By Rebecca A. Hunt
Denver is rich in organizations that help people do research about our city. Many are especially good when it comes to documenting the North Denver.
My personal favorite is the Western History and Genealogy Department (WHG) of the Denver Public Library. It not only has great resources, but a staff devoted to assisting the public. A whole section of WHG is dedicated to documenting Denver neighborhoods. It has preservation documents for those neighborhoods nominated for historic status. These include information on individual buildings and are an invaluable resource for those researching their homes.
At WHG are the Sanborn insurance maps which show what material was originally used to build a structure, as well as any changes in size, shape of materials over time. More general maps show streets, blocks and streetcar and bus routes. They help a researcher get a sense of how the surroundings might have changed over time.
Both Denver Public Library and History Colorado have been collecting stories related to our rich Latino history. History Colorado just held another public session that allowed Northsiders to share their family stories.
Knowing which resources are out there helps you put things into context. Historic Denver has its Discover Denver project, which is providing brief histories of Denver covering from 1858 to 2014. The National Archives has archival collections on U.S. cities, including Denver. It is especially rich in maps and photographs. There are also history aficionados who have Facebook pages and blogs, that house collections of stories and photos. Check out Mark Fitz’s Facebook group, Historic Denver Highland on Facebook. Another one is John Bonath’s blog about art and history in Denver.
My favorite article is his six-part saga about butchering a bison at his house in North Denver. Only after reading the article did I realize that my husband, Geoff, and I were part of the neighborhood group that had bought shares in those bison.
Check out this story and learn about the Northside’s Italian community on his blog at johnbonath.com. John lives in North Denver and is an excellent fine art photographer. Retired Denver Post reporter Dick Kreck wrote “Smaldone” to document the North Denver crime family.
Phil Goodstein wrote “Northside Story,” documenting Northwest Denver, one house, and one character, at a time. Another great resource is Colorado Humanities and Colorado State University’s Colorado Encyclopedia which has many excellent shorter articles on people, places and events. Links to research websites will be provided in this article at denvernorthstar.com.
A list of select books can also help: Anstey, Mary Therese with R. Laurie Simmons and Thomas H. Simmons, “The Fall & Rise of the Queen City of the Plains, 1893-1904,” Discover Denver. Hunt, Rebecca, “Urban Pioneers: Continuity and Change in Two Denver, Colorado Neighborhoods, 1858-1997, doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado Denver, 1999. Leonard, Stephen J., Thomas J. Noel, “Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis, Boulder: University Press of Colorado,” 1990. Simmons, R. Laurie, Thomas H. Simmons, “The Instant City—The Gold Rush and Early Settlement, 1858-1892,” Discover Denver, Historic Denver, 2016. Simmons, Thomas H., R. Laurie Simmons and Mary Therese Anstey. “Tops Down and Bottoms Up Intervention—The Great Depression, Federal Relief Programs, and World War II, 1930-45,” Historic Denver, 2016. Simmons, Thomas H., R. Laurie Simmons and Mary Therese Anstey, The World Class City-City Planning and Reinvestment, 1983-2014, Historic Denver, 2014. Smiley, Jerome, Editor, “History of Denver with Outlines of the Earlier History of the Rocky Mountain Country,” Denver: The Denver Times, Time-Sun Publishing, 1911.
Dr. Rebecca A. Hunt has been a Denver resident since 1985. She worked in museums and then taught Colorado, Denver and immigration history at the University of Colorado Denver until she retired in 2020