Greenwood Village History 1850-2000
Honoring Our Heritage
Greenwood Village Turns Fifty The area that is now Greenwood Village has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, from a community that hosted the Greenwood Village Farmers 4-H Club and was once dotted with dairies and farms. Even more changes can be seen when the clock is turned back 80 and 150 years. In 1920, there were orchards on Orchard Road. In the mid-1800’s Arapaho Indians camped along Little Dry Creek.
In some important ways, Greenwood Village remains the same. Parents still want the best for their children, and neighbors come together to celebrate important events in the life of the community. Horses can still be seen grazing in pastures, and people of good will still step forward to lead and plan so that quality of life can be maintained.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Greenwood Village, we look back on the joys and struggles that early residents endured that are part of the heritage of this special place. The hard work and community service contributed by people throughout the past 100-plus years have created a legacy that endures today.
1850s - The First Residents
Many Native Americans passed through the area that would become Arapahoe County. Archaeologists have found artifacts at Lamb Spring, 25 miles southeast of Denver that indicate hunters occupied the area some 10,000 years ago. By 1300 A.D., there were villages along the South Platte River. In 1815, French trappers attended a large rendezvous on Bear Creek, a few miles northwest of Greenwood Village, along with the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and other tribes.
By 1850, the Arapaho and Cheyenne had signed a treaty giving them the rights to the Eastern Plains between the Platte River, near Fort Lupton, and the Arkansas River in Southeastern Colorado. Greenwood resident Tom Linzy remembered picking up arrowheads on his land on Long Road, growing up in the 1920s and 1930s.
Natli Molloy remembered her son, Bob, and their neighbor Bill Stanley, finding arrowheads along Little Dry Creek as recently as the 1960s. Curtis School teacher Mrs. Frederickson took her 4th through 6th graders on expeditions around the school. They found arrowheads and other artifacts as the area had been an Arapaho Indian campground. The remains of a Native American were found on the west side of Little Dry Creek when local residents were expanding their septic system in 1995. The Colorado Historical Museum determined that the skull they found was of a man who lived 150 years ago.
Ute Indians primarily lived in central and western Colorado, but would come to Arapahoe County to trade and hunt. Jane Melvin ran the Twelve Mile House with her husband John in the late 1800s, just south of what is now the Cherry Creek Reservoir. “There were any number of Ute Indians in our neighborhood, but they were always friendly to us,” she told Colorado Magazine in a 1935 interview. “They camped just across Cherry Creek, 200 yards from our house.” Ute Indians would come from campgrounds near the Platte River to trade at J.D. Hill’s General Store in Littleton. The site is now the Three Chimneys Gift Shop on South Rapp Street.
1860s - Gold Brings Changes
The discovery of gold near present-day Englewood in 1858 brought profound changes to the area. Prospectors and settlers began coming in large numbers, which forced the Native Americans into smaller areas. The two groups co-existed for awhile, but the Cheyenne and Arapaho were eventually relocated to a reservation east of Colorado Springs.
Among the early settlers was John Melvin, who came to Colorado from Connecticut in 1859 and purchased 320 acres along Cherry Creek. A steady stream of covered wagons made their way across the Smoky Hill Trail, which followed the Smoky Hill River across Kansas and wound its way northwest towards Denver.
Jane Higgins and her parents came to Colorado from Maine in 1867. The next year, at the tender age of 16, Jane married her neighbor, John Melvin. They lived in a three-room log cabin, which was later expanded to a hotel and restaurant known as the Twelve Mile House because it was 12 miles from Denver. The community of Melvin grew on their land and Melvin School was located just east of where Jordan Road turns south from Belleview Avenue.
Today’s teenagers would not want to go back to “the good old days” of the 1870’s. “Although still a child of 17,” Jane Melvin said, “I was cooking for large numbers, caring for my infant son, doing all the washing, baking, cleaning, sewing, and mending. We had from three to 10 men around the station continually who helped with the milking chores or did nothing but sit and smoke in the barroom.”
1870s - The Prairie Bloomed
Across the valley, settlers were moving into log cabins near the Platte River. In 1864, a group of settlers met at R.S. Little’s cabin and organized the Littleton School District, which extended north to the Denver city limits and south to the Douglas County line. The first schoolhouse was built during the winter of 1865-66 near Brown’s Bridge, at a spot just east of the Platte River and north of Union Avenue.
By the 1870s people were raising cattle and trying to grow crops in an arid land. In 1874, Arapahoe County ranchers petitioned the mayor of Denver, asking to bring an irrigation ditch from the Platte River to irrigate the high lands to the east. In 1879, the Northern Colorado Irrigation Company announced plans to build a “High Line” canal, beginning with a tunnel from Platte Canyon and winding 83 miles east across Arapahoe County and Denver. The canal was completed in 1883, but the amount of water was not reliable for raising crops. Many water rights were already appropriated so that during dry years (one out of every three) there was not enough water for the 400 farmers who subscribed to the canal.
One Colorado pioneer who had a major impact on this land was Rufus Clark. When he came to Colorado in 1859, Clark bought 160 acres along the Platte River north of Jewell Avenue, where the Overland Park Golf Course stands today. Clark raised potatoes, and made good profits, which he reinvested in more land. Eventually, he owned 20,000 acres, including much of Greenwood Village east of Holly Street. He became known as the “Potato King” of Colorado. A former sailor, Clark was known for his salty vocabulary and fondness for alcohol. He later “got religion” and became a major benefactor.
In the mid-1880’s, Clark convinced English investors to finance development on the 15,000-acre Clark Colony in Arapahoe County. Clark divided the land into five- and 10-acre tracts and built a series of reservoirs and canals. Two of the reservoirs were on land now occupied by Centennial Airport and Greenwood Plaza. Water was still scarce until the Castlewood Dam was built near Franktown in 1890. Clark connected his water system to Castlewood Lake, which brought a reliable water supply.
By the early 1900’s the area thrived with orchards of cherry, apple, apricot, plum, and pear trees. A group of investors bought land from Clark and formed the Denver Suburban Homes and Water Company. The new development, between Quebec and Peoria Streets, was marketed as Highview Park Orchards.
In 1933, disaster struck. The Castlewood Dam burst and floodwaters washed out three bridges. Since it was the height of the Depression, the dam was not rebuilt, drying up the source of irrigation. Some residents turned to dryland farming, but after the orchards died, many took jobs in Denver. Land that had sold for $500 an acre could now be bought for as little as $19.
Dairy farmers were still able to make a living. Frank William Pearce, who owned land southwest of Orchard Road and Dayton Street, expanded his grazing lands north into Orchard Hills and east as far as Havana Street. Frank’s grandson, Robert Frank Pearce, inherited the land in 1944. The portion between Dayton and Boston Streets is now Silo Park. The original barn burned in 1947, but the concrete silo was saved. The current barn, now a picnic shelter, was built in 1949.
While “Potato” Clark was acquiring the massive Clark Colony east of Holly Street, another immigrant, Cyrus G. Richardson, was operating the Greenwood Ranch. Richardson was born in Maine in 1841 and moved to St. Louis after earning a law degree. Ill health brought him out west to recuperate. By 1872, he had resumed his law practice in Denver. Once he was established, Richardson began buying land and farming Greenwood Ranch.
The 1899 farm map shows Greenwood Ranch with eight reservoirs stretching from Steele Street and Stanford Avenue on the northwest to Garden Avenue and approximately Dahlia Street on the southeast, where the High Line Canal makes a large “U”. The northern half of the old Greenwood Ranch includes Glenmoor of Cherry Hills Village. The southern half includes Horseshoe Park and The Preserve in Greenwood Village.
According to Vicker’s History of Denver, Cyrus Richardson was appointed deputy county superintendent of schools for Arapahoe County in 1877 where he “filled the responsible duties in a highly creditable manner.” In the village’s community newspaper, the Greenwood Honker, Gail Evans reported in 1976, that Richardson was one of the leaders that made the farmers unhappy with the lack of water produced by the High Line Canal, which was referred to derisively as the “English Ditch.”
Richardson proposed constructing two mountain storage reservoirs to ensure a dependable source of water to the High Line. The lawyer-turned rancher sold shares for $10 each in the Lost Park and Antero Reservoir companies. Richardson died in 1894, which delayed plans for the mountain lakes for several years. The reservoirs were eventually built, but “due to engineering and design problems, Antero Reservoir had an average depth of only 5 feet and Lost Park would not hold water at all,” Evans wrote. Richardson’s influence continues today because the name “Greenwood Ranch” was the inspiration for the name “Greenwood Village.”
1900s - From Porter to Farmer
Among the early ranchers and farmers who settled the Greenwood area was several African American families. William Linzy was a porter on the Union Pacific Railroad when he moved to Denver around 1902. He settled near Elitch Gardens, where he met his future wife, Gladys, who lived across the street. “Dad heard that the railroad had 600 acres to sell because it would cost too much to build across the creeks,” said Tom Linzy, who still lives on the family’s property. William Linzy bought 32 acres at $50 an acre west of Colorado Boulevard and north of Orchard Road. His brother, Walter, bought 50 acres, including land now occupied by the Koebel Library.
The Linzys had a dairy operation of 12 to 15 Holstein cows and a few Jersey cows, whose milk was very rich but not as plentiful as the Holsteins. They also raised ducks, chickens, and pigs. His grandmother made feather pillows from the duck down while Tom spent his boyhood days in the 1930s milking the cows twice a day, feeding the pigs, and attending nearby Curtis School. His dad raised sugar beets, corn, and cucumbers, which were sold for pickles.
One winter, a blizzard was so severe that William Linzy was trapped when he went out to feed the hogs and could not get back home. “He slept in the hog pen,” Tom recalled. In the early days, Curtis School had no indoor plumbing and water was supplied by an artesian well. One popular prank was to get a mouthful of water and squirt it into the door lock, which would freeze tight. “The teachers would have to get a match to thaw it out,” Tom Linzy said, smiling. “One time, they couldn't melt the ice and sent everyone home.”
1930s - Notable Newcomers
One of Greenwood Village’s most famous residents was artist Allen True, whose murals graced the walls of the Colorado, Missouri, and Wyoming State Capitol buildings and the Brown Palace Hotel. True recruited others to help him paint backgrounds. One helper and art student was Rebecca Enos, a mother of three who was married to successful attorney Charles Rolland Enos. One day, while working at Allen True’s home on South Steele Street, Mrs. Enos commented that she would love to have some land to ride their horses on the weekends. The artist pointed out the window and said the land across Little Dry Creek was for sale.
Rebecca Enos paid $75 for an option on the land and the family fell in love with the area. After Sunday excursions to “the country,” the society matron found she enjoyed helping handyman Mr. Reichen fix up the small cottage. By 1928, the family had bought 28 acres on Alexander Lane, a small road off of South University Boulevard. While continuing his law practice downtown, Rolland Enos started raising chickens, pigs, and cattle on the Enos Farm.
In 1938, Gladys and William Carson bought 20 acres of dry farmland near the southeast corner of Orchard Road and Quebec Street, where office buildings, Carson Park, and Greenwood Village City Hall stand today. The land had been abandoned by farmers who lost their orchards when Castlewood Dam burst. The Carsons bought the land from a realtor who had acquired it for back taxes. When they moved in, a few cottonwoods survived in the draw but many dead apple trees stood in testament to the loss of irrigation water. The Carsons farmed and kept a dairy herd, and the early years were a struggle, hauling water from a neighbor’s place and without a telephone or electricity. “We had to put up an army blanket to take baths in the kitchen,” Gladys Carson told The Greenwood Honker. As their fortunes improved, the Carsons acquired additional land until they had 130 acres.
The Carson children attended Castlewood School at the corner of Orchard and Ulster, northeast of the Orchard Road exit from Interstate 25. Residents further east sent their children to Melvin School, where the 10 students ate free lunches in 1938, financed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Later, students brought their lunches in sacks or buckets.
1940’s - Shelby Adams
While the Linzys were farming the west side, Shelby Adams was shopping for land on the east side of present-day Greenwood Village. Adams had owned land in northeast Denver when the federal government bought it during the 1940s to create the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. With the proceeds, Adams bought 140 acres that ran roughly from Boston to Fulton streets and an area north of Belleview Avenue south halfway to Orchard Road. Adams operated a bakery in the Five Points area and would farm millet and wheat in Arapahoe County on the weekends.
Eastside resident Francis Williams bought his land from Shelby Adams. “I knew him from Union Baptist Church. I would run into his bakery to get some sweet potato pie,” Williams explained. He started coming out to help “Uncle Shelby” with the crops and the chickens. By 1953, Williams was leasing land from Adams. He bought 20 acres in 1955 and moved to the area in 1959.
“I came to Denver through the military,” Williams added. “I looked at buying land east of Fitzsimons and was told, ‘This is a restricted area. We’re not selling to blacks.’” In the early 1950’s the area west of Cherry Creek Dam was not very desirable because the reservoir was virtually empty. “It was a swamp...mosquito-infested,” Williams recalled. Just as bad weather afflicted the early pioneers, the residents in the 50s had to contend with dry years. During one bad dust storm in 1959 or 1960, “the tumbleweeds backed up and hid the house,” Williams commented. “We had to take rakes and clean them out.”
Francis Williams built two ranch-style homes on South Dayton Street. When a neighbor across the street moved, he bought a shack and converted it to a tack house where Francis and his brother, Robert, boarded horses. Williams developed the 20 acres into Dayton Farms and donated the remaining land to Greenwood Village, which became Francis Williams Park. The tack house and park are pictured in the October month in this calendar. Now, stately homes stand where crops once grew. “We've seen lots of changes,” said Francis Williams. “I never would have dreamed of the kinds of homes that would be built here. It’s the kind of neighborhood that I've always wanted to live in.”
Building a Village
1950s - Forming a TownDuring the 1930s and 40s, the area contained a mixture of farmers, suburbanites, and people who lived in Denver, but would come south to “country homes” for the summer. By 1950, residents began to worry that development creeping south would threaten their pastoral lifestyle. First, they defeated a plan to construct a drive-in movie on the site of the old Brookridge Dairy on South Clarkson Street. They also battled the Colorado Power Company over a proposal to put a large power line over Long Road near University Boulevard. But the final straw was a plan by Englewood to condemn land owned by Mrs. Thomas Savage on Belleview Avenue to construct a reservoir for their own water supply.
A group led by Mrs. Savage took their concerns to their neighbor, Charles “Rollie” Enos, who agreed to chair a meeting at Curtis School. According to former Greenwood Mayor Rollin Barnard, Enos had quietly been researching the legalities of incorporation in his Denver law office. Enos suggested incorporating a new municipality three miles long and one mile wide, bounded by Belleview Avenue, Holly Street, Orchard Road, and South Clarkson Street.
At the Curtis School meeting, Enos proposed a new town and suggested it be called “Greenwood Village” after the historic Greenwood Ranch that had been part of the area to be incorporated. Residents responded enthusiastically to the idea. Others suggested that Cherry Hills Village annex the area. The mayor of Cherry Hills was present and he declined, not wanting to antagonize Englewood. Petitions with 80 signatures favoring incorporation were submitted to Arapahoe County Judge Henry Teller, who ordered a vote to be held September 8, 1950 at Curtis School. Nearly the entire voting population, 138 people, turned out to vote and incorporation passed by a close margin, 74-64.
Voters felt strongly on both sides. Those in favor wanted to control zoning, while farmers opposed incorporation for several reasons. “All the farmers voted against incorporation,” said Tom Linzy. “My dad told them, ‘you’re going to run a lot of the farmers away.’” One retired farmer, Clarence Johnson, had lived in the area for 31 years. He objected to others putting development restrictions on his land. After the election, Johnson and others filed suit, challenging the election on the grounds that there were not enough signatures on the petitions. The suit went all the way to the Supreme Court. On November 13, 1951, the court ruled that Greenwood Village was in fact legally incorporated.
For the previous 70 years, life in Arapahoe County had been shaped by struggles with nature, including dust storms, plagues of grasshoppers, lack of water and floods. For the next 50 years, village life would be characterized by legal battles – over zoning, annexations and lawsuits – of which the Johnson case was only the first.
One of the village’s most colorful characters was Sam Ephraim. “He never had a bath. He didn't have running water,” said former Mayor John Calkins, his next door neighbor. “As a child growing up… I have very warm memories of Sam,” said Susan Calkins Rhodes. “When we were learning to ride horses near the house, he would watch to make sure we did not fall. You always knew you had an adult to bail you out – whichever side of the field you fell on. He was scary, but he was nice.”
Starting to Govern
The new municipality was a statutory town with a mayor and a six-member Board of Trustees. Mayor Charles R. Enos presided at the first Board of Trustees meeting on October 6, 1950 at the Curtis School. The trustees were:
- Stewart Bales
- Dr. Robert Liggett
- Harry E. Jones
- Thedia S. Barnes
- John W. Calkins
- Charles Buchler, Mayor Pro tempore
Money was an immediate concern. Although property taxes would be collected by the county, such taxes were not turned over to the cities until the following year. The first trustees had to be creative about financing their fledgling government. Thedia Barnes and Charles Enos met with Littleton Independent editor Houston Waring about publishing ordinances. The editor extended credit “for a few months,” according to the minutes.
On October 30, the trustees approved a property tax of five mills. At their subsequent meeting, they discussed a possible tax on “dogs, peddlers, and various workmen.” One of the real bargains was speed limit signs from the State Highway Department. Town Marshall Gary Marbut reported he had bought 12 signs for 40 MPH at $2 each and three stop signs at $3 each.
On January 15, the trustees had a long discussion over whether they should purchase two-way radios for the town marshall’s car. The cost was $467, while the town’s bank account had a balance of only $450 the previous November 30. To raise money, the residents held a community fair that raised about $500. A calf was auctioned off. “Stewart Bales won the calf,” John Calkins said of his fellow trustee. “He carried it off to the back seat of his Cadillac.”
Charles Enos served the new town as mayor from 1950 to 1952. John Calkins followed Enos as mayor and led the village from 1952 to 1965. Calkins said, “Finances were tight all through the 1950’s and into the mid-1960’s until more houses were built. Money was always on our minds.”
“As a child,” added Susan Calkins Rhodes, “I remember the driving force to form a city was zoning.” At the time, Belleview Avenue was a dirt road and University Boulevard was paved only as far south as Belleview Avenue. The density of homes was graduated from west to east. One home per three acres was allowed on the western side, one home per five acres in the center and one home per ten acres on the east side. The greatest opposition to incorporation came from farmers west of University Boulevard.
Since there was no City Hall in those days, the Calkins place became an informal base of operations. Their 60-year-old barn was used as the City Maintenance Department. Harold Tousignault was police chief and director of public works, one of the few paid employees in those days. “When Harold was police chief, he would come by our house at breakfast to check in,” said Susan Rhodes. “I thought everyone had a policeman coming by.”
New School District
While Greenwood Village was incorporating west of Holly Street, major changes were also occurring on the eastern end of the community. A law passed by the Colorado Legislature in 1949 led to consolidations of school districts across Colorado. Many schools in Arapahoe County and across the state were one-school districts. The number of small districts raised questions of efficiency and equity as some districts were able to provide for students better than others.
In 1950, residents in seven Arapahoe County school districts voted to form Cherry Creek School District No. 5. The new district had 1,253 students, including those attending Melvin, Castlewood, Cherry Creek, and Cherry Hills elementary schools. The Melvin School was on land condemned for the Cherry Creek Reservoir. The school was closed and sold and the building was remodeled and moved to Parker Road and Quincy Avenue, where it was used as a tavern for 17 years. It is currently a schoolhouse museum on the grounds of the Smoky Hill High School campus. The Castlewood School building was dismantled when the Valley Highway was built, and Belleview Elementary was built in 1954 to take its place.
The Castlewood Community attempted to incorporate just before the Greenwood Village election. That election failed and much of the land that would have been part of the City of Castlewood became part of Greenwood Village. However, the Castlewood name lives on. The Castlewood Fire Protection District (South Metro Fire Rescue) was formed in 1951 to serve Arapahoe County from Holly Street east to the Cherry Creek Reservoir and from the Denver city limits to the Douglas County line. In recognition of the historical significance of the Castlewood Community, the Arapahoe Library District in 1982 dedicated its new library at Arapahoe and Uinta Streets the Castlewood Library.
Meadowlarks & Rabbits
While the Plunketts were getting settled on East Garden Avenue, Orlando “Lindy” and Margaret Scialla were moving their family to 5120 South Ulster, which is now in the heart of the Denver Technological Center (DTC). The Sciallas bought 5 acres from a Mrs. Moran, a pioneer whose father received the land through the Homestead Act. The Sciallas paid $500 an acre for their 5 acres. They began building in 1956 and moved into their home on South Ulster Street in 1958. The site now contains a tall, red brick office building known as 8200 East Prentice Avenue.
“We can remember when Hampden Avenue was a dirt road,” said Margaret Scialla. “There was just one farm house between Belleview Avenue and Hampden Avenue. We could hear meadowlarks. My daughter, Diane, and I reminisce about her childhood. Diane picked up petrified wood and followed rabbit trails. They’d get lizards in the field and see pheasants. Diane called them ‘pheasinks’.”
Their oldest child, Paul, went to Belleview Elementary, which had just opened four years earlier. There were 13 children in his class and there was no cafeteria or kindergarten. Classmates came from as far away as South Colorado Boulevard and Hampden Avenue. When Diane Scialla reached school age, the boundaries had changed. Diane rode a bus from Cherry Creek High School across the dam to Sullivan Elementary, a school at Wabash Street south of Iliff Avenue that was named for another pioneer community.
Just as the early farmers had insufficient water for their crops, the Sciallas found their shallow well was not adequate for their needs. “You had to go down at least 1,000 feet to get water in the Arapahoe sands formation,” said Lindy Scialla. “Our well was only 127 feet deep. We sold our land to be able to tap into Tech Center water. That was part of the deal.”
Old farm houses had cisterns that trapped the water from rain off the roof to use for the house and yard. “Chinese elm trees surrounded other houses,” Margaret recalled, “we couldn’t grow trees.” Their quest for water was almost a disaster. One Christmas, Lindy used dry ice and dynamite to try to deepen the well. “I went down to Bell Plumbing and they lent me the plug, but forgot to tell me to let the gas from the dry ice dissipate,” Lindy said. “I almost blew my head off. The plug blew straight up in the air. We never found it.”
The Community Grows
1960s - Greenwood Village Farmers
While town government was getting its start, families were continuing to move south from Denver for the rural lifestyle. Bob and “Ming” Plunkett bought land in 1956 in South Denver Gardens, an area bounded by Steele Street and Belleview Avenue, South Colorado Boulevard and Long Road. Originally given to the Union Pacific Railroad by Congress in 1862, the area was purchased by the Platte Land Company in 1882. By 1892 the area was subdivided as South Denver Gardens, with Robert A. Long as President. Jake Schaetzel bought 25 acres of the land after World War I, paying $2,000 for 25 acres.
The Plunketts bought their 2 1/2 acres from Schaetzel and moved with their four children from Denver. The land they wanted had a large dropoff, created in the 1920s when the Denver Water Board eliminated a large loop from the High Line Canal. Denver Water shortened the path of the High Line to reduce the water lost through seepage and evaporation. “Before we bought the land,” Bob Plunkett said, “I went to the water board to see about buying a 50 foot strip of land with the mound of dirt.” Earth from the new stretch of the canal was moved onto the Plunkett’s land at the south end of the property, eliminating the drop-off.
The Plunketts bought a quonset hut that they lived in for 10 months while they were building their house on Garden Avenue. “The kids loved it,” said Ming Plunkett. “Marvin Bales was the building inspector. On Sundays, he’d ride over on his Tennessee Walking Horse to say hello,” Bob Plunkett said, smiling. “Bales came by to be friendly, but I think he was also checking to make sure we were building a house and not planning to live permanently in the barn.”
In that first year (1956), “we had two plagues,” said Bonnie Plunkett Miller, who was a teenager when they moved to town. “You couldn't step out the door without grasshoppers just jumping all over you.”
“Everything they saw, they ate,” added Ming, Bonnie’s mother. “We couldn't get anything to grow. Then, army worms came through the walls and windows of the barn. We were sweeping them up in a vacuum,” Ming continued. “While we were emptying the bag, they would just come tearing across the barn.”
“Greenwood Village had the largest 4-H group in Colorado,” said Bonnie, who was a member of the Greenwood Village Farmers from 1957-61 and president in 1961. The club had 52 members and raised animals, studied birds, and planted trees to make wind breaks. “We received 100 seedlings from Colorado State University. We waited and waited for our 100 trees – then it came in a package about 6 inches square,” Bonnie recalled, laughing. “We planted Russian Olives, Blue Spruce, and Pines. Some of them are still around today.”
The 4-H’ers mounted a “Clean Up the Village Campaign” to pick up trash. They painted 55-gallon oil drums white with a 4-H logo and placed them along the High Line Canal. Once a month, they would ride on a beet wagon behind the Plunkett’s tractor, emptying the trash from the barrels.
Many of the neighbors in South Denver Gardens had horses. “We loved Little Britches Rodeo,” said Bonnie Miller. “We’d jump on our horses and go down Belleview Avenue to Little Britches at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds. They would let girls ride bulls,” Bonnie continued. Other events were barrel racing, wild cow milking, calf roping, and racing with an egg on a spoon!
First Office Park
While young families were raising children, George Wallace was building a successful business in downtown Denver. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Wallace started his career with Babcocks and Wilcox, which made large boilers in Ohio. Wallace came to Denver as their western regional manager. In the 1950s, when the company wanted to transfer him, Wallace established his own mechanical and electrical engineering consulting firm in downtown Denver. George Wallace was very successful. “He was expanding and finally got enough money to buy a Lincoln,” said Ray Bullock, vice president of operations of the Denver Tech Center (DTC). “Somebody parked next to him and dented the side of his car. It made him so angry, he got a real estate broker and asked him to find some land in Arapahoe County,” Bullock continued. The broker found a 40 acre tract. George wanted one acre, but the seller said, ‘you must buy all of the land or nothing.’ He hired a planning firm and the idea of an office park was the genesis of the DTC. George ultimately got so interested in the land development company, he quit doing engineering work.”
The original 40 acres was bounded by Interstate 25 on the west, Valentia Street on the east, and south of Prentice Avenue. Over about a five year period, from 1961-65, he acquired up to 1,000 acres. John Crowley of the HOH Planning Firm joined DTC. “It was George’s vision to create a place where people could work, live, and recreate in harmony,” Bullock said. “George was considered an innovator. The tech center was the premier suburban office park in the nation. Landscaping was an amenity. One of the hallmarks of the tech center was that every developer had to set aside at least 30% of their land for open space and provide landscaping along the streets.”
Some of the land Wallace wanted to buy was occupied by long-time residents. The Sciallas and their neighbors were wary. “When we lived on Ulster, every developer and his brother came out. We didn’t want to sell because of the types of development proposed,” Lindy commented. One developer offered $1,000 per acre for a trailer park. The family wasn’t interested. Next, came a trucking company that used pick-up trucks. “It would have caused a mountain of dust,” Lindy Scialla noted.
The Sciallas consistently opposed these development schemes. Then, Margaret and Diane went to a hearing on the DTC at the Arapahoe County Courthouse. Margaret suggested Lindy look into it. “George Wallace set a precedent for the area, for high class development,” Lindy observed. “A lot of people weren’t anxious to sell. They wanted to hold out for a higher price.” In March 1967, the Sciallas sold George Wallace their 5 acres on Ulster Street and had to move the house by 1968. They bought 10 acres on South Boston Street, where they live today.
As farming and ranching characterized the area in the early part of the century, annexations have defined Greenwood Village from the mid-1960s through the present. Beginning with the tenure of Mayor John Wood, M.D. in 1965-67, Greenwood Village embarked on a period of annexations that generated a significant tax base to underwrite city services. Three large annexations – in 1967, 1970, and 1987 – brought the major commercial areas into Greenwood Village that exist today. Included in these annexations were the Denver Tech Center, Greenwood Plaza, and the retail businesses along Arapahoe Road.
Prior to 1967, Greenwood Village was predominately a residential area, with homes and open space. Homes generate a small amount of tax revenue, compared to the dollars needed to provide residents with road maintenance, police protection, and other services. By contrast, commercial businesses generate tax revenues greater than the dollars needed to serve those areas. Annexations also gave Greenwood Village the ability to control zoning in areas near existing neighborhoods.
George Wallace approached Dr. John Wood about annexing the tech center to Greenwood Village. At the time, the city’s boundaries extended only as far east as Holly Street. Annexing the tech center on the east side of Interstate 25 required that Greenwood Village have land adjacent or “contiguous” to the area to be annexed. The city annexed property southwest of Belleview Avenue and Holly Street that had not previously been part of Greenwood Village. This permitted Greenwood to make subsequent annexations in 1967 of the area from Holly Street east to Dayton Street, including the Denver Tech Center. Unfortunately, key property owner(s) north of Belleview Avenue objected to the annexation. A lawsuit was filed that again went to the Colorado Supreme Court. Unlike the 1950 lawsuit, this decision went against Greenwood Village with nearly-disastrous results. But that chapter comes later in the story.
“When I first came here,” said Ray Bullock, “George and I were looking at a property swap with Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI). We went to meet with Bob Magness, the one and only time I ever met the man. They both got into this discussion, and I remember distinctly that Bob Magness’ office was about 150 square feet with what looked like old K-Mart paneling. It was warped, dark, and had no windows. He was smoking a cigar with his feet on his desk. It took about two minutes to do the business. For about an hour they got into a discussion about who was going to retire first. Both of them worked for another 10-15 years. Magness was talking about how tired he was - traveling too much and getting too old for it. They (TCI) just exploded – became a worldwide force in the telecommunications industry. I found that Bob Magness and George liked each other. Both were very down-to-earth people. It was entertaining watching them.”
Controlling Our Destiny
Merging with Cherry Hills
During the 1960s, Greenwood Village operated on very tight budgets because its residential and rural areas generated no income beyond modest property taxes. Its neighbor to the north, Cherry Hills Village, was also a residential community with no commercial tax base. The proposal was made to merge the two cities and a vote was held August 23, 1967. Cherry Hills voters approved the proposed merger, 368 to 276. Greenwood Villagers voted it down, 306 to 264.
“Cherry Hills was very well-to-do, while the people of Greenwood Village were very rural and vocal,” said McNeil Fiske, who was a member of the Board of Trustees at voting time.
“We felt that you can’t live in a vacuum. There would be tremendous growth and we could cope better if united.”
“The people of Greenwood Village were staunch defenders of their rural lifestyle and weren’t like the people in Cherry Hills. They didn't belong to Country Clubs. The vote made Cherry Hills mad as hell,” Fiske added. “Several years later, there was an effort to do a joint improvement district – for water and sewer services for both cities. There were still some on (Cherry Hills’) Council who remembered the merger vote. They weren't about to cooperate; they voted it down.”
1970s - Good Government
The merger election in August 1967 was to be followed in November with the election of a new mayor and trustees. A group of citizens were concerned about Greenwood’s image in the larger metropolitan area, due to negative publicity over issuance of speeding tickets, the lawsuits, and other matters. The citizens formed an organization called the Good Government League and proposed to run a slate of individuals for the town’s government.
“People felt a change was needed,” said Harold Patton, who had moved to the area in 1964. “We needed contemporary planning and additional guidance to fulfill the city’s promise.” The citizen’s group asked Patton to run for the Board of Trustees and approached McNeil Fiske to run for mayor. Fiske had bought his home in the rural part of the village in 1961 and was elected to the board in 1965.
For some, the invitation to run for office was a tough sell. “I had been skiing when Claude Ramsey came by and said ‘You must run for city clerk,’” June Gunderson recalled. “None of us had the slightest bit of interest. I had voted against the annexation of my area, of Greenwood Hills, into greater Greenwood Village. I didn't want any part of Greenwood Village and here I was working for them five years later. It was kind of a shock.” Gunderson served as city clerk from 1968 to 1978.
“One of the best things about those times were the opportunities,” she added. “Women today talk about a glass ceiling, being compartmentalized. That simply wasn't the case (for me). The council thought nothing of sending me to a room of 200 men as Greenwood’s representative to any number of organizations.”
“They were all working. I was a housewife,” she continued. “So I had all the time in the world, right? I served as a liaison to Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and things at the state level. I would draft a report on the meeting. I got to do so many wonderful, interesting things. I really feel sorry for women these days who have such a difficult time climbing the corporate ladder. There wasn't even a step-stool in Greenwood Village.”
Fire House Meetings
The trustees met at the Cherry Hills Fire Station on South University Boulevard, which made for exciting meetings.
“It seemed there would be a fire about once a month,” Gunderson recalled. “We got to where we could be standing up and out of the firemen’s way in 30 seconds, before they came tearing out of the back room.”
City government was quite small in those days as tax revenues were still quite limited in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. “There was no City Hall. All the records were in my laundry room,” she explained. “In order to wash clothes, I’d have to move the minutes. The Police Department had two employees. Chief Jim Coleman used my house and milk box as a drop for paychecks, minutes... things they needed to distribute. I had the best protected house and milk box in the city!”
Master Plan & Home Rule
One of the first projects of the new government was development of a master plan to guide future growth of Greenwood Village. “Because of the annexations, the town had changed in character and geography,” Fiske explained. Joe Marlowe was hired to prepare the plan to outline which areas should be residential, which commercial and rural. The plan set height and density restrictions throughout the city and preserved open space in ward 2, which is now called rural Greenwood Village.
Another significant change was the decision to seek home rule status for Greenwood Village. The annexation of Greenwood Hills brought the population to 2,500 which was the threshold for a statutory city, a precursor to home rule. “We had a discussion: What did we want to be called?” Gunderson said. “I remember everyone at the table said, ‘We worked so hard to be a city. Let’s call it a city and not a village.’”
“A home rule charter is a governing document that will supersede all state requirements,” Gunderson explained. “It is always better to have as much power in the municipality as opposed to allowing the state to govern you. Zoning was always done by the county until we became a home rule city. That put so much power in the hands of the city, just that one aspect of it.”
The first step was for citizens to approve creation of a home rule city. Voters approved the proposal 135 to 66 on December 19, 1967. Next, Mayor Fiske appointed John Jameson to chair a charter commission. “He was an elder statesman who could draw up compromises,” Fiske explained.
The charter called for voters to elect City Council members, rather than trustees. With the annexations, the larger city was divided into four wards. Ward 1 included all land west of University Boulevard, ward 2 covered rural Greenwood, ward 3 was the area from Holly to Monaco Streets, and ward 4 was the area east of Monaco Street. Additional council members were appointed because the charter called for two representatives from each area.
1970s - Solving Problems
A lively commentator who lived in Greenwood Village was Eugene Cervi, editor of Cervi’s Journal. Cervi had a neighbor who raised peacocks. He called Fiske and wanted to speak to council. “I told him the agenda was set and he would have to be last,” Fiske said. “One big item was a rezoning by Fulenwider, a developer. There was a long and heated discussion regarding density. After it ended, half the audience walked out. I told him, ‘you are next Mr. Cervi.’ He said, ‘When I came up here, I thought I had a problem. After listening tonight, I don’t have a problem.’ Those rezonings went on until the middle of the night.”
Growth & Conflict
McNeil Fiske decided not to seek re-election in 1969. Harold Patton was elected mayor and led the city from 1969 to 1977, a time of great growth and challenge. “My council was made up entirely of business people, who were very bright,” Patton said. “They knew that homes do not pay for themselves. The city needed a larger tax base.”
Additional land in the tech center and Greenwood Plaza were targets for annexation. Even more compelling, Denver was annexing to the south and east. Areas of Arapahoe County already had bonded indebtedness for Cherry Creek Schools. When the City of Denver annexed, the land also became part of Denver schools, which would leave Cherry Creek schools “standing empty with people paying for bonds,” Patton explained.
Denver Public Schools was under a desegregation order and students were being bused from the neighborhood schools. “There was a high level of hysteria about many aspects of Denver schools,” Patton continued. Greenwood Village began annexing east until the village joined Aurora. “This infuriated Denver because they could no longer annex in that direction. In retaliation, Denver drew a ‘blue line,’ saying it would not provide water to Aurora.” At that time, Denver controlled 100% of water supply from Adams to Douglas counties.
The Poundstone Amendment To address concerns caused by Denver’s annexations, future Greenwood Village Mayor Freda Poundstone drafted an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that bears her name. Approved by voters in 1974, the Poundstone Amendment requires that annexations by one county of land in another county must be voted on by all citizens in the county giving up the land.
Denver quit trying to annex after the amendment passed. “The Legislature referred a proposal for a Boundary Commission to the ballot the same time as Poundstone to soften it,” Freda Poundstone explained. “An appointed commission would determine whether annexations could take place. The Poundstone Amendment was passed by a larger majority, so it took precedence over the Boundary Commission.”
Surviving Traumatic Times
The 1970 annexations brought commercial sites on both sides of Interstate 25 into Greenwood Village, making development, subject to Greenwood’s master plan, and stricter zoning than was the norm in Arapahoe County and many other areas. “It was not fun to be a developer in Greenwood Village,” Patton observed. “We were imposing these criteria that were unwelcome (to developers) and unusual. In the long haul (these criteria) were to the benefit of the developers, their clients, and the general community.”
John Madden, who developed much of the commercial area west of Interstate 25, came to Denver from Omaha, where he learned to be a contractor while in business with an uncle. In Colorado, he first bought land near Orchard Road and Quebec Street for a Mr. Steak Restaurant. The land eventually became part of the Triad Buildings, Greenwood Plaza North, South, and West.
Madden’s initial proposals “were not acceptable in terms of density, parking, or landscaping,” Patton said. “I told him: ‘It’s going to take some time. You’ll end up with something you’ll be proud of. We’re going to end up friends.’”
Madden agrees. “I got the property zoned after a rather stiff battle. The tech center didn’t want the competition. If it hadn’t been for Harold Patton, we may not have won that zoning fight. No question – if it hadn’t been for Harold – there wouldn’t have been a Greenwood Plaza.”
Next, Madden looked for tenants and picked up a valuable tip from a friend, Mrs John Fuller. In Spring 1971, executives from Johns-Manville came to Denver. Mrs. Fuller, who worked for an airline, recognized the executives, and called Madden. “I called Johns-Manville and went to New York in May 1971,” said Madden. “I came home with a 450,000-square-foot lease. Dick Goodwin, CEO of Johns-Manville, said not to worry about the short-term lease,” Madden said. It was a three-year lease with year-to-year options. “The day the lease was signed, they bought ground for their plant in southern Jefferson County.”
1970s - Arts Patrons
Trademarks of the Madden buildings are the outdoor art and use of distinctive building materials, such as travertine marble. His touch can be seen in the stone lions on East Orchard Road and Greenwood Plaza Boulevard and the striking marble at Carrara Place, an office building at South Syracuse and East Caley Avenue. Madden created the Museum of Outdoor Arts, an organization now run by his daughter Cynthia Madden Leitner, which displays sculptures at the Triad, Harlequin Plaza, and Carrara Place, among others.
Madden learned to love art growing up in Omaha, where he worked summers at the Joslin Memorial Museum, first as a guard, then as a docent, and in construction. “From seventh grade, by osmosis, I became acquainted with art. Then Marjorie, my wife, and I discovered Florence.”
“Marjorie would go with a marble broker to buy tiles for the buildings,” he explained. “We had a lot of fun buying art for the buildings. Every time we did a building, we embellished it. Through the years we learned there is no relationship between art appreciation and money, and that figurative art is more meaningful to general public than abstract art.”
City is Torn ‘Asunder’
The early 1970s were good years. Development was booming and the city formed its own Parks, Trails, and Recreation Department and acquired undeveloped land at Holly Street and Orchard Road for its first “pocket park.” Up until 1971, recreation services were provided by South Suburban Parks and Recreation District. The city withdrew from the district that year because South Suburban collected four mills in taxes and had “no plans” to build amenities in Greenwood Village, Harold Patton said. “As hatchets were buried,” he continued, “Village residents could pay a fee for services through South Suburban and were reimbursed by the city, a practice that continues today.”
On September 22, 1975, residents were shocked to learn that the Colorado Supreme Court declared that the city’s annexations of 1967 and 1970 were in error and nullified. Overnight, the city lost half of its land – everything east of Holly Street including all the commercial areas!
“Functioning city revenue was a fraction when the court set asunder those annexations,” Patton remarked. More than half of the City Council members no longer lived inside city limits. Patton recruited former Mayor “Mac” Fiske and future Mayor Rollin Barnard, among others, to serve as interim council members. “Everybody was working 20 hours a day. It was tough times.”
Volunteers scrambled to circulate petitions for an election to re-annex to the city. “We had 90 days to get all the paper work done,” June Gunderson explained. “Two days after the annexation election, we had to certify our budget to Arapahoe County. I had a ledger-sized paper with a calendar of dates by which every task had to be completed. ‘We need those petitions back in a week,’ we would tell volunteers.”
With a large commercial area suddenly back in Arapahoe County, the City and County of Denver annexed land southeast of Belleview Avenue and Yosemite Street. The area northeast of that intersection, immediately south of Cherry Creek High School, had already been part of Greenwood Village before the de-annexation.
“Denver didn’t retain the annexation, but it spurred us on to collect signatures,” said Ferol Jenkins, one of the volunteers. We had teams of mothers, who didn’t want their kids going to East High School, canvassing for signatures. Once the votes were counted we were amazed that there were still people who had voted against re-annexation.
The Greenwood Honker reported that 700 landowners voted “yes” out of a maximum possible 800 to 1,000 voters. “Of the 45 who voted no, some had indicated through confusion, they had pulled the wrong lever.”
“John Madden turned out to be such a wonderful friend at the time of the de-annexation,” Gunderson commented. “The large landowners had to give permission in writing to re-annex to the city. Madden just signed and said, ‘We will worry about the details later.’ Madden is a wonderful man – he fought those guys (City Council) to a stand still over every inch of Greenwood Plaza. But, when we needed him... we got his signature in one day.” Ferol Jenkins added, “He ended up with height restrictions. It didn’t seem fair.”
While most property owners voted to rejoin Greenwood Village, owners of 120 acres of property north of Belleview Avenue, petitioned Denver to be annexed. On December 26, 1975, Greenwood Village officially reannexed approximately 1,580 acres of the 1,700 acres lost through the Supreme Court decision.
After de-annexation, George Wallace had a “handshake agreement” to annex the entire Denver Tech Center (DTC) to Denver, according to DTC’s Ray Bullock. “Harold Patton and the head of Cherry Creek School District came to George and told him ‘If you do this (annex to Denver), you will split Cherry Creek in half and put the school district in peril.” Wallace then annexed the north half of tech center land (north of Belleview Avenue) into Denver and the south half into Greenwood Village. Planners for the firm developed “town center zoning,” which was a unique zoning for an office park.
In 1977, Sam Jenkins was elected mayor, succeeding Harold Patton. From 1975 to 1979, a series of agreements were negotiated with the Denver Tech Center that called for no height restrictions. “Greenwood Village was glad to have Wallace back in the city after the de-annexation,” explained Ferol Jenkins, widow of the former mayor. “The re-annexation agreement allowed the tech center 22 million square feet. All the citizens had a fit, especially those living southeast of the tech center.”
“Sam negotiated the agreement down to 19 million square feet. Many residents thought it should be 11 million square feet. Sam’s feeling was that we made this agreement in good faith; we have to live with it,” Ferol Jenkins explained.
“The re-annexation agreement was less than perfect, both in legal and conceptual terms,” said Fred Fisher, mayor from 1981-85. It established a master plan for the tech center with a suggested square footage of 12 million square feet. Other places in the agreement referred to an overall maximum density of 22 million square feet – greater than all the density in downtown Denver.
“The tech center interpreted the master plan as a guide that could be changed at their discretion,” Fisher continued. “City Council interpreted it as binding; it could only be changed by mutual agreement. George Wallace was not a person to mince words or be conciliatory – ‘It was his way or no way.’”
Mayor Sam Jenkins was the only candidate for mayor and the deadline for candidate petitions had passed. “He presented a resolution to council, saying we agreed with the tech center’s interpretation and they’re going to give us a few concessions. I felt he was acceding to their demands. I’m a 39 year old guy, full of competitiveness,” Fisher recalled. “I didn’t want George Wallace pushing us around.”
Fisher recalled a majority of council (five members) said no to the resolution approving the agreement. “Some of us got together afterwards and said, ‘We need to run someone for mayor to make a point.’” Fisher continued, “I was the logical choice – being mayor pro-tem. I remember going home and telling my wife. It was 17 days until the election. We did a write-in vote.”
“We tried to work with the tech center after the election,” Fisher added. “They knew I was not going to give in. Eight to nine months after election they filed a suit against us. We hired a lawyer. Each side won some rulings. By the time I left office, it was kind of a toss-up in court that was going to extend for some time.” The suit was settled out of court after Freda Poundstone was elected mayor.
Ray Bullock recalls the period of litigation, from 1981-85, as “a tremendously antagonistic period with the city.” Ultimately the issue was settled out of court and the settlement agreement is still in effect. “Other than that tumultuous period, we have had fairly cordial relations. We both experienced the pain and expense of the court process. We work real hard at making things work now. My perception is that the city is fairly proud of the tech center,” the executive reflected. “We like the image of Greenwood Village, for the most part. It has developed into more of a mutually supportive relationship. It’s matured into that.”
Enhancing Our Environment
Parks & Open Space
“When I asked Sam what he would see as defining Greenwood Village,” Ferol Jenkins said of her husband, “He said ‘the greenbelt and the parks. The basis for open space.’ This foundation for open space (that residents enjoy today) was laid in those years through the Greenwood Village Master Plan and the fights over density.”
“In those days (the late 1960s), the city had very little money,” added June Gunderson. “We asked developers for land donations – either to build a park or donate land to the city for open space.” In January of 1969, the Planning Committee proposed an ordinance requiring developers to set aside money or land for parks and the floodplain for greenbelts.
Also in 1969, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District reached agreement with the Denver Water Department to maintain control over the bike paths of the High Line Canal for recreational purposes. The district developed a plan for pedestrians, bikes, and horses, and Greenwood Village agreed to provide policing.
In 1972, after Greenwood Village withdrew from the recreation district, residents approved a $500,000 bond issue for the purchase of open space. The city developed a greenbelt master plan that called for a spine trail, a major trail traversing the village that accommodates walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and horse-back riders.
West of Holly Street, the trail follows the banks of the High Line Canal. East of Holly Street it follows a floodplain to Greenwood Plaza, where John Madden dedicated rights of ways along Quebec Street, Berry Avenue, and Interstate 25. The trail crosses under Interstate 25 at the Orchard Road underpass and continues along Orchard Road to the Orchard Hills – Big Cañon greenbelt system.
Mayor Jenkins wanted to make Belleview Avenue more of a parkway. Islands with landscaping would absorb the pollution. Most of the land would have been taken from Cherry Hills. People on both sides of the border fought it, Ferol Jenkins said.
New City Hall By 1978, Greenwood Village had 35 employees and was leasing 5,000 square feet of space in the Denver Tech Center. The City Council asked voters to approve a $900,000 general obligation bond issue to build a two-structure complex at 6060 South Quebec Street. One building would provide facilities for the administration, courts, police, council chambers, and meeting rooms. The second building would be a Public Works and Maintenance Facility.
“Our public works and maintenance facilities are practically non-existent,” Mayor Sam Jenkins wrote in The Greenwood Honker. “We are currently leasing a small structure in the backyard of a citizen’s home. This structure lacks sufficient space to store and service the public works equipment. Needless to say, the working conditions for public works employees leave a lot to be desired.”
Jenkins made a convincing case that the bonds could be paid off for about the same amount already budgeted for leases of existing buildings. Voters agreed the facility was a good investment, approving the bond issue 316 to 121. “The building was dedicated on my birthday, November 30, 1979,” Ferol Jenkins said. On May 3, 1980, there was a big community-wide celebration at the municipal complex. “There were many volunteers. Highlights of the day were art and music presentations by all the schools that the Greenwood Village students attended.”
1980s - Harlequin Plaza
Just east of the new City Hall complex, John Madden was building a two-building complex with a very distinctive courtyard. “When we were building Harlequin Plaza, we sponsored one of the foremost landscape architects in the world, George Hargraves,” said Madden. He currently lectures at Harvard and is doing site work for the Sydney (Australia) Olympics.
“Hargraves created the concept for the piazza on a matchbook cover – the ‘checkerboard’ inspired by Picasso’s Clown’s diamonds. An octogenarian sculptor, Harry Marinsky, created seven sculptures based on the medieval ‘Comedia del Arte’ theme of hilltown musicians who go from village to village,” Madden the developer continued.
When Madden sold the complex, the new owners tore out the plaza. “There were faults in the construction design, not the architectural design,” he added. “The plaza was leaking. A new landscape designer tore out the black and white diamond plaza. It was so distinctive – there are photos of it in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in an architectural book, Plazas of the 20th Century. People used to take family pictures on the plaza. It was a phenomenal thing Hargraves had done on a matchbook cover. To me, it was like someone had taken the Gettysburg Address and thrown it out the window.”
The City Hall Complex, Harlequin Plaza, and William McKinley Carson Park all occupy land that was originally part of the Carson Farm. “Gladys Carson is a dear woman,” Madden recalled warmly. “She enticed me with a cherry pie to pay her asking price for the land. There was no broker, no real estate person. Gladys paid $339 for all their land. I paid Gladys $3 million. My lenders in New York thought I should name the Harlequin Building the 339 building.”
After some of the land was developed, Gladys was still living in her house. The remaining land that had not sold contained the wetlands and a piece not in the floodplain. Gladys said, “Why don’t you buy this and give it to the city for a park?” “She was a hell of a business woman,” Madden related.
Village Greens Another large park, Village Greens, became part of Greenwood Village because of a proposed shopping center that was never built. Developer Bill Walters was in discussion with the Cherry Creek School District over land for a large shopping center near Interstate 225. “We told Walters he had to buy 20 to 30 acres from Cherry Creek School District for a city park,” said Fred Fisher. “Walters defaulted on the land north of Interstate 225. We (Greenwood Village) got something for nothing… the park from a development that was not completed.”
One accomplishment, for which Fisher is particularly proud, is the recruitment of the first administrator professionally trained in city management. “We recruited Jim Mullen from Wyoming. He is now the city manager of Colorado Springs. The city had problems with personnel and fraud. We set the stage (for future progress) with good administration.”
Traffic & Noise Walls
By the early 1980s, traffic was the number one issue in Greenwood Village. Before becoming mayor, Fisher had been vice-chair of the Denver Regional Council of Governments. “We put widening of Belleview Avenue and Yosemite Street to four lanes in the regional plan and got federal and state funding. Belleview Avenue was four lanes over to University Boulevard, then two lanes to Quebec Street. It was a nightmare sometimes. We knew it would get worse,” he explained.
“I know some residents were opposed to wider streets. We were trying to be responsible about highways for the region. Because of the increased traffic, City Council agreed to help pay for noise walls while Fisher was mayor.
“I remember discussing the philosophy: If local residents would tax themselves for half the cost, the city would pay the other half,” he explained. The neighborhood south of Belleview Avenue and west of University Boulevard agreed to tax themselves. It added value to their homes. “After one or two years, the council decided the city had enough money to pay for all of it. Greenwood Village was getting enough traffic because of the roads we were building and agreeing to.”
DTC Settlement When Freda Poundstone became mayor, her first priority was settling the lawsuit with the Denver Tech Center. Ray Bullock served on a water board with Poundstone as president. “Our attorneys told City Council we could win. One week later we lost the suit,” Poundstone said drily. “The judge made it clear that the ruling would stick.”
An April Fool’s edition of The Villager newspaper said each resident would have to pay a huge amount for the suit’s damages. “We sat down for a period of time with council,” Poundstone continued. “Some members were very opposed to the tech center and wanted to appeal the decision. A majority of council felt we should sit down and negotiate. With our insurance, it was questionable whether we could pay any more legal fees.
“Our annual city budget was very small, $5-6 million. It was future annexations that made us solvent,” she explained. “We found, to our chagrin, we could not work it out through the attorneys. I sat down with Bill Pauls, president of the DTC North, owner of the undeveloped land, and said ‘these are things I can’t give up.’ Pauls had other non-negotiable items.” They finally hammered out an agreement that was signed in September 1986.
The city agreed to honor all provisions of the 1975 annexation agreement from 1986-90, after which time the city would have a right to rezone the tech center under applicable law. For that five years, the tech center could operate its Master Development Plan that prescribed a maximum gross floor area of 22 million square feet. Height limits were imposed between DTC Boulevard and Yosemite Street.
In exchange, DTC North dismissed damage claims and a suit challenging the city’s sales tax on building materials. They also agreed to pay for a circulator bus and mass transit services when vehicle trips reached 7,500 per day, which occurred in the late 1990s.
The corporation also agreed to install a trail system according to the village’s Master Plan, a landscaped berm on the east side of Yosemite Street and agreed to support the village’s position opposing roads across Cherry Creek Reservoir that would align with Belleview Avenue or Orchard Road, also referred to as the Cherry Creek Crossing.
A Time for Healing
Annexations The other major accomplishment during Mayor Poundstone’s term was the 1987 Arapahoe Road annexations. “It has paid off,” the former mayor said. “It’s still the major tax base.” The annexation was precipitated by activities by the City of Aurora, which was trying to draw a boundary with Greenwood Village. Aurora wanted to annex Arapahoe Road commercial properties, but not the residential areas.
“Aurora was able to annex down Parker Road for its commercial tax base,” Poundstone said. “Under State Law, a city can cross a body of water (Cherry Creek Reservoir) to annex. Aurora City Manager Jim Grisemer met with me and made agreements. The Aurora City Council did not adopt the agreements.”
Poundstone appointed a committee of the city’s mayor Pro-tem and council members, who solicited Arapahoe Road commercial owners to annex to Greenwood Village. The merchants preferred annexing to Greenwood Village over Aurora, she explained.
“The money that came in was a godsend to the city,” Poundstone commented. “Office buildings pay property taxes, but retail properties (with their sales tax revenue) are really your slot machine. For every dollar received from residential property taxes, a city spends $1.80 on services. With retail, for every dollar spent, you get $14 back. We had bridges that needed repair for years. During my term, we began replacing bridges.”
Zoning a key parcel of land in rural Greenwood Village was a long-standing, thorny issue that was resolved during Poundstone’s tenure. For many years, the Koebel family had tried to rezone and develop their land, now known as The Preserve. “A group in District 2, determined to keep the area rural, wanted a measure on the ballot to bar development of the land between Holly Street and Colorado Boulevard north of Orchard Road,” Poundstone stated.
“We would have had a lawsuit, bar none,” she continued. “The Koebels had owned that land for 30 years.” The City Council placed a counter-proposal on the ballot to develop The Preserve. “It has become a centerpiece of good development. I worked with Ferol Jenkins and walked the whole city to get that item passed.”
A lot of cities have boards and commissions that are hard to fill. Boards have been important to Greenwood Village. “We’re such a close-knit community. We are “pro” our citizens. We have money to build fabulous parks – Silo Park at Dayton and Orchard is incredible. It has flowers, corn, and vegetables.”
“Plus the people care. Old timers have a major impact when they speak. Greenwood Village has all the advantages of Cherry Hills with the tax base. It’s a city that is touchable,” she concluded. “I hope I’ve played a small part in all of that. I wouldn’t trade it for any city I know.”
A Calmer Time While the Poundstone era featured growth and tumult, the Rollin Barnard era was characterized by a quest for calm and civility. Barnard had played a key role in the late 1960s as chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission when annexations and development of commercial areas were starting to accelerate. He served as an interim council member in 1975 when the city lost half of its land and elected representatives during de-annexation. In 1989, he was not serving in office when a group of citizens approached him about running for mayor.
“It was an interesting time,” Barnard mused. “For several years before, there were problems. City Council members had trouble getting along with each other. There was a general sense of disarray in upper levels of city government.” Citizens asked Barnard to run for mayor to “lead the village into quieter, more understanding times,” he explained. “I asked candidates for Council if they agreed with me about bringing down the flamboyance that had generated criticism in Denver newspapers. There was no formal agreement to put forward a ticket (slate of candidates), but they did agree to work with each other. We co-hosted community meetings during the campaign.”
Council-Manager Governance One key first step in the new administration was a retreat of the mayor and City Council at Keystone Resort. Marshall Kaplan, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver renowned for forging consensus among groups, was invited to facilitate the discussion. Key outcomes of the retreat were agreement on a code of ethics for City Council and a plan to revise the City Charter. The code of ethics “disallowed loud and unpleasant criticism of each other,” Barnard explained. “We felt it was time for an end to public confrontations.”
The proposed Charter revision would change the city’s government from a strong mayor to a council-manager form of government. “The greatest weakness of the original Charter was that there was no clear definition of who was running the city,” Barnard explained. Since the city had grown, the day-to-day operations of the city had become more complex. The new structure created the Office of the City Manager, a paid employee who had greater authority to administer the city’s business than was given to previous city administrators. Once the Charter changed, it was clear that City Council’s role was to set overall policy, while the city manager was responsible for the day-to-day decisions of running the city. “This change has made a big difference in the success of day-to-day operations,” Barnard said.
Marshall Kaplan contacted the editors of The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. Barnard and others met with their editorial boards to describe the new direction the village was taking. Both papers gave strong endorsements to the Charter changes.
Mayor Barnard then turned his attention to Arapahoe County. “I was concerned that relations with the county had deteriorated over a number of years. Fortunately, I knew two of the three commissioners. We had a frank discussion about what needed to be ‘cleaned up’ on both sides. There were some staff problems between the county and the city. As soon as I brought the problems to the attention of the commissioners, things improved.” As a member of the Council of Mayors of Arapahoe County, Barnard talked about intergovernmental relations and efforts to “bring down the level of tempers.”
These warmer relations proved important when Mayor Barnard lobbied the Arapahoe Library District Board of Directors to place the Koebel Library adjacent to Greenwood Village at the southwest corner of Holly Street and Orchard Road. Barnard attended hearings and pointed out that the site was a central location for patrons. “When the chips were down on the location, I pledged to the people responsible for the decision that Greenwood Village would support them in every way possible to make it a fine facility.”
Barnard was pleased the library was named Koebel, because Mr. and Mrs. Walter Koebel donated “a substantial amount of money to help the library get off the ground. Their donation, after the site was selected, singularly made the financing possible,” he explained.
Good relations with the news media was another goal. “The big Denver newspapers were constantly on the track of what’s gone wrong,” he related. “We tried to be open and free with the media. We tried not to air our disagreements in public.”
Both Freda Poundstone and Rollin Barnard tried to get the U.S. Post Office to give Greenwood Village its own Post Office during their terms as mayor. Each brought considerable clout to the task, as Poundstone had served in Washington during the Reagan administration and Barnard was assistant postmaster general during the Eisenhower Administration. While Poundstone was mayor, the Post Office agreed that residents with an Englewood zip code could write “Greenwood Village” with their current zip code. Barnard revisited the issue when he was mayor.
“There was a major tax audit that found a tremendous percentage of our sales taxes were not being sent to Greenwood Village,” Barnard explained, due to confusion of businesses about which jurisdiction was owed the tax. Barnard was also unsuccessful in getting an actual Greenwood Village Post Office, but those with Littleton zip codes in Greenwood Village could now also use the Greenwood Village designation. “I encourage everyone who lives or has a business here to proudly say they’re in Greenwood Village,” Barnard added. The city acquired land for a new maintenance facility during Barnard’s term as mayor.
1990s - Annexation Policies
During Barnard’s administration, an ordinance passed that citizens must vote on an annexation of commercial properties. It set a requirement that any commercial property would be offset by residential. “We would not continue the reputation of annexing only income-producing property. This was a good checkpoint on future annexations,” Barnard explained.
“A great deal of land was annexed before my administration that was largely commercial property, not matched with residential. They need to be paired,” he said. “In earlier years, the city could take acres of commercial property. This was part of the feud with the newspapers. We seemed to be gobbling up land. There was a reputation the city gained about being piggish – trying to fatten city coffers. These things were not pleasant. Our council felt strongly we wanted to have better control of the annexation process. The public does not vote specifically on commercial annexations. But they have a way to kill such annexations by not voting in favor of residential annexations.”
“In the twilight hours of my administration, council surprised me with a resolution to change the name of Horseman’s Park at Orchard Road and Big Dry Creek to Rollin D. Barnard Equestrian Park,” Barnard said of a meeting in late 1993. “My family was always interested in horses. My children loved to ride the trails. My wife and I still ride the trails. Naming the park was a very meaningful thing to me.” Barnard also received the prestigious Citizen of the West Award in 1994 from the National Western Stock Show.
Protecting Quality of Life
1990s - Urban Noise
Throughout the history of the village, residents have been concerned with preserving peace and quiet. From the very first months as a municipality in the 1950s, Greenwood Village trustees heard residents complain about traffic noise and dust on South University Boulevard. Traffic and noise on Greenwood Village streets has remained a continuing concern over the decades. With the 1990s came a new threat to the quality of the peaceful life treasured by village residents – commercial airline flights into Centennial Airport.
Soon after Mayor David Hull took office in November 1993, the city budgeted $250,000 “to defend the city against commercial flights at Centennial Airport,” Hull said. The city’s lobbying efforts led to a new law passed by U.S. Congress that permitted Centennial Airport the ability to refuse to accept commercial flights. Today, the battle continues, because the Federal Aviation Administration refused to recognize the will of the U.S. Congress and stopped funding Centennial Airport in 1999.
The Centennial Airport defense was one of three major goals Mayor Hull set during the first three months of his term. The others were to repair all city streets within five years and to buy additional parkland for the city. Six years later, nearly all the re-pavings are complete. The city purchased land for Westlands Park, purchased and developed Silo Park, and finished Carson Park. Greenwood Village also secured approximately 2,000 acre feet per year of water rights in order to irrigate city parks.
During Hull’s three year term, an expanded beautification program allowed the planting of more and bigger trees in parks and medians. “We planted between 1,000 - 2,000 trees a year, which made an impact. The city is only 8 square miles in area,” Hull explained. Greenwood Village has deservedly earned the Tree City USA Award every year for the past several years.
Besides trees, more flowers were also planted in city rights of ways, including street medians and city parks. “I think it has made Greenwood Village a nicer place to live,” Hull commented. City trails were expanded through the purchase of land required to connect the village’s trails to the Cherry Creek Reservoir Trail System. Cyclists, rollerbladers, walkers, and joggers can now take the Cherry Creek Dam Trail (located at the base of the dam), which provides a safer alternative than traveling on the Dam Road.
Circulator Bus By Mayor David Hull’s term, vehicle trips into the Denver Tech Center had reached the level to trigger the Circulator Bus service negotiated in the 1986 Settlement Agreement. The city initiated a transportation study, which led to The Link, a free bus service for the business community, that began in 1999 during Mayor David Phifer’s term. The council voted to set aside its commercial real estate tax revenues, $1.2 million a year. Funding was also provided by the metropolitan districts.
The impetus for the bus service originated, Hull said, because tech center hotels had trouble hiring people who couldn’t get there to work. Some 2,000 buses serve downtown Denver, while only 200 buses serve the Denver Tech Center. The concept was to pick up passengers from RTD’s two major stops, a Park and Ride at Yosemite Street and Arapahoe Road and the Hyatt Hotel. The theory was that once more people were coming in, RTD would expand its regional service to the area.
Improving City Services
Hiring a new city manager and expanding maintenance staff are two accomplishments former Mayer David Hull is proud of. “We hired a new city manager, and a public works director, who’s management expertise improved city services. I think we have the best staff in the metro area,” Hull said.
The construction of a city maintenance facility south of Arapahoe Road and upgraded equipment have enabled Greenwood Village to clean all city streets each week, instead of periodically, and to remove sand and grit within 24 hours after snowfalls. We expanded City Hall to house city staff and provide better service to our visitors.
The council restarted reimbursement for noise walls which originated during Mayor Fred Fisher’s term. The GV Newsletter to residents and businesses was increased from a quarterly to a monthly publication. Under Mayor Hull, Symphony in the Parks became an annual event and Greenwood Village Day was expanded with additional activities for the entire family. A recreation coordinator was hired to organize events for the community.
A survey was taken asking citizens about their priorities for open space and parks. People expressed support for expanding open space “We tried two things – neither of which worked,” Hull lamented. The city tried to purchase vacant land to expand the backstage area and the park. One goal was to have Fiddler’s Green be the summer home of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. “The procedure to investigate this opportunity became controversial and we were unable to pursue it.”
Another open space effort was a bond issue proposed to buy land throughout the city in each council district. “We wanted to buy 50% of the available land in DTC. It would have taken 10 million square feet of constructable land out of the market,” the mayor explained. “The goal was to identify land in each council district and determine what it would cost and go to voters for a bond issue. The support for the concept collapsed on council because the support of the citizens did not seem to be apparent. The city was in a unique position; we had a good income stream. The bond issue would have cost the city $1 million a year.
“Now, most of land has been built on; the opportunity was lost,” Hull commented. “It was frustrating to have a program and not be able to sell it. Real estate prices were somewhat depressed. We could have purchased open space land for $1 to $2 per square foot that now would probably cost $5 to $10. It was inexpensive enough that the city could afford to buy land for open space. The goal was to create open space and reduce future traffic load.”
A major concern throughout the 1990s has been the volume of traffic within and near to Greenwood Village. Over the years, the number of cars on Interstate 25 has increased significantly, causing major backups, especially during bad weather and accidents. Such situations drive more cars onto crosstown streets. One major effort to address transportation in the south metropolitan area has been the negotiation of the Four Corners agreement, which commits four organizations to resolve traffic issues within four major interchanges:
- Interstate 225 and Interstate 25
- Arapahoe Road and Interstate 25
- Arapahoe Road and Parker Road
- Parker Road and Interstate 225
In 1997, Mayor David Phifer signed a Mediated Transportation Agreement involving Greenwood Village, the City of Aurora, Arapahoe County, and the Joint Southeast Public Improvement Association, an organization of south metro businesses. The agreement called for $500 million in transportation improvements in the Four Corners area. Projects include construction of the Serpentine Road to relieve traffic off of Arapahoe Road by providing direct access into DTC. Also, two parallel roads will be built on the north and south sides of Arapahoe Road west of Parker Road, allowing drivers to take parallel roads at 40 miles per hour.
The agreement also calls for closing Jordan Road, either upon completion of the flyover at Interstate 225 and Parker Road (under construction in 1999) or within five years, whichever comes first. “We agreed to fund much of these improvements, along with Aurora and Arapahoe County,” Phifer noted. “Much of this area is in the proposed City of Centennial. If the Centennial incorporation is successful; it will be up to them to pay for improvements in their area.”
Other “road-calming” improvements are intended to keep “cut through traffic’ from going through residential areas, Phifer continued. “The City is funding a slip ramp off of Interstate 225 at DTC Boulevard that allows ingress and egress onto arterial streets. Now, cars have to exit at Yosemite Street to enter the Tech Center.
“The slip ramp will be located in the City of Denver. Greenwood Village will pay for that because of the benefit to residential and commercial areas. On Monaco Street, the city installed traffic circles to slow and deter traffic from cutting through residential areas to commercial areas,” Phifer explained.
Envisioning Our Future
Focus on Youth
Mayor Phifer has devoted much energy to involving young people in the village. He started a youth commission involving volunteers of middle school and high school age. The mayor also recruited young people to help design the Skate Park Facility. “I want children to feel a part of the city – to feel important,” Phifer said. “The best way is to get them involved when they’re young.”
“My goal is to put together a Community Center so all kids have a place to go. We berate them for ‘hanging out.’ We need to provide a place for them,” Phifer explained. “I’d love to see plans for a Community Center approved during my term – that would be built sometime in the future.”
The city’s support for young people can also be seen in the award-winning Greenwood Village Kids, Ink! newsletter, started in 1998, that features activities and information on local government for children. Additionally, we hosted the first Village Maintenance Day. Children from a local elementary school received the opportunity to participate in activities and see ‘firsthand’ the types of services essential in maintaining a city. “The Fishing Derby for kids and expanded Greenwood Village Days were the biggest ever this year (1999),” Phifer commented. “The holiday function gets bigger and better each year. At Halloween, the city sponsors an outdoor event with rides. As a city, we do a lot for our citizens.”
A major new service started during Mayor Phifer’s term is trash collection. Funded with residential property taxes, the city contracts to have weekly trash collection and large-item pickup. Greenwood Village also expanded City Hall, with an airy lobby and a customer-service oriented design. Another new service is the Mayor’s Show, a half-hour program aired four to five times a day on GVTV Channel 8. Mayor Phifer hosts guests on “quality of life” topics, such as transportation issues and taxes.
As annexation has occupied the attention of City Council members from the 1950’s to the present, the late 1990’s has seen a new annexation challenge: the proposed incorporation of the City of Centennial on land in Greenwood Village’s Master Planning area. For years, Greenwood Village has had on file with Arapahoe County a plan for expansion of boundaries.
“Once Greenwood Village and the other entities signed the Mediated Transportation Agreement on Four Corners, we had committed to larger expenditures for road improvements. At that point, we elected to annex adjacent residential and commercial areas to allow additional revenue,” Phifer explained. “A group set out to incorporate the City of Centennial. The State Legislature passed a law that gives preference to incorporation over annexation. We’re now waiting for this to be heard by the Colorado Supreme Court.”
As village government has become more complex, professional city management has taken on more of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the city. With Greenwood Village’s commercial areas and strategic location, the city’s elected officials still find they are in demand to attend key local and regional meetings. Modern mayors have enlisted the help of their fellow City Councilmembers to monitor specific issues. “I try to involve councilmembers so that they can get a flavor and have some responsibility on issues that impact the village as a whole,” Phifer said of his leadership style. “There’s no way, as a part-time mayor, that I can go to all the meetings. I delegate (specific projects) and get a better quality of work back.
“These council people have bought into this approach (being responsible for a specific issue). “It’s a big deal. They work really hard. Councilmember Clark Upton is almost full-time on the Centennial Airport issue.
“It’s frustrating (being mayor), but it’s a lot of fun,” Phifer added. “The city conducted a survey of our citizens. We found 65% supported the council and mayor’s efforts for annexation, while only 12% were opposed. Additionally, 97% of citizens were satisfied with their quality of life. They are reaping a lot of benefits, such as services provided by our top notch Police Department; City Manager’s Office; Community Development; Administrative Services; Finance Department; Public Works; and Parks, Trails, and Recreation. Back in the 1980’s, the village had financial trouble. Now we have a good tax base. We have to manage it well.”
The land that is now Greenwood Village has changed greatly over the past 50 plus years. Where once there were dust storms and tumbleweeds, residents now enjoy parks, trails, and landscaped streets. Although the town Rolland Enos helped found is certainly less rural than it was in 1950, the commercial tax base provides many high-quality services the residents and business community can enjoy.
As villagers prepare to celebrate the Greenwood Village’s golden anniversary, certain timeless themes emerge. Leaders with vision step forward to protect the quality of life for residents. In the 1880s, the concern was sufficient water. In the 1980s and 1990s, the priority has been to mitigate the effects of transportation, noise, and pollution.
Where zoning and annexation battles in the past concerned protecting the Cherry Creek schools, today’s annexation battles are fought to make sure funding is available to ensure good cross-town transportation routes and to prevent commercial flights into Centennial Airport.
Another constant has been a pride in the community. While the pioneers gathered at Castlewood and Curtis Schools for potlucks and celebrations, village residents today gather at Village Greens Park for Greenwood Village Day and Tommy Davis Park for the Fishing Derby.
While many things have changed, the important traits endure – pride in community, concern for neighbors and children, and activism to preserve the village’s unique quality of life.