Denver neighborhood fights to become first historic district to honor Chicano Movement

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DENVER (KDVR) – In an ever-growing city, residents in one Denver neighborhood are pushing to preserve its culture and history in becoming the 57th historic district in the City of Denver.

If approved, the La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood would be the first historic district in the country to honor the Chicano Movement, protecting buildings and significant sites connected to its Latino/Chicano community.

“This district is important to the City of Denver, because it will not only be the first to honor Denver’s Chicano Movement, but also the first Historic Cultural District to preserve the buildings and the cultural heritage under the ordinance’s new cultural significance criteria,” said Shannon Stage, Historic Denver’s Manager of Grants and Preservation Services. 

The La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood is one of Denver’s oldest residential neighborhoods and was home to many important events and leaders connected to the Chicano Movement. Established near the railroad and Burnham Yards as a working-class immigrant community in the 1870s and 1880s, the architecture of the neighborhood reflects the early development of the area and illustrates the changes over time. 

“My roots are here, and I feel a strong connection to this place,” said Cathy Prieto, a longtime La Alma Lincoln Park resident who’s active in the Chicano Movement and who is one of the applicants for the historic district. “These homes help root my culture and my people to this place and losing them is so sad. Designating this neighborhood as a Historic Cultural District will help save these homes and our heritage from being wiped away.”

Through the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, the neighborhood was home to much of Denver’s Chicano community and was the space to meet, support each other, and advocate for equal treatment.

“The homes in this neighborhood are set close together and they have front porches, they have a really tight knit feel and that’s part of contributed to this rich history and helped the culture develop there,” said Annie Levinsky with Historic Denver. “They want to honor that and make sure the stories are still told about what happened in this neighborhood.”

Denver updated its landmark preservation ordinance in 2019 to include criteria allowing landmark designations on the basis of cultural significance.

“There are a lot of people moving to Denver and I think the old-timers want to make sure that the new folks understand what is special about this neighborhood, and that our neighborhoods have distinct character and cultures,” said Levinsky. “It’s great to welcome new neighbors but also to convey the sense of special culture value and history, and this is one way to do that.”

If Denver City Council approves the declaration, signage and plaques would mark the area and even individual homes.

If you’d like to contribute to the proposal, city planners with Community Planning and Development will host two community meetings via Zoom where residents can learn about the proposed historic designation of the La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood and what it means to be a historic district in Denver. The first Zoom meeting is Wednesday at 6 p.m. and another Zoom meeting with be held May 15 at 11 a.m. 

Learn more about this proposed designation and ways to participate in the process by visiting bit.ly/LaAlmaDesignation. 

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