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Sunday Events:
Brunch at the Rose – Menu | Reservations
10:30AM-5PM UllrGrass in Parfet Park
11AM Tony Rosario at Dirty Dogs Roadhouse
12:30PM Flavors of Golden – Celebrating Mines and Our Home Town
1PM Nan’s Hundred Club Rocky Mountain High Tea to Benefit the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum
1PM Fuzzy Friends Presentation at the Library
2PM Miners Alley Playhouse – Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune

“Lunch at City Park – Golden Colorado” Click to Enlarge

I recently purchased an old photo showing a family in a park. I wouldn’t normally buy such a photo: they’re not my family, and there’s nothing in the picture to show that it was set in Golden; however, the picture was labeled “Lunch at City Park – Golden Colorado.” This long-lost park has always held a certain fascination for me.

The earliest maps of Golden show a four square block area between 16th and 18th Streets, from Arapahoe to Illinois, marked “Public Square.” According to the Colorado Transcript, town father William Loveland donated it to the City with the stipulation that it always be used as a park.

Click to Enlarge – Excerpt from Denver Public Library Photo X-2893

In 1884, the City paid to build a fence around the park, and on Arbor Day, the citizens planted 500 trees. In 1886, the City installed a tap to allow the trees to be irrigated. For several years afterward, citizens continued to plant trees in the park on Arbor Day.

During the Depression, when other forms of recreation became cost-prohibitive, interest in the park grew. In 1932, the Daughters of the American Revolution led a community effort to enhance the park. It had been commonly called “City Park,” but at that time the community decided to rename it “Pioneer Park.” They hired a landscape architect to make a plan for the park. His model was shown in a store window on Washington Avenue. The model included a swimming hole with a diving tower, a duck pond, many flower gardens, a lily pond, picnic tables, a playground, and a bandstand. Lack of funding meant that few of the features were built, but we did add picnic tables, a wading pool, stone restrooms (privies), and a small playground.

The park was used by church groups, Boy Scouts, Oddfellows, labor unions, Camp Fire Girls, and revival meetings. Summer camps for children were held in the park for several years. In 1935, the town experienced a huge rift over the issue of building a softball field in the park. Homeowners on the streets surrounding the park thought that the field, which was to have electric lights, was the first step on a slippery slope that would result in Pioneer park being the new Elitch Gardens (noise! lights! crime!).

The city had very limited funds during the Depression and the park suffered from a perennial lack of maintenance. Various civic groups worked on the park as time and funds were available, but there were many dead trees and the grass was rarely mowed. In 1944, the Transcript wrote that “…equipment and facilities there are frequently abused. Bottles are broken in and around the wading pool. Sand and gravel are poured into the drinking fountain, clogging it up. Lunch scraps and paper are thrown around.”

In 1945, Jefferson County decided they needed a new Courthouse. The City of Golden didn’t want them to leave town, so, after a vote of Golden citizens (511 to 102), they offered Pioneer Park to the County for $1, provided they built a new courthouse on that ground by 1955. The new courthouse was to have plenty of parking but be kept in a park-like setting. The County accepted, but found it very difficult to get a clear title on the property, so construction was delayed. In 1947, the School of Mines said that they would also like to build on part on the property. This was not the original agreement, and meant that the park would become much less park-like. In the meantime, the property became more and more run down. Nobody wanted to spend money on maintenance when no one knew who would wind up owning it.

Satellite image showing the site of the old Public Square/City Park/Pioneer Park Click to Enlarge

By 1950, Golden had agreed to let both the County and the School of Mines build on the land. The trees were removed and the ground was leveled. The County built a new courthouse and the School built their Petroleum Engineering Building. In 1957 the County added a new jail on the property. In the mid-1990s, the County built a new courthouse and jail and sold the 1950s buildings to the School. The School has big expansion plans, and we can expect to see new buildings on the old Pioneer Park in the next few years.

It would be nice to have four square blocks of woodland in that location, but it’s not surprising that–after so many years of economic depression followed by a World War–the citizens of Golden were more interested in economic development than in keeping apparently useless and thoroughly unmaintained parkland. Parfet Park had been built in the 1930s and became increasingly favored over time. With its location on lower ground, it was easier to get to.

This history was compiled by reading historic Colorado Transcripts and Golden Transcripts. Many thanks to the Golden History Museum for putting the Transcripts online, and many thanks to the Golden Transcript for documenting our history since 1866!

Monday Preview:

The Golden High School Demons Dance Team have made it to the Nationals in Florida. Tomorrow night at 6, they’re hosting a FREE sendoff event for one last practice. They’d love a large crowd of friends to perform for/cheer them on.  Please come see them at the Buffalo Rose! Doors open for drinks/food at 5:30 p.m. and the performance is quick — from 6 to 6:30PM– so you can pop in and out or stay longer for drinks, to socialize and enjoy a fun silent auction after! 

9AM Skill Builders Meetup at the Library
10:15AM Toddler Time at the Library
11:15AM Let’s Dance at the Library
12:15PM Preschool Time at the Library
2PM Buying & Selling Online: eBay and Craigslist
6PM Make It Count MAGIC Monday at the Buffalo Rose
6PM Social Media: Basics at the Library
6PM A Golden Crusade: How Colorado Launched a CIA Propaganda Campaign and Helped Eisenhower Win the White House at the Golden History Museum
6PM Nationals Send Off
6:30PM Downtown Development Authority Meeting
7:30PM Nar-Anon Family Group at Calvary Episcopal (map)