History Colorado: Denver’s City Hall war of 1894

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HISTORY COLORADO -- The early 1890s were a tumultuous time in Colorado. One of the stranger episodes from this time period took place in March, 1894: Denver’s City Hall War.

In 1893, the Colorado legislature passed a law that gave the Governor authority to appoint and remove the police and fire boards of the city of Denver.

After a series of scandals involving the Denver police, Governor Davis Waite became convinced that members of the police board were not taking the hard stance on crime and gambling that he espoused.

Waite demanded the resignation of the Denver police and fire board members, but they flatly refused.

On March 4th, 1894, the board members, along with the Denver Police Department and a few Arapahoe County Deputy Sheriffs, barricaded themselves inside City Hall.

After 10 days, Governor Waite called out the Colorado National Guard to reclaim the building and instructed federal troops at Fort Logan to prepare to join the fight.

The sight of cannon and firearms trained on City Hall drew thousands of onlookers, including concerned citizens who convinced Waite to submit the case to the Colorado Supreme Court before hostilities escalated.

The Court ruled that Governor Waite had the authority to remove the board members from their positions, but reprimanded him for calling in federal troops.

Governor Waite lost his bid for re-election later that year, but continued to be active in politics until his death in 1901.

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