Once a buffalo migration route, the area south of the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River has been home to Arapaho and Cheyenne peoples, gold prospectors, railroad barons and laborers, and immigrants from many parts of the world.
The first settlers began arriving in 1858. Most were seeking fortunes of gold, but some saw more opportunity in building a new city. By 1860 the settlements of Auraria and Denver united, and the area west of the Cherry Creek was thereafter known as West Denver.
US Marshall and 4th Territorial Governor Alexander Cameron Hunt was a prominent figure in the early years, and his home, “Cloverside,” was located in today’s La Alma-Lincoln Park itself.
Hunt was instrumental in bringing the Denver and Rio Grande RR here in 1870, and connecting the Capitol to the sources of mining and agricultural wealth throughout the mountains and Southwest Colorado. By 1885, Hunt was down working on building the Mexican Central Railway, and the old homestead was formally established as a city park.
Stigmatized by threat of flooding, the neighborhood’s residential lots were never filled with with grand mansions, but were inhabited by working families that came with the boom of the railroad and industry in the late 1800’s. Much of La Alma Lincoln Park’s housing stock dates from this period of development. Following traditional patterns, industries such as milling, brewing and smelting ended up locating in close proximity to Denver’s South Platte River, the neighborhood’s western edge. West Denver was home to waves of immigrants, initially from Europe and Russia, followed by Mexicans fleeing the revolution of 1910. These generations and their descendants not only addressed the labor shortage but flourished in the visual and performing arts, literature, architecture, education, and entrepreneurship of Colorado.
The late 1950s saw a new era in urbanization throughout the nation, affecting living standards and precipitating cultural, political, and social changes. The area to the north of La Alma-Lincoln Park, now known as the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC), was deemed “blighted” by the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and other business organizations, and in 1966 was slated for redevelopment. By 1973, all the residents of the largely Latino community were forced to relocate, with many resettling in nearby La Alma-Lincoln Park. This bitter legacy informs long-time residents’ fears of gentrification and displacement.