Denver approves new historic district: Packard's Hill

A neighborhood in the West Highlands - called Packard's Hill - is Denver's newest historic district.

DENVER - The next time you're strolling with your friends to dinner in the Highlands along 32nd Avenue, as you pass El Camino, Sweet Cow, and Highlands Cork and Coffee, you'll be in the home of a new Denver historic district. 

It's called Packard's Hill, and its history encompasses not only a changing urban Denver, but a strong relationship to women's history.

Packard's Hill is the area of town between Lowell Boulevard on the east, 35th Avenue on the north, the alley between Osceola Street and Perry Street on the west, and 32nd Avenue on the south.

View a map of the district here.

Encompassing many of the original West highland subdivisions in Denver, the Packard's Hill neighborhood has officially been designated a historic district thanks to a Denver City Council vote on Monday night.  

It was not without vigorous public debate, however.

A Monday city council meeting with public comment on the topic didn't wrap up until 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday. Members of the council spent more than four hours listening to arguments for and against the designation. 

In the end, eight council members voted in favor of the district, and five voted against it. 

The quest for designation began in 2016, led by Historic Denver and Packard's Hill Neighborhood. Historic Denver received a grant from the State Historical Fund to research and survey the neighborhood. 

The motion was approved for filing in August of 2017, and signed by the council president after the lengthy public hearing. It now awaits the mayor's signature.

You can follow the entire process in the Denver City Council documents here

Packard's Hill History

The highlands of Denver were always lauded as a rather elite suburb of the city, incorporating into its own town in 1875. By 1890, 5,000 people called it home. 

The Packard's Hill subdivision was first platted in 1887 by William C. Packard and Charles L. Hoffman. 

By the middle of the 20th century, and with the arrival of the Denver & Berkeley Park transit line,the area became a hub for the growing middle class, with construction booming in the neighborhood. 

The majority of buildings are residential homes built during the late 19th and early 20th century and include Queen Anne, Edwardian, Foursquare, Classic Cottage, and Craftsman-inspired styles, according to the neighborhood organization. 

Many of the homes and architecture remain in great shape to this day. 

More than most neighborhoods in Denver, women bought, sold and traded parcels of land in Packard's Hill, around the same time they gained the right to vote. 

Since Colorado allowed married women with the right to own property in their own name, a disproportionately large number of married women residing in the district had their names, rather than their husbands’ names, on the titles of their houses.

Other single women moved to the area due to its reputation for safety and health, and continued to work in middle-class jobs as secretaries, retail sales, and teachers. 

That was far from the end of the accomplishments for the women in Packard's Hill.

Many women involved in women's rights groups called it home including journalist Eva Bird Bosworth, Dr. Mary E. Ford, and Minnie Ethel Luke Keplinger, who was instrumental in establishing Denver's first art museum.

What is a Historic Designation?

Proponents of historic districts appreciate how the designation supports and maintain's a neighborhood's historic charm and character. 

Typically, historic designations result in higher property values, which can be both a boon to homeowners and a roadblock to middle-class buyers. 

Some modifications to homes must conform to area design guidelines, however, such as window replacement, adding a garage or dormers, front door replacement, building additions, and new fence construction. 

Minor exterior changes (paint color, playground equipment) do not require a review, nor do interior modifications. Tax credits are available for certain homes for modifications made.

Any new homes in a designated historic district must be reviewed by the City and County of Denver's Landmark Preservation Commission to ensure they are consistent with the character of the district, and demolition is typically not allowed (except in some certain special circumstances). 

Read more FAQs about Denver's Historic Designations here. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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