East 7th Avenue Historic District

Denver is known for its parks and parkways and for the many wonderful residential neighborhoods that have endured close to the heart of the city. The East 7th Avenue Historic District preserves one central neighborhood and three pieces of the park system. With the exception of a few earlier buildings, the district was built primarily from the 1890s through 1930. The district grew out from the core city.

Though it is Denver’s largest historic district, it is only two blocks wide for most of its length. The district runs from Logan Street to Colorado Boulevard and from East 6th to East 8th Avenues. From Steele to Harrison Streets, its width is confined to the East 7th Avenue Parkway and to those homes that border the parkway.

The historic district claims its borders from a sense of neighborhood reinforced over the years by streetcar and bus lines using East 6th and East 8th Avenues, from parks bordering these avenues, and from early Denver city limits along East 6th Avenue. The old town of Harman bordered the district on East 6th Avenue between Josephine and Colorado Boulevard. A special tax district to pay for the East 7th Avenue Parkway in 1912, plus various early neighborhood organizing efforts, also contributed to a neighborhood identity. In 1958, East 6th and East 8th Avenues became one-way streets, giving families within the two-block- wide strip an even stronger sense of neighborhood.

Original district residents were a mix of business and professional people, entrepreneurs and clerks, socialites and laborers, wealthy and middle class. It was common to have mansions on the corners and more modest homes, duplexes, and terraces scattered among them. When the parkway was created in 1912, the larger homes tended to be built on the parkway, with smaller homes on the north-south streets. Most of Denver’s finest architects worked in the district and many chose to live there.

The district was developed at the height of the City Beautiful Movement. Just as district development reached Williams Street, the plan was implemented, creating the East 7th Avenue Parkway and the Williams Street Parkway. The city bought the parkway land in 1912, redesigned the streets, and hired an outside consultant to work with city landscaper Saco DeBoer to design the plantings. The Frederick Law Olmsted firm, designer of New York’s Central Park, was the consultant.

Three park system elements are in the district: East 7th Avenue Parkway, the Cheesman Esplanade, and Williams Street Parkway. They help connect Cheesman Park, City Park, and Washington Park. Only one parkway residence, at 2401 East 7th, was built before East 7th Avenue Parkway was created. It is the only parkway house built close to the street because in 1908 the setback requirement did not yet accommodate the parkway plan. Three Denver Square–style homes were built on the east side of the 600 block of Williams Street in what is now the grass-covered parkway. They were moved by the Denver Wrecking Company in 1912 and now stand on the west side of the 600 block of High Street.

DeBoer designed the plantings on the 7th Avenue median and Olmsted designed the double row of elm trees along each side of the parkway to form the high tree canopy. Many of these original elms are still there, and most of DeBoer’s scheme is still in evidence with his many garden “sun spots” planted annually by city landscapers. The 1912 planting went from Williams to Milwaukee Streets. The second planting in 1927 completed the planting installation to Colorado Boulevard.