In the course of doing some research on Samuel Hawken, we stumbled upon an interesting piece of history tucked away in two issues of the Rocky Mountain News Weekly from January, 18 and February, 2, 1860 and may well have been written by William Byers, editor and founder of the Rocky Mountain News.
Not only does the piece contain a history of the settlement written only a few years after its founding, but his narrative turns into a virtual walking tour of the neighborhood. The author describes such details as dimensions of buildings, information about owners and businesses, and even the price of real estate. Below is a brief sample of this historical treasure trove.
CIBOLA HALL on the upper right hand corner of Ferry and Fourth streets, built by Jas. B. Reid 22 feet front by 90 feet deep. It was built in August last, first occupied as a ball alley, and afterward fitted up for a theatre room, capable of seating comfortably some 250 persons. It is occupied by the Cibola minstrels, and is a popular place of amusement. On the same side of the street, next comes a barber shop, a retail store.— "Phoenix Saloon" and McFadding's Saloon—all one story frame buildings, front 16 by 20 to 22 by 40 feet in size.
Next Middaugh’s block, of two story, frame, about 50 by 60 feet, occupied as a boarding house, jeweller's shop, offices, &c. Opposite Cibola Hall is the JEFFERSON HOUSE, built in August by Messrs. Kinna & Nye, of frame, two stories high, fronting 44 feet on Ferry Street, and running back over 60 feet. The first floor is occupied, one half by the Jefferson House, the other half by Kinna & Nye’s extensive stove and hardware store; the upper story by the Jefferson House chambers and a large dancing hall. Next of note is the
"OLD LONDON HOSPITAL," by Drs. Wilcox & McLachlan—the first drug store established in the country.— They will soon be compelled to enlarge their quarters.
CITY BAKERY AND RESTAURANT by Karczewsky & Co., occupies buildings of their own, 44 feet front by 60 in depth. It was the first, and still continues the most popular eating house in the city.
WESTERN SALOON, by Uncle Dick Wootton, comes next. The main saloon is 33 by 40 feet, with two ball alleys 132 feet deep. It is one of the ancient institutions, with modern improvements. Next is the old log building—Wootton's old store and the old Rocky Mountain News office—but alas! "how has the mighty fallen." A few months ago it was the proudest building in town, now it is insignificant, occupied as a saloon, called the "Young America," and said to be "low."
This brings us to Fourth street, and some of the most valuable ground in the country—except some of the big paying quartz leads. It is held at about $25 per front foot, or $1,500 to $2,000 per lot.
The Rocky Mountain News Weekly's descriptions even include the fact that only one building had a plank floor at the time and that the many sod-roofed cabins would rain inside for three days following a storm. There are similarly detailed histories contained in some of the earliest editions of the city directory, but the format of this one makes it a real gem.
These newspaper issues have been digitized and made publicly available thanks to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection and the many users that contribute to transcribing these publications. We have added a link to the text of this early history on our Denver History Research Guide, but you can also access it directly here. We hope you'll enjoy this vivid trip back in time.
This is so great! What is a "ball alley?"
Great question! Apparently, it is an outdated term for bowling alley. I found this nice image that depicts early british skittles, which is probably close to what it looked like in the mid 19th century.
They even had a parking problem back then!
Very true, but parking fines were so much lower.
Great job! Thanks for the tour of my early hometown.
Thanks, Tom! It was our pleasure to stumble upon this.
There was a Ferry St.? Does that imply that there was a ferry service in Denver at that time?
The 1859 map shows a bridge was constructed at Ferry and Cherry Creek, so I can imagine there may have been a small barge to hop back and forth there for a short period. Unfortunately, I have never seen mention of it.
Great walking tour.
Lest we forget the town was founded by William Greeneberry Russell and party of fellow settlers from Georgia on October 3, 1858, over a month before William Larimer platted the future "Denver City" across Cherry Creek. The town was named for the gold mining settlement of Auraria, Georgia.
Great comment. I see you've read your history.