#9Neighborhoods: Baker packs popular stops, rich history in 1.5 miles

DENVER - The Baker neighborhood in Denver is a historic, dynamic urban locale that spans about 1.5 square miles.

Its westernmost border runs just west of I-25 to the South Platte River. It's bordered by 6th Avenue on the north, South Broadway on the east and East Mississippi on the south. 

Join us every Friday, on Instagram for a photo tour of the featured neighborhood!

Neighborhood history

Known as the South Side or South Broadway in the early 1880s, Baker began as a 160-acre tract homestead settled by William and Elizabeth Byers. The first subdivisions for the actual neighborhood were platted in 1872, with most development following the area’s annexation into Denver in 1883. The Broadway streetcar system was also a spur for growth as it quite literally brought residents into the area.

Most of the Baker’s original growth was related to commercial and industrial development in the area. The Denver Health Medical Center has been at the same site since 1873, though it was first known as County Hospital. The neighborhood was even home to two of Denver’s first baseball parks!

The Denver Bears played at Broadway Park, located at the modern-day intersection of 6th Ave and Acoma, from 1900-1917. The minor league team was extremely successful in the Western League during those years. Although not the first to house the team, Broadway Park was the largest and the first to bring a “big league” atmosphere to the team by including box seats, a player clubhouse, grandstand seating, etc. The team briefly stopped playing in 1917 before returning to the league, and a new park, in 1922.

Merchants Park, also in the Baker neighborhood at 600 S Broadway, was an even bigger and nicer park. It was home to both the Denver Bears and their African-American counterpart the Denver White Elephants. It was also home to the Denver Post Tournament, a prestigious annual contest between non-major league teams. Even more notable for the time: it was integrated. The Bears moved to a new stadium in 1948.

The Mayan Theater is one of the most unique buildings in the city. Built with a pre-Columbian theme in 1930 by architect Montana Falls, it was placed over the Queen Theater which had been damaged by a fire. It was saved from demolition in 1984 and fully restored in 1987. It’s recognized as a city landmark and currently shows independent films.

Baker historic district

South Broadway houses the largest number of middle-class Queen Anne homes in Denver. It also includes a large number homes designed by famous Denver architects William Lang and Marshall Pugh.

The architectural history of the neighborhood is so significant it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in 1985 and became a city historic district in 2011.  

And, since 2013, the neighborhood association has been hosting a historic home tour each year. Attendees can wander through nine buildings, including several homes, a school, firehouse and church. A portion of the proceeds are donated to the local elementary school, DCIS at Fairmont, which is also one of the tour stops. This year’s tour is taking place on Saturday, September 17 from 11 am until 3 pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online.

The neighborhood association also holds events for residents, like an annual ice cream social, holiday party, spring fling, historic walking tours, etc.

Homes for all-size properties have a median price of $438,000, according to real estate data site Trulia.com. Like the rest of the Denver market, that's a jump from the year before, when homes were 9.6 percent cheaper. It's also pretty pricey to lease an apartment in the neighborhood — median rents for all-size properties stand at $1,950, up from $1,800 in 2015.

Some development may soon be in the works in Baker. Last December, a developer scooped up the high-profile property at 101 Broadway, which once housed the El Diablo restaurant and was shuttered by the city in 2013.

Outdoor enthusiasts who live in Baker have easy access to the South Platte River Trail, a 17.8-mile trail that runs along the greenbelt next to the South Platte River, as well as Dailey Park, a small, family-friendly playground area in the center of the neighborhood,

Continuing development

Through the years, Broadway has gradually transitioned from a residential stretch to being primarily commercial.

Most recently, South Broadway has been undergoing a huge amount of construction. Though it has brought many new, popular businesses to the area, some longtime shop owners have also claimed the constant traffic and parking issues associated with the projects have led to a drop in business. Others say they have been forced to close due to the large amount of new development in the area.

One of these projects was a new protected bike lane on Broadway. The two-way lane stretches over 6 blocks and opened in August.

Besides the numerous top-rated restaurants scattered throughout the neighborhood, Baker boasts a vibrant mix of small businesses and eateries that include the fast-growing Punch Bowl Social, local favorite Sugar Bakeshop & Coffee House and Sputnik, a highly regarded, eclectic bar and restaurant.

One other spot hailed as a must-visit is Atomic Cowboy, which houses Fat Sully's Pizza and Denver Biscuit Company.

There's also no shortage of craft breweries in Baker — from TRVE Brewing (a member of the popular Denver "Passport" program), to Crazy Mountain Brewing Company (which is, in fact, growing like crazy), to Black Sky Brewery and more, there are plenty of spots to kick back with a brew in the neighborhood.

Other businesses to check out include Fancy Tiger Clothing & Crafts, Buffalo Exchange, a new and recycled clothing store, CorePower Yoga, the rapidly-growing fitness chain headquartered in Denver and the long-time Denver toy store The Wizard's Chest, which left its 33-year home in Cherry Creek and relocated to 451 Broadway in 2015.

For the more adventurous, Baker is also home to Hi-Dive, which describes itself as a "funky bar and stage with cheap drinks and live music." There's also Compound Basix, a gay-friendly watering hole with live DJs, as well as Studio Lites, a lingerie store with unique accessories and vintage items.

The neighborhood is also home to much of the Underground Music Showcase. Started in 2000, the extremely popular four-day fest features more than 400 local and national music acts performing at about 20 venues.

Baker is known for its diverse population as well. According to City-Data, which draws on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the largest number of ethnicities is split between the Hispanic and white population, and there's a large community of American Indians who live there too.

To serve the large Hispanic population there and throughout metro Denver, Mi Casa Resource Center is located in Baker. The center helps Latinos and working families become economically self-sufficient through career development, community service and other resources. It was one of four organizations that received a grant from JPMorgan Chase to kick off Denver Startup Week, which took place this week.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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