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How 8 Denver Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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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.


Auraria Library via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

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.


The Phipps mansion. Image credit: Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

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.


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.


Eekim via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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.


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.


Saint Joseph's Polish Roman Catholic Church. Jeffrey Beall via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

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.


Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia //CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

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Wikipedia/Public Domain
Civilian Researchers Discover Wreckage of the USS Indianapolis
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Wikipedia/Public Domain

On July 30, 1945, the cruiser USS Indianapolis sank in the Pacific Ocean after it was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58. More than 70 years after the historic naval tragedy— which claimed the lives of nearly 900 crew—The New York Times reports that the ship’s mysterious final resting place has been found.

The discovery came courtesy of a team of civilian researchers, led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. His state-of-the-art research vessel, Petrel, located the wreck 18,000 feet below the Pacific’s surface, the team announced on Saturday, August 19.

"To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances."

Before it sank, the USS Indianapolis had just completed a top-secret mission to a naval base on the Northern Mariana island of Tinian. After delivering enriched uranium and components for Little Boy— the atomic bomb that the U.S. would drop on the Japanese city of Hiroshima about a week later—the cruiser forged ahead to Guam, and then to the Philippines. It was supposed to meet the battleship USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare to attack Japan.

The USS Indianapolis never made it to Leyte Gulf. Shortly after midnight on July 30, the Japanese submarine I-58 spotted the cruiser and fired six torpedoes. The USS Indianapolis—which was hit twice—sank within 12 minutes. Around 300 to 400 sailors and Marines were killed in the attack; the rest were stranded in the Pacific Ocean for several days.

Many of these survivors would ultimately lose their lives to sharks, a grisly scene that would be famously (albeit semi-accurately) recounted in the 1975 movie Jaws. Others died from drowning, heat stroke, thirst, burns and injuries, swallowing salt water or fuel oil, and suicide. More than 300 crew members were rescued after a bomber pilot accidently sighted the imperiled men while on a routine antisubmarine patrol.

The mass tragedy—which wouldn’t be announced to the public until August 15, 1945—sparked controversy: Charles B. McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis, was found guilty in a court martial of failing to steer the ship on a “zigzag” course to elude Japanese submarines. A Japanese submarine captain testified that this precautionary measure wouldn’t have thwarted the enemy, but McVay was charged nonetheless. The captain died by suicide in 1968, and wouldn’t be officially exonerated by the Navy until 2001.

For decades, the remains of the USS Indianapolis were lost to the ravages of time and nature. But in 2016, naval historian Richard Hulver found a historic ship log that mentioned a sighting of the USS Indianapolis. Allen’s search team used this information to locate the ship, which was west of where experts assumed it had gone down.

Allen’s crew took pictures of the wreckage, including a piece of its hull, and will search for more of the ship. They plan to keep the exact location of the USS Indianapolis a secret, however, to honor the sunken ship as a war grave.

"While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Allen said.

[h/t The New York Times]

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The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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Getty Images

From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.


In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.


In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

Wire Photo, eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.


By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.


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