Englewood History

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The City of Englewood has a rich and colorful history.  A brief chronicle of the high points is included below.  If you are interested in learning more about Englewood's history, visit the local history section of the Englewood Public Library.

Englewood's Beginnings

Painting depicting Thomas Skerritt plowing BroadwayEnglewood’s beginnings are traced to gold. In the mid-1800s, prospectors on their way to California stopped in Colorado to pan its streams. One of these prospectors was a man from Georgia named William Green Russell. He and 12 other miners found gold in the South Platte River, and established a Placer Camp near the confluence of Little Dry Creek and the South Platte River in an area that would eventually become Englewood. This Placer Camp washed out more gold than they had found in all their previous prospecting, and triggered the beginning of the “Pikes Peak or Bust” gold rush of 1859.

The discovery of gold brought settlers to the area. In 1864 an Irish immigrant named Thomas Skerritt laid claim to a 640 acre homestead that encompassed most of present-day Englewood. Thomas Skerritt is now referred to as the “Father of Englewood.”

Other homesteaders followed in Skerritt’s footsteps and settled in the area. The fertile river valley was a perfect place for early homesteaders to plant fruit trees and other crops. The first woman homesteader, Hannah Higgins, filed a land patent on 40 acres in the area in 1868, and in the early 1870s, Jacob C. Jones purchased 80 acres from Tom Skerritt. Much of the early homesteaded land was eventually sold off to new arrivals and land speculators.

Gradually, small settlements such as Petersburg, Cherrelyn, and Orchard Place sprang up to offer basic services to the residents. The community remained a rural area through the late 1800s. By 1880, urban growth had begun. Denver roads were extended south and street blocks were laid out. Legend has it that Skerritt got tired of traveling the old Santa Fe Trail to Denver to sell his produce, so he plowed two furrows, one on each side of the road, from Englewood to Cherry Creek. He drove down the center of the furrows, pulling a heavy log behind the wagon to create a broad roadway. Because the road was the widest street in the area, it was referred to as “Broadway,” and remains to this day one of the main thoroughfares in the metro area.

Transportation

The Cherrelyn Horsecar operated between 1892 and 1910.With increased accessibility, the area continued to grow. The rich and beautiful land, plentiful water supply, and a growing transportation network drew new settlers. In the 1890s a rail line served five different rail systems: the Rock Island, the Midland, the Missouri Pacific, the Santa Fe, and the Rio Grande. Early residents said that Tom Skerritt’s sons amused themselves by trying to lasso the slow-moving trains that passed by their school near Santa Fe and Hampden. In 1883, crews started laying tracks for the Cherrelyn Horse Car.

The horse car was a central part of life in Englewood between 1892 and 1910, with residents riding it to work and shop in Englewood. The horse car was dubbed the “Gravity and Bronco Railroad,” as it was the only gravity-powered streetcar in existence at that time. The horse pulled the car up the steep hill on Broadway between Hampden and Quincy, a mile long trip. At the top of the hill, the horse was unhitched and loaded on to the rear platform of the car. The driver would give the car a push, and the horse car and its passengers would coast back down the hill to Hampden.

In the early 1900s, electric streetcars also entered the transportation scene. In the early 1940s, the “Trackless Trolley” operated, using overhead electric wires for power. This trolley was more maneuverable than the streetcars, since it wasn’t tied to tracks. The area also boasted bus and taxi services. In 1969, the Regional Transportation District was formed to provide a comprehensive public transportation network in the Denver area.

Englewood becomes a City

Broadway circa 1910With continued growth, the area had much promise. However, in the late-1800s, the community developed a saucy reputation when gamblers built saloons and roadhouses along South Broadway in the area known as Orchard Place. The community was described as seven saloons, a grocery store, and two sporting houses. Shootings and knifings were common, and the downtown area was full of cheap liquor, vulgar language, and fancy women. The area also supported a popular beer garden known as Fiske Gardens.

In 1903, there was a movement afoot to clean up Orchard Place. A group of pioneer ladies, headed by Mrs. Jacob Jones, began a campaign to make the community safer and more desirable by forming a City and a government. The plan consolidated the settlements of Orchard Place, Cherrelyn, and the adjoining territory south of Yale and east of the railroads, covering a total area of six square miles.

On May 13, 1903, citizens voted 169 to 40 in favor of incorporation. Since the area was known for its abundance of trees, the new town was named Englewood, which means “wooded nook.” Soon after incorporation, a public meeting was held to nominate candidates for Mayor and Aldermen. Two of Englewood’s earliest settlers, Tom Skerritt and Jacob Jones, ran against each other in the community’s first mayoral election. Jacob Jones won the election by a narrow margin of five votes. Mayor Jones and the new Town Council began passing laws immediately. A Marshal was appointed to enforce the laws, and a committee was chosen to establish a jail and a dog pound. Another committee oversaw water and irrigation for the town.

Education

The Hawthorne School was built in 1892Even in the early days, the area’s residents placed an emphasis on education. Before there were any schools, classes were held for area children in the log cabin of John McBroom, an early settler in the area. The cabin was located near the South Platte River and Union Avenue. A pioneer mother worked for free as the “schoolmarm” because the early settlers couldn’t afford to pay her. In the late 1800s, Thomas Skerritt and Joseph Brown petitioned to have a school built. As a result, the Hawthorne School was built in 1892 on the southeast corner of Bannock and Oxford. Over the years, more schools were added to serve the growing population.

Health Care

In 1905, a young doctor named Charles A. Bundsen established an institution to offer treatment to Swedish immigrants with tuberculosis. Dr. Bundsen founded the Swedish Consumptive Sanatorium and with funds raised by local businesses, church groups, and Swedish charities, he purchased five acres of land in 1906. Initially, patients lived in tents, but over the next two decades, the Sanatorium grew. By 1931, the sanatorium boasted x-ray, surgical facilities, an occupational therapy unit, and bed spaces for 30 patients. In the mid-1950s, it became Swedish Hospital and offered general health care. Craig Hospital, which moved to Englewood in 1970, also has roots that go back over 90 years. In 1905, Frank Craig came to Denver to recover from tuberculosis. In 1907, he established the Colony of Brotherly Love for indigent tubercular men. By 1956, new treatments had brought tuberculosis under control, and the Craig Colony became the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital.

Entertainment

The Tuileries Amusement Park was a popular attraction in the early 1900s.In 1906, the old Fiske Gardens was transformed into the renowned Tuileries Amusement Park. The Tuileries was located in the 3400 block of South Broadway, and the grounds included apple orchards and a beautiful lake. The park offered popular amusements such as a roller-rink, a Japanese Tea Garden, a ballpark, and two motorcycle tracks. There was also a dance pavilion and a theater that featured Vaudeville shows. Despite its popularity, the Tuileries closed in 1912.

The area boasted several other theaters, as well. The first motion picture theater, the Englewood Theatre, opened in 1912 at 3460 South Broadway. The theater featured silent films and showcased local performers singing “illustrated songs,” where someone on-stage would flip pages of pictures that matched the lyrics. The Gothic Theatre was built in 1929 at 3263 South Broadway, and was one of the area’s central attractions. Hollywood came to Englewood as dramas, slapstick comedies, musicals, and westerns played at the Gothic.

In 1917, the National Film Company purchased the Tuileries. The property was almost tailor made for movies, and the dance floor made a good movie studio. In addition to being a perfect place to film movies, Englewood was centrally located and served by several railroads to deliver film shipments. The National Film Company operated until 1923, when the property was sold to Alexander Industries.

Alexander Industries started out as a film company before they started building airplanesAlexander Industries started out as a film company before they started building airplanes.
Alexander Industries began as a movie company that produced advertising films. The company’s success accidentally led the Alexander brothers into the airplane business. In an effort to speed up the delivery of their films, they bought a second-hand plane. The plane was not satisfactory, so they built a plane of their own. The plan was to build a few planes for the company to deliver their films, but Alexander Industries ended up manufacturing one of the most successful airplanes of that time, the Eagle Rock bi-plane.

In April 1928, a suspicious fire broke out at the factory, killing 11 workers and causing the closure of the plant. After the fire, the Alexander Industries property reverted to its original owner, Jacob C. Jones, and the main building later became the Englewood City Hall, Fire and Police Headquarters, and the Library.

Progress

Cinderella City was the largest shopping mall west of the MississippiEnglewood saw major progress in the 1920s. Broadway was paved, a Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1921, and General Iron Works came to Englewood in 1924. In the mid 1920s, Englewood fought to maintain its identity. Two separate elections were held after some 300 local residents requested annexation to Denver. Loyal citizens voted to reject Denver and retain their city by a narrow margin of four votes in one election, six in the other.

The 1930s brought Depression Days to Englewood, but there was a spirit of hometown friendliness among the people. The community looked after its own unemployed and indigent. A local grocery store in the 3400 block of South Broadway ran a soup kitchen to feed the hungry. In the 1940s, Englewood joined the nation in supporting the World War II effort. There were victory gardens in each backyard, women collected fats and stockings, men salvaged scrap metal, and the community supported war bond sales. The local newspaper kept track of the 2600 area men in military service. After World War II, Englewood underwent a vast change -- there was a new high school, and industries began choosing Englewood as a good place to locate new manufacturing plants.

Englewood continued to grow and prosper. On March 7, 1968, the largest shopping mall west of the Mississippi opened for business in Englewood. A local developer had purchased Englewood’s 65-acre City Park for $1 million and built Cinderella City, a shopping mall that gained nationwide attention and fame. Cinderella City enjoyed tremendous success until the early 1980s, but in the 1990s, the mall suffered from the area’s economic downturn and nearby competition. Cinderella City closed in 1997.

Parks

When Cinderella City was built on Englewood’s only city park, City officials took advantage of federal funding to purchase additional open space. After the 23.4 acre City Park was sold, Englewood used these federal grants to increase its open space to 123.8 acres of park land spread throughout the community. Neighborhood parks were built in every section of the City so all Englewood residents would have a park nearby.

Englewood Today

CityCenter Englewood is an award-winning mixed use, transit-oriented development.Today’s Englewood is a distinct reflection of its colorful history. There is still a focus on transportation, education, and the arts. Developments are rising from the ground to help boost the area’s economy and transportation remains an important aspect of planning for Englewood’s future.

CityCenter Englewood, built on the old Cinderella City site, is a national model for mixed-use transit-oriented development. Englewood Station (RTD’s light rail and bus transit hub) is an integral part of the development.

The Englewood area has also become a hub for healthcare providers. Swedish Medical Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center, is the Denver area's referral center for neurotrauma and is a recognized leader in the treatment of stroke. Craig Hospital has been rated one of the Top Ten Rehabilitation Hospitals in the United States. Many other healthcare providers and specialty clinics have located in Englewood, as well.

Englewood continues to offer an array of arts and entertainment amenities. The historic Gothic Theatre has been refurbished and operates as a successful entertainment venue. Englewood’s elected officials have placed an emphasis on art throughout the community, welcoming public art displays and encouraging performances of music, theater, and dance. Englewood’s focus on education is also apparent today. The school district includes two high schools, two middle schools, and five elementary schools. In addition, there are three private schools serving the community. Englewood prides itself on its quality education.

Cushing Park is one of 11 neighborhood parks in EnglewoodToday, recreational amenities abound in Englewood. The community boasts 12 neighborhood parks, several athletic fields, an award-winning recreation center, a first-class golf course, one of the most successful senior centers in the region, and the popular Pirates Cove Family Aquatics Center.

The same compassion and hometown spirit that existed during the Depression Days is still evident in Englewood today. Community members actively participate in civic and volunteer opportunities. Englewood has one of the most successful Neighborhood Watch programs in the nation, helping neighbors keep an eye out for one another’s safety. And there are many organizations and programs that offer assistance to neighbors who are elderly or disabled. Englewood has been described as a community with a small-town feel and big city amenities.