— by Mary Lou Egan
For over a hundred years the corner at 45th and Washington Street in the Globeville neighborhood has been the place to go for an inexpensive meal and a visit with friends. Today the site is home to a McDonalds restaurant; in 1908, it was home to the Western Slavonic Lodge.
Slavs began arriving in Globeville in the 1880s seeking jobs in the Grant and Globe Smelters. Work in the smelters was hard and dangerous with men risking death or disability from extreme heat, toxic fumes and dust from heavy metals. To provide financial security for themselves and their families, the Slavs formed Zapadna Slovanska Zveza (Western Slavonic Association), an independent, fraternal society that offered sick and death benefits for its members.
The organization also helped preserve the language, culture and heritage of the mother country, Slovenia. Here, the newcomer felt comfortable and welcome, speaking his native language, enjoying familiar ethnic dishes and socializing with others from the old country. There was also information about jobs, places to stay and where to meet other single people from home. Newcomers were also introduced to American customs, music, dress and slang, and helped with the process of Americanization. There were branches of this organization wherever there were communities of Slavs—Leadville, Salida, Canon City, Crested Butte, Aspen and Pueblo.
Slavs gradually assimilated into American culture, moved up the economic ladder and away from the Globeville neighborhood. The Western Slavonic is now Western Fraternal Life and still offers annuities, insurance products and fraternal activities to members at its location at 11265 Decatur Street in Westminster. The lodge sold the land to McDonalds in 1988.