mae Dallasta of the North
Denver Civic Association alleged that the highway department had made an agreement
with the owners of Lakeside Shopping Center, just west of Denver in Jefferson County
between 44th, 48th, Sheridan Boulevard, and Harlan Street, to provide access from the
freeway to the shops and amusement park despite the damages of the route to the local
parks and landowners in Denver. These charges, which could not be proved, hampered
the credibility of the anti-48h group.36
But Berkeley residents legitimately wondered whether more sinister motives had
been involved in the route selection and approval. Believing themselves to be victims of
more powerful interests, they pointed out that even though they did not live in an elite
section of the city they should not be targeted for the path of the highway. The residents
also complained that Adams County residents had more power than they did, because
they appeared to influence the city councilmen of Denver. The freeway opponents
35 Ordinance No. 474, Series of 1958, Clerk and Recorder, City and County of Denver. Ken Pearce,
Council OKs W. 48th Avenue Freeway on Final Reading, Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 30, 1958, 5. John
Buchanan, Currigan Wont Sign Contract Approving Freeway on W. 48th, The Denver Post, Dec. 30, 1958,
1. John Banks, City Attorney, to George A. Cavender, City Council President, Dec. 29, 1958, Clerk and
Recorder. Legal Agreement between City and County of Denver and State Highway Department, W. 48th
Avenue Freeway Agreement, April 22,1960, Clerk and Recorder.
36 Mae Dallasta to Mr. B. D. Tallamy, Federal Highway Administrator, December 16,1958. CDOT
Central Files, Proj. No. CS-0072-007.

resorted to more emotional, and in some cases, desperate, measures, clouding their
original purpose. If, as they had claimed earlier, they were primarily concerned about the
impact of the highway to the parks, they had obfuscated the issue with a number of
other charges that could never be substantiated or proven to federal officials who
attempted to mediate the issues.
It is clear why highway engineers focused on the W. 48th Avenue route. It offered
open parkland, followed the path of a planned parkway, and had lower costs for right-of-
way acquisition through low-income neighborhoods. And while Mayor Nicholson
wanted to avoid W. 48th Avenue, his manager of public works, Richard Batterton, fully
supported the highway departments selection of route along the parkway envisioned by
Kessler and Saco DeBoer. Batterton became mayor in 1959, and during his four years in
office, construction of the E. 46th Freeway began. Throughout his term, he continued
his unflagging support for the freeway in North Denver.37
Mixed messages from the highway department, and continued opposition from
the North Denver Civic Association, fueled the debate over W. 48th Avenue until 1962.
Part of the problem lay in the public statements engineers had already given stating their
preference for the W. 48 yet fulfilled its responsibilities under the Federal Highway Act of 1956, which stated that
all states must hold public hearings before making a final decision on a route so that
citizens could be properly informed and express their opposition or support. Several
37 Phil Goodstein, Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic (Denver: New Social Publications, 1994),

public meetings had been held up to this time, but none had satisfied the requirements
because an official transcript had not been prepared for the State Highway Commission
and BPR to review.
In August 1961 the highway department held groundbreaking ceremonies for the
first phase of the E. 46th Avenue freeway between the Valley Highway and Colorado
Boulevard. With the 46th Avenue portion under construction, the highway department
warned the North Denver Civic Association that continued opposition still threw federal
funding for this portion of the freeway into jeopardy. State highway commissioner
Joseph Marsh of Denver charactemed the Berkeley protestors as a few dissidents who
latched onto a technicality and postponed the project, creating cosdy delays.38
The Community Speaks: The Public Hearing for W. 48th Avenue
During the fall of 1961, freeway opponents and supporters prepared their
arguments for the upcoming public hearing. By the night of the hearing, November 7,
1961, tempers had flared on both sides, a situation made even worse by a ban on
smoking in the auditorium of North High School. Fred Merten, District Engineer for
DOH, presided over the meeting, attended by approximately 650 people, and lasting
more than three hours due to the parade of witnesses both for and against the route.
The official transcript of the meeting illuminated the frustrations felt by both the
38 Freeway Hearing Set for September, 77>f Denver Post, August 1,1961, 24.

highway department and the protestors who had been trying to come to terms on the
subject for four years, without any progress.39
The outcome of the hearing is plain. Despite opposition, immediately after the
hearing the highway commission approved the W. 48th route, and the BPR quickly
accepted the recommendation. The hearing raised several questions that were never
adequately answered in the available public record, including a major discrepancy in the
number of signed petitions claimed by the civic group (which claimed they had gathered
28,000 signatures versus 2,875 counted by the highway department) and rumors of
wrongdoing by Mark Watrous and other senior highway engineers. The real importance
of the meeting is its process, whereby members of the public had the opportunity to
explain why they loved their community and feared the changes promised by a freeway.
The hearing occurred during the early phase of the grassroots environmental movements
that spread throughout cities and towns in the United States during the 1960s, and
included eloquent arguments of citizens who opposed the interstate highway program
that had become much larger than they had anticipated. The language used by many
participants is particularly compelling given the time and place of the hearing, and
resonates with the current historic preservation movement and efforts to preserve older
neighborhoods. It also raised the question of why local, state, and federal officials did
not change the direction of the program before it had gone too far, and inflicted the
damage that many local residents hoped to avoid.
39 Public Hearing Transcript, 2.

That evening the North Denver Civic Association gave Merten petitions that had
purportedly been signed by 28,000 people since 1952. The highway department counted
the signatures of the petitions and found only 2,875, and no further record of the
discrepancy exists. But the language of the anti-48th Avenue petition, regardless of the
discrepancy, contained a strong message that these residents wanted delivered to
highway officials:
We, the undersigned, property owners and residents of the City and
County of Denver, in the state of Colorado, hereby protest the
establishment of a national highway and speedway to be erected along
West 48th Avenue, in Denver, Colorado, through Chaffee Park, Rocky
Mountain Park, and Berkeley Park. We are of the belief that it will
endanger the lives and safety of our children, impair the beauty and
usefulness of the above-mentioned parks and lakes therein, greatly
depreciate the values of the businesses and homes in that area, fully
eliminate many of the businesses and beautiful homes now in existence in
that area, and deprive us, the citizens and residents of Denver, State of
Colorado, from the present use of our beautiful parks and lakes. We are
of the opinion that there are many much better alternate routes that can
be used more conveniently and economically for the same, and we would
appreciate having our committee meet with the proper federal, state, and
city authorities before any further action is taken by them on the same.40
On the surface, these sentiments appear to represent a textbook case of NIMBY-
ism: neighborhood residents want to preserve parks, schools, and safe streets for their
children but support an alternate route for an interstate to better serve the needs of the
city. In other words, we support highways, but we want them somewhere else. And
because the highway department perceived the protests as local in origin, it stood firm
40 Public Hearing Transcript, 16.

on its choice because it had performed the requisite economic and engineering analyses
that pointed conclusively to the selection of this route. But these residents were
struggling to articulate a deeper and more significant concept about their neighborhood
just beginning to be heard throughout urban America. It involved power struggles and
conflicts within communities and the awakening of lower-income communities who had
been easily manipulated by government entities that had forced rapid and unwelcome
changes upon them. The conflicts of the urban interstate program generated from the
dissatisfaction felt by many U.S. citizens over the dominance of government, akin to
struggles that erupted in the U.S. throughout the 1960s, including anti-Vietnam protests
and equality demonstrations for minorities and women.
Many of the residents of northwest Denver who attended the hearing on
November 9,1961 believed that if the city and state wanted the W. 48th freeway to slice
through their neighborhood, there was little that they could do about it. Even before
Merten launched into his description of the proposed route, one attendee interrupted
him to ask, If this thing is all decided and there is no appeal, and this is merely
explanatory, is there any purpose for us being here? In response, Merten explained that
the State Highway Commission would review the transcript to help make their decision,
but the answer did not appease the attendees as the questions became more insistent, the
speakers more emotional about their opposition, and the meeting degenerated into
sporadic outbursts of loud boos and catcalls aimed at freeway supporters.41
41 Public Hearing Transcript, 4-5.

One of the main speakers that night had spearheaded anti-freeway efforts for the
North Denver Civic Association since 1960. Robert B. Keating was a lawyer and the
president of the city council, representing District 1 in northwest Denver. His father,
Bert Keating, lost in the election for mayor to Will Nicholson in 1955, but had
previously served as election commissioner, state legislator, and Denver district
attorney.42 Robert Keating had lived in northwest Denver for ten years, and had taken
over as councilman for the district from Sonny Mapelli in 1960. Keatings greatest
objection was that the freeway isolated this section of northwest Denver from the rest of
the city, when it could easily go to the north and keep the city intact. It also made the
citizens feel overlooked and forgotten, as if being on the other side of the freeway had
the same connotation as being on the other side of the tracks. It is a potent image,
especially because many of the residents had labored to better their conditions from
those of their parents, only to have an unwelcome situation thrust upon them by city and
state governments. They believed the freeway would cause depreciation of their
properties, given the increase in noise, pollution, and other issues.43
Many who spoke that evening expressed notions of progress for the
metropolitan area. One North Denver housewife, Mae Dallasta, pointed out that the
rest of the metro area thought they were standing in the way of progress, but progress
42 Thomas J. Noel and Stephen J. Leonard, Denver Mining Camp to Metropolis (Niwot: University Press of
Colorado, 1990), 398.
43 Public Hearing Transcript, 22-24.

would still occur should the freeway be placed a few blocks to the north. This argument
is valid, especially given the dramatic levels of growth in the northern suburbs of
Denver. But at the same time, the rest of the city strongly desired to be part of the
interstate system, not only for the potential to improve city-wide transportation, but also
to connect Denver to the mountains and beyond and to eradicate the barrier of the
Continental Divide by tunneling the interstate under the Gore Range. Forty-eighth
Avenue just happened to be the corridor through which this artery of commerce,
tourism, and improved transportation must run.
When Joseph Little of the Downtown Denver Improvement Association stood
up to speak about why he personally and his organization supported the freeway, the
tone of the meeting changed, and frustration levels grew higher as residents realized the
futility of changing the proposed freeway corridor. Little, a resident of Arapahoe
County, had fought the highway department on the Hampden Freeway and the Valley
Highway. He appealed to the hearing attendees:
There isnt an argument that has been made here tonight that we didnt
make, and believe me sincerely, there isnt an argument that we made
against the Hampden freeway that has materialized. We feared things
that were unknown, we feared things that were new, we think of the
hundreds of people that attended the meetings like this, when it came to
the construction of the Hampden freeway and the Valley Highway, there
isnt a handful now that would go back to the old system, because we
have found, despite all of our fears, that those highways have been
positive benefits to us. The things that we were afraid of have not
materialized. Believe me, Im speaking very, very sincerely when I say
44 Public Hearing Transcript, 72.

Another attorney spoke the night of the hearing, and his testimony and later
actions point to an interesting controversy that cannot be substantiated, but
demonstrates the level of frustration of the residents of North Denver with the highway
department. John Conway, an assistant attorney general, commented on what he
perceived to be questionable motives of Mark Watrous to see whether or not this 48th
Avenue routing is based in truth and in fact on sound engineering, sound government.45
In a letter written to the highway department a few days after the hearing, Conway,
acting as a private citizen, also publicly aired the long-standing rumor in North Denver
that Watrous had made commitments to the owners of the Lakeside Shopping Center to
keep the 48th routing intact. If this was true, Conway concluded, the current route of the
interstate was based upon political and business connections, and was arrived at by
improper considerations or influences.46
Conways letter roused the ire of the State Highway Commission, which found
his attack on a public official on the basis of admittedly unfounded rumor,... a
scurrilous act.47 He also became the object of several newspaper stories, but no
additional information ever surfaced regarding any impropriety on the part of the
highway department officials. While minor, this episode is important, because while the
45 Public Hearing Transcript, 82.
46 John J. Conway to State Highway Department, November 13, 1961. CDOT, Central Files, Project No.
1-70 3(12).
47 Robert W. Hendee, Chairman, State Highway Commission to Governor Steven McNichols, November
15,1961. CDOT Public Information office, 48th Avenue-I-70 folder.

Colorado highway engineers may not have followed the regulations properly regarding
the selection of a route prior to the holding of a public meeting, it has never been proven
that they acted with any other motive than representing the public interest.
A hallmark of the opposition staged by the North Denver Civic Association is
persistence. Despite the formal approval of the State Highway Commission and the
BPR of W. 48th after the public hearing in November, the group sent a delegation to
Washington, D.C. to meet with Rex Whitton, Federal Highway Administrator. Whitton
listened patiently to concerns of the group, but concluded that nothing the group said
could justify rescinding his approval of W. 48th Avenue. He suggested that further issues
should be taken up with the state engineers. When the group complained that state
engineers had threatened Denver city councilmen by warning that funding would be
withdrawn on the E. 46th Avenue project unless W. 48th Avenue was approved, Whitton
replied that the matter was simply one of prudence to prevent our building ourselves
into a corner from which there was no logical outlet.48
Legal actions to stop the freeway delayed the planning and construction for
several years, such as one suit filed in spring 1962. The plaintiffs, Mae Dallasta, Isabelle
Metcalf, and Robert E. Roberts, all residents of North Denver, claimed that the 1958
agreement between the highway department and the city had been made under duress,
and was therefore invalid. The highway department, the suit claimed, had threatened the
city that unless the W. 48th Avenue route was approved, they would not build the E. 46th
48 M.F. Maloney, Meeting Minutes between Federal Highway Administrator and North Denver Civic
Association, January 2,1962. CDOT Public Information Office, W. 48th Ave-I-70 folder.

Avenue freeway between the Valley Highway and Colorado Boulevard. They also
claimed that the wishes of attendees at the public hearing on November 7, 1961 had not
been properly considered because the highway department had made a predetermined
decision to keep the route on W. 48th.
Represented by attorneys Robert Keating, still a city councilman, and Hubert
Henry, the suit was decided in favor of the defendants in 1963, before Colorado
Supreme Court Justice Edward Day. Day upheld the decision of the Denver District
Court, which ruled that the state highway department and the city had acted properly in
the matter, and that it was impossible for a court to overturn decisions made by a
regulatory agency that possessed special knowledge of road building, whereas the court
did not. The court, believing that the city and state acted in good faith, did not wish to
interfere with the authority of public agencies to make decisions for the public.49 The
U.S. Congress changed the scope of this argument with the passage of regulations such
as the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Protection
Act in 1966 and 1969, respectively, which required the review of State Historic
Preservation Officers, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the
Environmental Protection Agency, as well as higher levels of citizen involvement for all
federal projects.
The highway department persevered, partly because the engineers refused to
accept many of the residents complaints as valid. One of the most glaring facts that
49 Colorado Supreme Court, Case No. 20,684, City and County District Court Case No. B-56241, filed
April 16, 1963, Colorado State Archives.

engineers never adequately addressed was that the freeway isolated the four blocks of the
city north of 48th Avenue. Highway department engineers simply stated that the grade-
separated crossings of the freeway kept the blocks attached to the rest of the city.
Similarly, A.B. Abelard, the Division Engineer of the BPR, pointed out in his approval
memo of W. 48th Avenue that many in the road building industry believed freeways
enhanced property values. The opinion was based upon undocumented studies that
showed freeways provided improved transportation and created better values for areas
lacking similar transportation facilities.50
But such a statement drastically over-simplified the effects of freeways on
property values, a problem not fully understood at the time. Transportation planners
who have since studied the issue have agreed only that freeways have a widely varying
effect according to region, municipality, and project. Factors such as levels of traffic,
condition and appearance of properties adjacent to the freeway, the presence of noise
walls, and other outside influences, all contribute to tremendous variance in residential
property values.51 No one has prepared a detailed study or conclusive statement
regarding the freeways effect upon property values in Berkeley or Globeville, and such a
study is outside the scope of this research, but property values have historically been
lower there than other neighborhoods of similar ages in Denver. Common sense
50 A.B. Abelard, Division Engineer, Memo on W. 48th Avenue, December 1,1961. CDOT Central Files,
Project No. CS01 -0072-07.
51 Jason Carey, Impact of Highways on Property Values: Case Study of Superstition Freeway Corridor,
(Phoenix: Arizona Department of Transportation, October 2001), 3-4.

dictates for many people that buying a single-family home adjacent to a freeway is not a
good investment, but purchasing other types of property near freeways, such as an
apartment, condominium, or business, can be a remarkably good investment.
The median value for homes in Berkeley in 1970 was around $14,000, but south
of 44th Avenue in the West Highland neighborhood, these values increased to about
$17,000.52 This trend, of homes in Berkeley consistendy being lower in value than those
in West Highland, continued through the decades. In 2003, the most recent year for
which statistics are available, the average home sale price in Berkeley remained about
$40,000 lower than those in West Highland ($226,000 in Berkeley and $267,000 in West
In response to the taking of parkland on the 48th route, Abelard argued because
the highway passed on the north side of the parks, the full utility of the parks would be
preserved. He also stressed that the beauty of the parks provided pleasing views for
tourists entering the city of Denver from the west.54 His comments further illustrate
the tendency of engineers during this period to brush off citizen concerns with
inadequate general statements. Engineers became more responsive to these concerns
during the late 1960s and 1970s as environmental activists, landscape planners,
52 U.S. Census of Housing and Population, Denver, Colorado, 1970.
53 The Piton Foundation Neighborhood Facts for Berkeley, West Highland,
Accessed March 20, 2007.
54 A.R. Abelard, Division Engineer, Bureau of Public Roads, internal memo, W. 48th Avenue, December 1,
1961, 4. CDOT Central Files, Project No. CS01-0072-07.

recreational advocates, neighborhood leaders, and city officials all influenced the scope
of highway planning. Unfortunately, these new policies had not yet been developed
during the construction of the W. 48th Avenue Freeway, which began in 1964. Local
residents and officials carefully monitored the progress of the project and attempted to
limit the impacts of the freeway upon parks and neighborhoods, creating more tension
between the neighborhood and the highway department. Other citizens throughout the
city also followed the construction and remembered the bitter experience of the North
Denver residents when the city of Denver and the highway department proposed to
build several inner-city freeways in 1965.

The roles and actions of state highway engineers in the implementation of the
interstate highway system have received little attention from historians or policy analysts,
especially given the powerful and autonomous roles these engineers had in carrying out
federal policy. While federal money paid for ninety percent of the system, Bureau of
Public Roads (BPR) officials only supervised the states in selecting routes and
constructing the system. All route selections were made on the local level between city
government and state highway departments and forwarded to the federal engineers for
approval. When disagreements occurred over route selection, the federal engineers
mediated, but did not make any final decisions on routing. This arrangement persisted,
even though the state highway engineers did not have any experience in political issues
despite the politics inherent in road building.1
In interviews that historians conducted with state highway engineers who built
the interstate system, many engineers said they could recall the exact moment they
understood the breadth and depth of opposition to the interstate highway system.
Several engineers in Colorado recalled the public hearings for the W. 48th Avenue
1 Mark Rose and Bruce Seely, Getting the Interstate System Built: Road Engineers and the
Implementation of Public Policy. Journal ofPoliy History, Vol. 2, No. 1,1990, 23-24.

freeway project as their moment of realization that people were starting to pay more
attention to highway engineering, and in particular, its effects upon people and the
environment. This marked a stark change from the early years of the program when
most people did not quibble with engineers single-minded quest for highways to benefit
the maximum number of users. One engineer, who recalled the project as a significant
turning point in his career, said, Quite frankly, when I was dumped into this thing [W.
48th Avenue] in Denver, I was surprised and shocked, and wondered what I had gotten
into.2 Even though he felt beat up by the public hearings in North Denver, he said
he still would not have had any faith in approaches that avoided the park or the
neighborhoods because it took him a long time to understand the problem. By the late
1960s and 1970s, he and other engineers did start to listen to experts and attend seminars
that trained them to be more aware of these issues.
But during the late 1950s and early 1960s, very few state highway engineers took
into account the concerns of local residents as they planned and constructed urban
interstate highways. Armed as they were with traffic studies, economic statistics, and
standard interstate designs, when engineers communicated their choices for interstate
routes the public had a hard time understanding their reasoning. As construction
proceeded for the E. 46th Freeway and the W. 48th Freeway in Denver, the affected
residents continued to resent the Colorado Department of Highways (DOH), feelings
that persist in these neighborhoods today.
2 American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, The States and the Interstates: Research on
the Planning Design and Construction of the Interstate and Defense Highway System.. Washington, D.C.: 1991., 199-

E. 46th Avenue Freeway Impacts
At public hearings in April 1958 for the E. 46th Freeway east of the Valley
Highway through the neighborhood of Globeville, residents specifically asked the
engineers build the interstate at ground level because they did not want huge structures
towering over their streets and homes. But by constructing an elevated highway,
engineers estimated they saved approximately five million dollars in right-of-way costs
(approximately $34 million in 2007), because the highway at ground level required much
larger swaths of land.3
Completed in September 1964, the 46th Avenue Freeway ran between the Valley
Highway and Colorado Boulevard, totaling 2.6 miles, including a six lane elevated
freeway and four lanes at ground level below the freeway. The total cost, $12.5 million
($82 million in 2007), averaged almost $5 million per mile, the most expensive per-mile
cost for urban 1-70 in Denver, due to right-of-way acquisition and the number of lanes.
Right-of-way alone cost $2 million ($13 million). The DOH touted it as
the most spectacular highway in the city, and in addition to providing the
utmost in safety and comfort, it also offers excellent views of the
mountains as well as the skyscrapers in the downtown area.4
The freeway occupied the south side of £.46* Avenue and the north side of E.
45th Avenue between Washington and Broadway streets. It also partially impacted seven
3 Public Hearing Transcript, 40; Bill Miller, 14 Million for Progress, The Denver Post, July 2,1961,
4 Colorado Department of Highways, Commemorating the Opening of the E. 46'h Avenue Freeway (Denver:
Colorado Department of Highways, Sept. 12,1964), 1

other blocks, became the front yard for St. Josephs Polish Church, and precipitated the
closing of all local businesses along Washington Street, including groceries and
pharmacies. According to one resident, the 20-foot high wall intended to shield the
neighborhood from the elevated roadway resembled the Great Wall of China.5 The
freeway forced thirty families to relocate, many of whom had lived in this area their
entire lives, in close-knit neighborhoods with distinct Polish, Volga-Deutsch, and
Slovenian-Croatian sections. St. Josephs Polish Catholic Church, on 46th Avenue
between Pennsylvania and Logan streets, became separated from many of its
parishioners who lived south of the church. Similarly, the highway separated
parishioners from the Russo-Serbian Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration on 47th
Avenue. Residents also lost direct access to their friends, relatives, schools, and
businesses. Pedestrian tunnels at Pennsylvania and Pearl (now closed), and a tunnel
under the viaduct at Lincoln Street, accommodated local traffic, but residents still had to
navigate the barriers of the Valley Highway and 1-70, and adjust to changes in through
traffic on Washington, Broadway, and 49th streets.
While a number of Globeville families moved during the 1950s and 1960s, some
of the old-timers refused to leave. African Americans and Latinos moved into the vacant
homes and the Stapleton Housing Project, giving the area an even greater ethnic
diversity. Uniting different backgrounds, languages, and interests, in 1955 some 75
citizens created a neighborhood organization, the Globeville Civic Association, that
5 Hunt, Urban Pioneers, 257.