History of University Park, Denver

University Park is located about 15-20 minutes south of downtown Denver and tells its own unique story of how it got to be the charming neighborhood that surrounds one of the most beautiful private universities in the country. The neighborhood features some of Denver’s most beautiful, historic architecture dating back to the mid nineteenth century.

In University Park lies Denver University, what was originally known as Colorado Seminary in 1864. Colorado Seminary was founded by John Evans and a number of other Denver citizens. The Seminary was originally located on 14th & Arapahoe in downtown Denver. John Evans had previously founded Northwestern University in Chicago, IL but wanted to establish a higher education program on the west side of the country so people would not have to travel so far east for higher education.

Many years passed until 1890, where the Seminary added the name University of Denver as a degree granting institution. With the expansion of the University, there was a need for more space to build and develop the University further and to leave the “unsavory influences of Central Denver”. John Evans had the thought to do exactly what he did with Northwestern, move the campus out of the city and create a suburb revolving around the prestigious University.

First Construction of DU in University Park

There is a funny story about how John Evans was able to get the land that he desired for his upscale Denver suburb. The land that Denver University sits on today was owned by Rufus “Potato” Clark, a farmer who was well known across the state for a massive potato crop output and generosity. Clark offered 150 acres to the University under some unique special conditions: no alcohol could ever be made or sold, platted 200 acres of townsites within 6 months, and the planting of 1,000+ trees on campus and throughout the neighborhood. With these conditions in mind, the University and the neighborhood continued to grow and was fully designed as an arboretum. The neighborhood started to finally spark as the trees were laid out across the area.

Chamberlin Observatory, circa 1891

After 10 years of construction on the University and the neighborhood that surrounded it, fundraising for the Chamberlin Observatory started in 1883, broke ground in 1888, and was completed by 1891. The Observatory was the University’s first official structure and is now listed as a Denver Landmark in the National Registry of Historic Places. Observatory Park has now been established around the Observatory and makes up its own area in the University Park neighborhood.

Woodstock West, 1970

There have been many events that have taken place on the campus since its establishment, but the one that made history was the students protests in 1970. People look back and call the unity of students protesting against the Vietnam War and the Kent State Shootings, Woodstock West. The students took a 2 day strike and created the Ad Hoc Committee to End the War. A few days later, on May 8th, the students moved their protest from protests across campus to one solidified location, Carnegie Lawn. Once the protest was moved here, there were tents and temporary housing that had been set up for the purpose of creating a community. The creation of the small tent town is how the name Woodstock West came about. It was expected that nearly 2,000-5,000 students and residents were apart of Woodstock West.

By May 10th, the city had to call in the National Guard and the Denver Police to get the situation under control. There were no individuals hurt but this event is not forgotten at Denver University and is remembered today in the way that, “it is demonstrations such as this [that] eventually stopped the war” – Susan Gould, Student Demonstrator. Denver University has always been a place where individuals are free to speak their minds, debate, and learn- the neighborhood is a wonderful reflection of the passionate actions that the individuals in the area have and continue to have.

The University Park neighborhood today is a perfect reflection of what it was intended to be from the start of the first neighborhood designs influenced by Rufus Clark. He would not be let down today, as there are still over 1,000+ adult trees that are spread out through the 200 acres of the Denver University campus, Observatory Park, and University Park. If you want to find that perfect home that is in the middle of it all and that gets to overlook one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, we invite you to find your place at Observatory Flats.

Find Your Place

In the heart of the University neighborhood, and steps away from the University of Denver campus, this newly-built one and two-bedroom condo community is perfect for those looking to live in a highly-desirable and vibrant area.


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