Last week, we visited the ancient history of Coors Field from prehistoric oceans to mountain building. This week, will look at notable people who occupied LoDo and are often overlooked in Denver history.
Although the Rockies are celebrating their 30th season as an MLB franchise, baseball has been played in the area as far back as the 1800s in mining towns, on Weld County farms, and up and down the Front Range. Years before Coors Field hosted All-Star Games, slugfests, Hall of Famers, and beautiful sunsets, different people and businesses called the area home.
Knowing a little about some of their stories makes the walk into and out of Coors Field even more special. Historical notes come from the delightful 1995 book “Places Around the Bases: A Historic Tour of the Coors Field Neighborhood” by Diane Bakke and Jackie Davis, unless otherwise noted.
Long before white settlers journeyed into modern-day Colorado in search of fame, fortune, and new lives, several Native American tribes moved throughout the area.
As the Southern Ute Indian Tribe states, “The Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado.” Arapaho and Cheyenne, also known as Plains Indians culturally, frequently traveled along the Platte and Arkansas rivers, often putting them in modern-day LoDo. “Places Around the Bases” has a picture of the Ute Indian Nations blessing the Coors Field site before construction. Native Americans are a rich part of Colorado history and present with over 74,000 Colorado residents identifying as American Indian/Alaskan Native in the 2020 Census.
While the Rockies don’t have a land acknowledgment statement, the Denver City Council does:
“The Denver City Council honors and acknowledges that the land on which we reside is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Peoples. We also recognize the 48 contemporary tribal nations that are historically tied to the lands that make up the state of Colorado.
“We honor Elders past, present, and future, and those who have stewarded this land throughout generations. We also recognize that government, academic and cultural institutions were founded upon and continue to enact exclusions and erasures of Indigenous Peoples.
“May this acknowledgment demonstrate a commitment to working to dismantle ongoing legacies of oppression and inequities and recognize the current and future contributions of Indigenous communities in Denver.”
Before bombers, Blake was for business
Thanks to Dante Bichette, Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla, and Larry Walker, Blake Street became famous for home runs in 1995. Over 130 years before that, Charles H. Blake was one of the first to set up retail businesses and depots in modern-day LoDo. The street that was later named after him was a major thoroughfare with “many saloons, gambling houses, blacksmith shops, banks, retail businesses, and corrals.” A historic marker giving props to Blake is on Blake Street just west of 20th, close to the 1UP Arcade Bar.
From Red Light District to green lights
Long before third base coaches were giving the green light to runners rounding third to go home after a base hit got lost in Coors Field’s giant outfield, Market Street — running parallel to Blake Street to the south — was Denver’s Red Light District, aka “the wickedest street in the city.”
Over 1,000 working women occupied brothels and “cribs,” like Mattie Silks House at 2009 Market St. where View House currently resides and the world-class House of Mirrors just south of that at 1942 Market St.
Women faced brutal conditions, working from the 1870s through the early 1910s before government and law enforcement officials started to crack down. Prohibition took effect in 1916, and “the party was officially over.” History Colorado’s podcast “Lost Highways” has a great episode titled “Back Alleys and Backpages” if you’d like to learn more.
If you are walking to or from a game, check out the historical markers up and down Market Street, including one on the southwest corner of Market and 20th where the Tavern Downtown used to be. They tell stories of the infamous history of the buildings or mark where buildings once stood.
It’s a brick, Ice House
Whether it’s before or after a Rockies game, the Ice House is a great place to grab some food and a cold drink. Its connection to Coors Field goes way beyond its menu, however.
The building started as the Littleton Creamery 120 years ago. Designed for cold storage, the now National Historic Register Building required more brick and few windows. The polychromatic brick exterior quickly became recognized as some of the finest brickwork in the city, even as the company that occupied it changed to Beatrice Foods (sold in stores as Meadow Gold).
In the 1980s, the building went from creamery to office building through Dana Crawford and Charles Calloway renovations. Driven by a plan she formed in the 1960s, Crawford also bought and restored the Oxford Hotel and is credited for Larimer Square’s renaissance. If you want to learn more about this, check out Mike McPhee’s book Dana Crawford: 50 Years Saving the Soul of a City).
As plans formed to design Coors Field, architects decided to copy some of the brickwork in the new baseball stadium. Next time you walk by the Ice House, imagine the windows are loading docks packed with butter, and notice the exquisite brickwork, so you can then find its match at Coors Field.
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Thomas Harding spoke with Rockies relief pitcher Matt Carasiti about his return to Colorado. After playing with a number of teams and contemplating retirement, Carasiti and his wife decided to give coaching a try by seeing if he would be a good fit with the Hartford Yard Goats. Chris Forbes suggested he try out for the Isotopes instead. Carasiti made the team and is now working out of the Rockies’ bullpen.
On Thursday, the Rockies placed Krist Bryant on the IL with another foot injury. His season has gotten off to a slow start given that he is hitting .263 with only 11 extra-base hits. (As Skyler Timmins noted earlier this week, Bryant’s swing also lacks power.) Nick Groke reports that Bryant will head back to Denver rather than continue to Kansas City with the team. In the meantime, the Rockies will rely on Randal Grichuk to pick up the slack.
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On the Farm
Triple-A: Salt Lake Bees 7, Albuquerque Isotopes 6
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 4, Akron RubberDucks 3
High-A: Tri-City Dust Devils 4, Spokane Indians 2
Low-A: San Jose Giants 10, Fresno Grizzlies 1
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