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Monday, October 17, 2016

Historical Information.

After World War I, the economy in Denver grew for a time. Yet, there was less demand for goods. This caused prices to drop and 1918 saw a short recession. There was more severe one from 1920 to 1921. The mining industry in Denver suffered badly by decreasing prices and more foreign competition during the post-war recession years. Coal mining in Colorado was definitely negatively impacted, because alternative sources of fuel was widely used and labor strikes hurt production. In 1928, Denver was just on the receiving end of a major natural gas pipeline from Texas and more households and businesses switched to gas, so the demand for coal fell. From 1905 to 1929, there was the longest recorded wet period in Colorado history. This favorable weather combined with war-time demand saw farmers over plant during WWI and significant price drops after the war ended caused many farmers significant losses. Costs began to exceed profits and many farmers were forced to sell their land which was then rented to others or simply left abandoned. Dryland farming was common on the prairies though many farmers removed the native grasses that helped control erosion. In 1929, the national economy crashed leading to the Great Depression. In 1930, the weather turned dry beginning the most widespread and longest lasting drought in Colorado history, a period of time that would later be referred to as the "Dust Bowl." Dry weather, soil erosion, and a depressed economy led to a huge social upheaval felt across the entire nation. The Dust Bowl decimated agriculture. The Great Depression made many industries and mines to close. Workers were laid off. Many of the unemployed came to Denver to try to work and get a better life. In 1933, it was estimated that 25 percent of Demverites were out of work. The Hoover administration promised that the recession would end quickly. The economy continued to worsen though. Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1932 Presidential election with his promise of a “New Deal.” The New Deal bought funds and jobs to Colorado and Denver. The Historic American Buildings Survey hired architects and photographers to document historic buildings. They inspired the nascent historic preservation movement. The Civilian Conservation Corps built trails and campgrounds in Denver’s Mountain Parks. The Works Progress Administration build roads, fixed schools, and funded artists to decorate government buildings. The new roads and trials encouraged tourism. The improved rail and air travel made Denver a hub for transportation. The new Moffat Tunnel came about in the mid 1920’s. It was cut through the Rocky Mountains. It opened in 1928. It shorted need the distance between Denver and the Pacific coast by 176 miles. During the 1930’s, the rail system was transformed. In 1935, the Burlington Railroad introduced the Zephyr with a record breaking 13 hours and 5 minutes trip from Denver to Chicago.  It was a revolutionary new diesel-powered train, streamlined and luxurious. That changed the public's expectations of rail travel. Having a direct link to the west coast, it helped Denver compete against Cheyenne and Pueblo for rail business and it quickly became a major hub for railways. Air travel grew in the same time period. When Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton opened Denver Municipal Airport in 1929, it was derided as a taxpayer subsidy for the powerful elite who flew for sport. Built northeast of Denver, The Denver Post complained that it was too far from the city center and the location had been chosen to benefit the mayor's financial backers. But with four gravel runways, one hangar, and a terminal it was greeted by others as "the West's best airport." At the time unpressurized planes were the norm, and transcontinental flights went through Cheyenne or south through Texas as the mountains were smaller there. Denver Municipal Airport was used mainly for mail service and private pilots. As pressurized planes came into general use, the mountains were no longer an issue and the advanced airport attracted major airlines positioning Denver as a major hub for air travel in the region. The economy recovered by the end of the 1930’s as World War II started in Europe. Demand for goods increased. America was preparing to fight in that war. Denver benefited from the military buildup. Denver had been selected for a new training airbase, Lowry Air Force Base which opened in 1938, and in 1941 the Denver Ordnance Plant opened. These facilities brought many jobs with them which in turn attracted more people to the city. Denver had started the decade with just under 288,000 people and by 1940 had over 322,000.

Before World War II, Denver’s economy was mainly about processing and shipping of minerals and ranch products (like beef and lamb). Most Denverites were isolationists. Yet, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Denver joined the war efforts. Denver’s leaders continued to use policies to bring businesses to the city during the war and afterwards. Specialized industries were introduced to the city. Denver soon became a large manufacturing center. Denver was away from either coast. This made an attack from the Axis Powers unlikely. During World War II, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Buckley Air Force Base, and the Denver Ordnance Plant all opened during the war. In 1941 over 6,500 federal employees lived and worked in Denver. With so many federal employees already in Denver, it was easier to convince the government to add more and by 1946, the number increased to over 16,000. After the war, many of the facilities continued to be used and some were converted to different uses. One example is that the Denver Ordnance Plant was converted into the Denver Federal Center. More federal agencies began to come to the area which already had a large federal footprint and a well trained work force. The Commission, National, National, and Technology all opened offices in the Denver area. From 1953 to 1989, the Rocky Flats Plant, a Department of Energy nuclear weapon facility formerly located about 15 miles (24 km) from Denver, produced fissile plutonium "pits" for nuclear warheads. A major fire at the facility in 1957, as well as leakage from nuclear waste stored at the site between 1958 and 1968, resulted in the contamination of some parts of Denver, to varying degrees, with plutonium-239, a harmful radioactive substance with a half-life of 24,200 years. The bad news is that studies documented that the contamination to an increase in birth defects and cancer incidence in central Denver and nearer Rocky Flats. With the large military and federal presence in the area the aerospace industry followed. Large corporations such as IBM, Packard, Honeywell, Ball Aerospace, and Lockheed-Martin came to Denver. These businesses brought jobs and money with them and began to influence the city displacing the wealthy entrepreneurs and pioneer families that had previously dominated political life.

In 1947, J. Quigg Newton was elected mayor and began the process of modernizing the government, expanding public housing, setting up one the nation's first civil rights commissions. At the time restrictive racial covenants were common in every major city in the country. Long before the Civil Rights Acts were enacted, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Commission passed one of the earliest fair housing laws in the nation permitting Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Jewish people to move into neighborhoods previously denied to them. These new laws upset many and contributed to the flight of middle-class families to the suburbs. Despite these laws, discrimination was still very prevalent. Yet, the work of the Newton’s Human Rights and Community Relations spared Denver some of the racial unrest that occurred in other cities in the post-war years. Over four million soldiers had come through Denver during the war for training or recuperation and after the war ended many choose to make Denver their home. As Denver's population expanded rapidly, many old buildings were torn down to make way for new housing projects. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority demolished block after block to make room for apartments and parking lots. Many of Denver's finest buildings from the frontier era were demolished, including the Tabor Opera House, as the city expanded upward and outward. By 1950, middle-class families were moving away from the downtown area seeking larger houses and better schools; the suburbs multiplied as more people moved out of the city. In the 1960's, Victorian homes were considered old-fashioned and unpopular and were targeted for demolition. The destruction of so many of these homes spurred Denverites to form the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission and Historic Denver, Inc. which raised awareness of the value of these historic buildings and established the local historical preservation movement. During this time, Denver was a gathering point for poets of the "beat generation." Beat icon Neal Cassady was raised on Larimer Street in Denver, and a portion of Jack Kerouac's beat masterpiece "On the Road" takes place in the city, and is based on the beat's actual experiences in Denver during a road trip. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg lived for a time in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, and he helped found the Buddhist college, Naropa University or the "Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa" in nearby Boulder. Denver was also a gathering place for a new Chicano Movement. In March 1969, a convention hosted by Rodolfo Gonzales's Crusade for Justice was held in Denver and the Plan was adopted as a manifesto for the movement. The Crusade for Justice was instrumental in bringing attention to the plight of Mexican-Americans living in Denver and laid the ground work for Hispanics to be in city government.

After World War II, oil and gas companies opened offices in Denver. The reason is that they are in close proximity to the mountains and the energy fields contained within. The price of oil rose during the 1970’s energy crisis. So, these same companies fueled a skyscraper boom in the downtown area. A second office core was opened in the suburban Denver Tech Center. That center was made to accommodate the higher demand for office space. Many original downtown saloons and old buildings were renovated and revitalized. Many other cities during that time were threatened with bankruptcy and crime, but Denver was actively growing and renewing its downtown. In 1969, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that ‘optional’ attendance zones constituted segregation and ordered schools to be de-segregated. This triggered the dynamiting of school vehicles and fire-bombing of school buildings. Denver complied with the law by annexing neighboring towns and busing students. By the mid-1970's many wealthy residents were leaving Denver. In 1974 anti-integrationists used the fears about the impact of racial mixing as well as the recent tensions between Denver and its neighbors to pass the Poundstone Amendment to the state constitution. Its supporters claimed the amendment would prevent Denver from abusing its size and status, while detractors pointed out that it greatly limited the ability of the city to absorb other school districts and thus end segregation in its schools. With the combined spending of the energy companies and the federal government, Denver expanded quickly. Denver went from having a small urban core surrounded by rural farms to a booming downtown dotted with skyscrapers and surrounded by growing suburbs. The majority of the new people settled in the suburbs; Denver's population was essentially flat at about 490,000 from 1960 to 1980 even as the land area grew by 40 square miles (100 km2). With the expansion came problems. Traffic increased due to poor public transportation and pollution increased due to traffic.

Denver Tramway had been responsible for all public transportation in Denver since the turn of the century, but with aging equipment, low revenues, and lackluster ridership it eventually dissolved. Author Sherah Collins writes, "... in 1970, Denver had more cars per capita than any other place in the country, which is not surprising due to the lack of public transit options." In 1974 the Regional Transportation District took over responsibility for Denver's public transportation. During this period a "brown cloud" began to form over the Front Range, a result of air pollution from the increasing number of cars and people in the area. This cloud of pollution would take more than two decades to get rid of and was a serious concern for people living in the Denver area. Many people had moved to Denver for the beautiful landscapes and climate. The environment had always been an important issue to Coloradans and when Denver was selected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics to coincide with Colorado's centennial anniversary, a movement against hosting the games was formed based largely on concerns around the environmental impact of having so many people come to the area. Colorado voters struck down ballot initiatives allocating public funds to pay for the high costs of the games, and they were subsequently moved to Innsbruck, Austria. The movement against hosting the games was led by then State Representative Richard Lamm who was subsequently elected as Colorado governor in 1974. With the 1979 energy crisis the price of oil rose to over $30 a barrel, but by the mid-1980's the price had slid to under $10 a barrel. Thousands of oil and gas industry workers lost their jobs and unemployment rates soared. Downtown Denver had been overbuilt over the past two decades and the cost of office space dropped as office vacancy rates grew to the highest in the nation at 30-percent. Housing prices fell, the exodus from the city to the suburbs continued and the city fell into disrepair. By 1990 the population of the city had fallen to 467,610 the lowest level in over 30 years. Yet, Denver would revitalize by the 1990's.

By Timothy

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