By Resident Gwen Flowers
Rolling soft hills, green with spring and parched dry by mid-summer—the land of tumbleweeds and jack rabbits dotted by clumps of ancient cottonwoods against the sky—that was Harvey Park 56 years ago! At Lowell Boulevard, the Brentwood subdivision, for a long time not even annexed to Denver, brought civilization to an end, at the edge of a huge cattle ranch. This cattle ranch had belonged to a number of illustrious families and included the home at the corner of Tennyson and Iliff purchased by famed big band leader Paul Whiteman for his parents. Years later, Paul Whiteman confessed to having roamed the streets of Harvey Park, unrecognized, marveling at all of the changes.
But in 1953, that home and ranch once owned by Paul Whiteman, was owned by Major Arthur Harvey, an oil wildcatter who had made and lost several fortunes. He was working to close a deal to sell his land to Axel Nielsen of Mortgage Investment Company. That firm then put up the money for contractors to build houses in a subdivision to be annexed to Denver. This subdivision would be named in honor of Major Harvey.
And it came to pass, that by mid-October 1954, the first families were moving into their homes on Lowell, Utica and Vrain, just off Jewell Avenue. The streets were unpaved, there was no telephone service or buses. Month by month, day by day, through 1955, 1956 and 1957, all of the streets were laid out. The lots surveyed, the basements dug, and the houses built. And almost before the paint was dry, a family moved into each one. The new owners worked on putting up fences, planting trees and seeding lawns. The parched ranch land became a green, flowered expanse, one of Denver's most beautiful neighborhoods.
Who were these new owners in this new community? Most of them were young men just home from World War II, many of them college educated. Most were in their mid-twenties or early thirties and had wives and very young children. Many of these new owners were long on prospects bu short on cash. Some of them mortgaged their automobiles to pay for the closing costs on houses bought with their no down payment GI loan. Furnishings in these days was often sparse. Most of the young couples had a bedroom suite, a baby crib, and inherited old chair or tow, a library housed on old boards supported by bricks, and took their meals on a card table. But many couples had a television because this was the only means of entertainment on a tight budget.
By 1965, these same young couples' living standards had dramatically changed. Now they lived in these same homes which were completely and attractively furnished. The houses had been extensively remodeled and the basements finished. Many had two cars, a boat and a swim club membership.
With the building of the The Martin Plant in Littleton, many hundreds of new families came to live in Harvey Park.
This is the foundation on which our great neighborhood was built. manhy of these homes are still lived in by the same people who purchased them back when they were built. I have been lucky enough to hear from many of them. I can only imagine the changes they have witnessed over the past 56 years! I can only hope that Harvey Park can return to the days when everyone cared about their properties and each other.
Portions of this article were taken from the 1965 editions of the Herald-Dispatch that was given to me by none other than Sharon R. Catlett, author of "Farmlands, Forts and Country Life: The Story of Southwest Denver.