North Denver and Me

— by Michael Thornton

North Denver was settled later than other parts of the city of Denver. A river called the Platte – or “flat” is what I knew the translation to be – divided most of the city, Denver proper and Auraria, and the town across the river where the poor people migrated. There wasn’t a bridge across the confluence creeks till late in the 1800s, and then the Irish, Italian, and Scottish made their homes there. The climb out of the riverbed was steep, so this land was less than desirable, at least for successful Denverites, who flocked to Curtis Park, Capitol Hill, and parts south and east. My mother and her three girls did not arrive until the late 1940s, when the neighborhoods on the north side had long established themselves as the enclaves of recent immigrants. There was Mount Carmel church, where the Italians worshipped; St. Patrick’s where the Irish attended services; and the streets around 32nd and Zuni – Argyle, Caithness, and Dunkeld Place – where the Scots lived. This was good ground, above the flood plain, where the immigrants of the late 19th century found a home.

I grew up in North Denver. On a corner populated by the Pergolas, Pontarellis, and Zarlengos. We were at the edge of the new Italian population that was on its exodus, from the Lower Highlands immediately above the river to more suburban properties to the north and west. The Italians were moving to Harkness Heights and Berkeley Park, and further west to Lakewood. It was in the Lower Highlands that my mother found a house, an older house with a piece of land surrounding it. It was one of those original mansion properties that now developers glom on – a corner lot, a house built in 1886. She had three young daughters to take care of, no husband, but hopes for a decent life.

Continue reading “North Denver and Me”