LoDo. RiNo. Like many cities, Denver, Colorado has its fair share of neighborhood names that have been made up for business and gentrification purposes. But several of the city’s neighborhoods have much deeper histories—and connections to the city’s long-ago status as a mining boom metropolis. Here are the stories behind eight of Denver’s most notable neighborhood names.
You might think that Auraria got its name from the school that’s in its midst, the Auraria Higher Education Center, but you’d be wrong. Auraria is older than Denver itself. The neighborhood was originally a mining town named after the founders’ hometown of Auraria, Georgia, itself named after the Latin word for gold, aurum. The town was founded in 1858 after gold was found in Cherry Creek, but a competing boom town, Denver, was founded just weeks later. Denver survived, and Auraria was incorporated into it in 1860, after which it became more commonly known as West Denver. It’s been a part of the city ever since.
At first, Belcaro wasn’t a neighborhood, it was a mansion owned by Colorado Senator Lawrence Phipps (the name broadly means beautiful dear one in Italian). Weirdly, the 33,000-square-foot mansion was commissioned during the Great Depression as a way of creating jobs. The mansion became an icon and sparked a neighborhood name—it even has a variety of broccoli rabe named after it.
Baker isn’t named after the people who founded it. It’s the land originally homesteaded by Elizabeth and William Byers, who settled there in the 1850s. However, the general area had several names, such as “Broadway Terrace,” until the 1970s, when the City of Denver named it after Baker Junior High. In turn, the school was named after James Hutchins Baker, a famous Denver educator who never lived in the neighborhood.
4. FIVE POINTS
Back in the day, Five Points marked the start of Denver’s suburbs. It got its name for the spot where the original Denver ended and the suburbs began—a place where Denver’s diagonal grid meets Washington Street, 26th Avenue, Welton Street, and 27th Street. (The roads still get slightly wonky at that convergence.) The name was first popularized by the Stout Street Herdic Coach Company, a horse-powered bus company that used the name as one of its destinations. However, the designation apparently incensed Denverites who worried that its similarity to an infamous New York neighborhood would make visitors think it was a slum. Five Points went on to become a historically black neighborhood known as “The Harlem of the West” and remains one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
5. CAPITOL HILL
Capitol Hill is even older than Five Points, but it wasn’t always known for the golden state capitol dome that now graces its titular hill. In fact, it was also called “Quality Hill” because of the large number of mining millionaires who chose to make their homes there. Though the neighborhood is now known for its hustle and bustle, it used to be tightly controlled by its rich residents, who fought for its tidiness and exclusivity.
6. CHERRY CREEK
Named after the creek that runs through Denver, much of Cherry Creek was once its own town called Harman (sometimes misspelled as Harmon). Named after Edwin P. Harman, a Southern landowner who owned much of the original area, the town was apparently formed “because irrigation for crops and trees was needed for protection against tramps, bums, bummers, and the liquor traffic.” The town lasted for fewer than ten years and was annexed into Denver in 1895.
Like its namesake globe, Globeville was once international in flavor. It was named after the Globe Smelting and Refining Company, which attracted a wide variety of European workers to the area. By the 1920s the area had residents of more than 50 nationalities, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Too bad all the smelting there left a Superfund site behind.
The Highlands neighborhood (also called Highland) got its name because it was on higher ground than the Platte River. It was originally its own town, called Highlands, which consisted of several smaller neighborhoods—more than 35 at one point. Highlands was only annexed to Denver in 1896, three years after the Silver Panic caused a citywide depression. The town prided itself on its clean air and water far above the city’s coal mining operations, and was home to a number of sanatoriums.