I love Baker. I live in Baker. So, I thought I’d do a little promo on Baker….
The Baker Neighborhood was designated a Local Historic District in November of 2000, but the neighborhood’s history began in the early 1800’s, when it was referred to as South Side or South Broadway. Early pioneers, such as Williams and Elizabeth Byers and John L. Dailey, homesteaded the land now known as the Baker Historic Neighborhood. The Byers and Mr. Dailey also initiated the former Rocky Mountain News. After the 1864 Cherry Creek flood, a wooden plank bridge was built over the creek at what is now Broadway. In 1871, a local farmer named Thomas Skerritt dragged a log behind his wagon between the bridge and Hampden Avenue to create a “broad way” into Denver. Thus, the creation of Broadway and all of its commercial development.
Early settlers of Baker lived in widely scattered frame houses, crude “pine slab” cabins and rough “dug-outs” surrounded by large tracts of land. The first subdivisions were platted in 1872 but most development occurred following the annexation of South Side to Denver in 1883. In the late 1800’s Broadway’s new cable cars, the Circle Railroad system, and real estate promotion drew citizens to South Side. This development would transform South Side from a rural suburb into an urban neighborhood.
The neighborhood’s greatest period of construction occurred during 1888 to 1893, which encompassed the Victorian architectural era, including the Queen Anne Style. Today 46% of the buildings in the Baker Historic Neighborhood are Queen Anne Style. Especially interesting is the large number (39) of houses designed by Denver architect William Lang, well known for his fanciful and imaginative residential design, and his partner, Marshall Pugh. William Lang designed over 250 buildings in his brief career in Denver, including a church (St. Mark’s Parish), townhouses (Vine St.), barns, a commercial building (A.M. Ghost Building), and numerous residential dwellings. He was known as Denver’s residential architect and most famous for the Zang House (1889), the Molly Brown House (1890), and Castle Marne (1890).
The 1893 Silver Cash and depression resulted in the end of the Victorian building boom. When home construction resumed in the late 1890’s, 20th century styles such as Classic Cottage, Foursquare, and Bungalow filled the few remaining vacant lots in the Neighborhood.
As one of Denver’s first residential areas, Baker is traditionally known for its ethnic diversity. European immigrants from England, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland thrived within the community during the late 1880’s. The sizes of the houses differ according to the diversity of the residents’ socio-economic factors.
Two of Denver’s mayors were residents of South Side—Marion D. Van Horn (1893-95) and Thomas S. McMurray (1895-97). Prominent women from the area include Sadie Likens (the first Police Matron of Denver), Alice Polk Hill (Colorado’s first Poet Laureate) and Mary Coyle Chase (writer of the Pulitzer-winning play Harvey).
The neighborhood received the moniker “Baker” in 1970. In 1962, West Junior High School became Baker Junior High School. The change in name honored James Hutchins Baker, a former principal of East High School and president of the University of Colorado.
Today Victorian-era homes stand alongside funky bungalows, freshly remodeled duplexes and newer condo complexes. Baker is alive with residents who love the charm of its history and the conveniences of its urban location.
So, there you have it…a little history lesson on Baker…all in all a pretty awesome neighborhood with fantastic access to downtown, South Broadway shops, and Wash Park!
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