A Secret Gem in Clayton
Honestly, I had no idea where Clayton was. Although I had driven past Clayton College at the corner of MLK and Colorado a gazillion times, I had no idea that tucked up north of MLK, east of Colorado, West of York, and south of 40th Ave was a gem of a neighborhood gleaming with pride.
I discovered a great walk in Clayton on this urban hiking adventure.
From Orphanage to Early Childhood Development
Clayton neighborhood’s claim to fame is the all boys’ orphanage, turned college, turned trade school, turned Early Childhood Center on the NW corner of MLK, Jr Blvd and Colorado. Its turn-of-the-century red brick buildings sit intermingled with a few 1960s more modern buildings.
Now housing early education-themed non-profits, “Wash” Clayton, the founder of the orphanage, once homed orphan boys while tending to his mercantile, real estate, and railroad interests. Upon Clayton’s passing, the City of Denver accepted his bequeath of a beautiful set of buildings waiting for their next venture.
Surrounding the neighborhood, I found quite a few surprises. One home, which had been struck by lightening during a Broncos game, had a very proud owner who invited me in to see his 1908 abode. While inside, this Denver Cruisers co-founder showed me some of the tile and bike-gear handiwork he did in the bathroom!
Poppies Make the World a Prettier Place
I stumbled upon garage murals, dairy delivery pass-throughs on sides of houses, and even a house painted completely black. Each street offered up something unique, and most of the original homes still stood. Occasionally I would come across a renovation and maybe one or two complete scrapped redos, but mostly the neighborhood is still intact in its 1940-60s time period.
Sister City Nairobi
In the middle of the neighborhood, I found the Denver Sister City of Nairobi. Sharing similar elevations with Nairobi, this park also shared some of its very local history, including stories of Bruce Randolph and Wash Clayton. Even a hippo greeted me while walking through this well-appointed park.
To learn about the history of Denver parks, buildings and artwork, buy my book Discovering Denver Parks.
Human Services Help?
The walk went a little off course when I came around the corner and saw the gorgeous Denver Human Services Building. I couldn’t resist a walk through its lobby, getting a second floor view into the sparkly “Peace Bird” hanging sculpture by Ray King.
Leaving the building and ambling through its parking lot put me into the warehouse section of the NW corner of the neighborhood where I found a makeshift skateboard park, ultimately dumping me out at the old medical supply depot (on the Historic Register).
I eventually made it back to the start, where I couldn’t wait to find out the latest on what’s happening with they Clayton neighborhood, especially in light of the change to City Park’s golf course. Apparently, when Clayton bequeathed his estate to Denver, it included the land where the City Park Golf Course sits–which–is currently slated for a development.
It will be interesting to see how this drama unfolds!
The route (click for interactive route):
Begin at Schaefer Park parking lot, which is near 2541 E 37th Ave, Denver. Walk south on Columbine, then take a left on E 36th Ave. Continue to Clayton Street, take a right.
Take a left on E 33rd Ave to Adams Street, take a left. Notice the poppy mural on the garage on the left. Turn right on E 34th Ave to Madison St, where you’ll take another right. In the middle of the block, cross the street to the left onto the Clayton Campus.
On the Clayton Campus, meander around looking at the buildings, being respectful of the businesses and non-profits on the campus. Notice the large red building with the steeple, which is now the administration building for the Early Childhood Center. Once you’re finished enjoying the campus, continue north on Harrison Street.
Take a left on E 35th Ave, crossing Madison again, and you’ll come across the Sister City of Nairobi. Read all the interpretation, and find the cat, giraffe and hippo.
Walk northwesterly through the park up Cook Street to E 38th Ave. Take a left and pass by the new University Prep school, making sure you see the hand-drawn titles paying homage to Cesar Chavez and Maya Angelou at the entrance to the school along Adams Street.
Continue west along E 38th Ave. When you get to Steele Street, if it’s business hours, look to your right at the gorgeous Denver Human Services Center. Enter the building on the second floor and admire the Peace Bird sculpture by going down the steps to the first floor. Exit the building through its west side into the parking lot. If it’s not business hours, you’ll want to continue your walk by walking west along E 37th Ave back to Schaefer Park.
But, if you go through the Human Services Building, continue west through the warehouse district. Notice the street art on the southside building’s walls facing west, and also see if you can pinpoint the makeshift skateboard park on the vacant cement, elevated lot. Continue west through warehouse row, making your way to the old medical supply depot on the corner of York and E 38th Ave.
Go south on York and then take a left on 38th, returning back to the park.
Discovering Clayton and Supporting DenverByFoot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family, or even along during our lock down.
See you on the trail,