Mid-Century Architecture Wows Virginia Village on this Denver Urban Hike
If you like mid-century architecture, Virginia Village is your type of place. But who is Virginia, and why does she have a village? The story starts back when Levi Booth established Booth Ranch and what became the Four Mile House in the mid 1800s. The surrounding area was known as Sullivan. Throughout Sullivan, the railroads expanded, adding telephone and telegraph service. In addition, the High Line Canal grew with many laterals watering the asparagus and horseradish. Eventually, two areas were platted: Cherry Creek Gardens and Denver Gardens.
The Virginia Village neighborhood sits with Mississippi to the north, Evans to the south, Cherry Creek to the east and Colorado to the west. Its Swiss cheese boundaries abut the rebel Glendale, its own little jurisdiction in the middle of Denver. Although no one knows why it’s called Virginia Village, the owners who developed it, Levi R. and Winnifred Booth in 1954, didn’t have any children or known relatives named Virginia. Eventually, through a series of annexations, Virginia Village became part of Denver together with the historic areas of Cherry Creek Gardens and Denver Gardens. Sullivan also joined the party. Glendale stood alone.
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Hello, Anyone There?
Meanwhile, as Virginia Village battled over its jurisdiction, it began to build out its neighborhood with single-family homes of the latest design. Today, we called these future-oriented designs, “mid-century” or “mid-modern.” It’s the battle of the 1950s in Virginia Village. With two “mid-century” neighborhoods sandwiched between several parks and along the Cherry Creek, Virginia Village has lots of personality. Similar to the Harvey Parks to its south, Virginia Village is a great place to walk and view fun architecture.
There are two mid century neighborhoods in Virginia Village, built at a time when watermelon and asparagus fields were giving way to affordable homes of the future. Before the growth spurt, the area was known as Sullivan. In Sullivan, you could find the precursor to the AT&T switching station, the Sullivan telephone exchange. Elsie Fleming Henderson ran the switchboard from her living room of her home at 1640 S. Holly St. in Denver Gardens. Back when we paid tolls for “long-distance calls,” you could expect a toll to Denver. To install a phone at that time in the ’30s, you’d pay $3.50 and a monthly charge, paid to Mrs Henderson, of $2.50.
From Alfalfa Fields to Atomic Homes
In the Virginia Village neighborhood, you’ll find two subdivisions showcasing their Eichler style of homes, mostly found in California. From Wikipedia “Eichler homes are examples of Modernist architecture and typically feature glass walls, post-and-beam construction, and open floorplans in a style indebted to Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. They often feature flat and/or low-sloping A-framed roofs, vertical 2-inch pattern wood siding, and spartan facades with clean geometric lines. His signature concepts was to “bring the outside in”, achieved via skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows with glass transoms looking out on protected and private outdoor rooms, patios, atriums, gardens, and swimming pools. Also of note is that most Eichler homes feature few, if any, front-facing (i.e., street-facing) windows; instead house fronts have either small, ceiling-level windows or small, rectangular windows with frosted glass. Many other architectural designs have large windows on all front-facing rooms.”
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One subdivision, Krisana Park, named in honor of the owners of the alfalfa field, Christian and Ann Noe, has the majority of the mid-century homes. Just down the street in an area called Lynwood, you’ll find the others. The Lynwood subdivision was a sequel to Krisana, and features more modernizations of the trends at the time. You can walk through both neighborhoods, catching glimpses of how these mid-moderns changed over the two decades they were built, or watch out for the annual home tour, often done in July.
Whether walking through the 1950s homes or elsewhere in this neighborhood, there is a sense of pride in the homes regardless of their time periods. There is nothing newer than homes from the late 60s. With a quick access to the Cherry Creek trail, Virginia Village is also a great place to live for walkers and bikers looking to use the regional trail system.
The Route (click for interactive map):
Start at 5398 E Mexico. Go east to S Holly St and turn left, north. Pass by 1640 S Holly St, which used to be the home of Elsie Fleming Henderson. She managed the telephone lines that came into her house, connecting folks through the switchboard in her house.
At E Iowa Ave, take a right. Take a right on Ivy Way. At Jasmine St, take a left, then take a right on Iowa.
At S Leyden St, take a left, then take a right on E Florida Ave. Cross S Monaco Pkwy and take the ramp down to the Cherry Creek Trail. Follow the trail to the left to S Holly St.
Cross Holly into City of Potenza Park. Part of the Denver Sister Cities project, make sure you read the plaque in the NW corner of the history of Denver’s relationship with Potenza, Italy.
Head southwest out of the park on Glencoe. Take a right on E Louisiana and then a right on Elm. Enter Krisana Park and enjoy the mid century homes.
At Mexico, take a left. At E Colorado Ave, take another left. At Holly St, take a right and cross Holly. Take a left on E Colorado Ave, then take a left on S Ivy St. You’ll now be in Lynwood; enjoy the 1950s homes again.
At Mexico, take a left and continue your walk back to where you started.
Finding Mid-Century Modern Architecture and Supporting Denver By Foot
If you’ve enjoyed this information, 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.
See you on the trail!
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