Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The odor - packinghouses

For many people a whiff of apple pie or fresh-baked bread can evoke memories of a visit to their grandma's house. For me, that sensory connection occurs when the breeze carries the odors from the Purina Plant in Swansea during a temperature inversion or ozone alert.
Visiting my grandparents, Ida and Andy Jackson, during the 1950s and 60s was a trip to another world. Although the construction of the Valley Highway had lopped off the western edge of the neighborhood and taken out most of the adjacent town of Argo, Globeville was mostly intact, with several small groceries, a drug store, hardware and numerous shoe shops and barbers. We walked everywhere - to the swimming pool at Argo Park, Holy Rosary Church and to the grocery where grandpa worked as a butcher (in anticipation of purchasing penny candy).
Also prospering in the 1960s was the city's largest industry, meatpacking. The Big Four, Swift, Armour, Wilson and Cudahy, as well as the smaller firms, Pepper, Litvak, Linders and Plus Poultry, were all within walking distance of Globeville. The stockyards held cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep and the feed to fatten them, all adding to the distinctive smell. But the most offensive odor came from several rendering plants  where “bone crushing, bone boiling, bone rendering, bone burning, fat boiling, gut cleaning...and the manufacture of fertilizer material..." occurred. * The stench, particularly during the summer, could take your breath away.
Residents of Globeville constantly complained and demanded that Denver regulate odors.
Denver passed regulations but they were difficult to enforce (and still are) and the city seemed to adopt the attitude the the neighborhood was already polluted and additional odors hardly made any difference.
In the end, consolidation and mergers accomplished what regulation could not. Firms like Monfort in Greeley raised, fed, slaughtered and shipped cattle from a central location, gradually eliminating the meat packers near Globeville.
I confess that the smell that permeated Globeville didn't bother me. I didn't deal with it every day and associated the stench with the happy memories of visiting my grandparents. The Purina Plant in Swansea is the last vestige of that era and sometimes, when there is a temperature inversion, I'll catch a whiff that takes me back to a visit to my grandma and grandpa's. It's apple pie to me.

*As defined by Denver City Ordinance No. 760.12

Built in 1928, Purina still provides jobs to the neighborhood.
Photo @ Mary Lou Egan

Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July, 1920

The Denver Catholic Register began, "The Yugo-Slavs * of Globeville celebrated the Fourth of July on Sunday by dedicating their beautiful new church at 47th and Pearl." The church, named in honor of the Queen of the Holy Rosary, was the culmination of years of effort.
Before World War I, Slovenes and Croats had been under the rule of Austria-Hungary, their language and culture suppressed and their young men forced to serve in the military forces of their oppressor. As early as the 1880s, they begin arriving in Globeville, recruited to work in the smelters, railroads and meat packing plants. Soon after they settled, Slovenes and Croats organized fraternal organizations that provided sick and death benefits, life insurance, and fostered singing and dramatic groups and social activities. These societies were a clearinghouse for information, a source of political power and the way to achieve common goals, one of which was to build a church of their own.
In the early years of the community, Catholics in Globeville could attend Annunciation Church at 36th and Humboldt, or Sacred Heart at 27th and Larimer, each about a two mile walk. After 1902, Slovenes and Croats could attend St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church in the neighborhood, but the situation was far from satisfactory. The pastor, Father Jarzynski, felt that his mission was primarily to the Polish congregation and didn't offer to send for a priest who could say Mass, administer sacraments or hear confessions in the Slovenian or Croatian language. Southern Slavs, not feeling welcome, didn't contribute monetarily to St. Joseph's, adding to the hard feelings. The larger concern was that people weren't attending church at all - it was too much trouble.
In 1916, the community began organizing in earnest, with the heads of several fraternal organizations meeting at St. Jacob's Hall, appointing representatives from each lodge to raise funds in all their societies, in Leadville, Pueblo, Salida, and Aspen as well as in Globeville. A delegation was appointed to ask the new bishop, J. Henry Tihen, permission to organize the new parish, a block away from the Polish church. Permission was granted and the fundraising began, with delegates going door-to-door asking for money, glee clubs and dramatic societies giving performances, and businesses contributing. Father Cyril Zupan, OSB, agreed to take on the role of shepherd of the new parish, in addition to his duties as pastor at St. Mary's Slovenian Parish in Pueblo.
Ground was broken on May 27, 1919, the cornerstone blessed on August 17, and the building completed in April of 1920. A spring blizzard caused the dedication to be moved to July 4, 1920.
Bishop Tihen congratulated the congregation on their efforts, reminding them that poor people, rather than princes, built the cathedrals of Europe. Tihen also remarked that it was fitting to hold the religious celebration on the national holiday, for he said that true independence could only flourish side by side with religious freedom.

After 1919, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, were part of the newly created country of Yugoslavia, which means Southern Slavs.

Photo used with written permission Holy Rosary archives

Photo used with written permission of Betty  Zalar

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Father Joseph Albert Meznar

"Dear family in Christ" the bulletin would begin. The following pages, sometimes as many as four two-sided sheets, would continue with the scripture readings for each day, Mass intentions, prayers for the sick (and those who cared for them), comments on Sunday's readings, and parish activities as diverse as bingo nights, the fall festival, parish breakfasts, bake, craft and rummage sales. Although the grade school had been closed in 1969, the building was used for religious education classes, receptions for First Communion and funerals and meetings of the ladies society, men's club and Knights of Columbus.
Father Meznar was particularly proud of his Slovenian heritage and was thrilled when Rich Eurich and the Preseren Glee Club from Pueblo would celebrate a Polka Mass during the month of October (to coincide with the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7th), followed by a breakfast of Klobase and Potica. Another expression of Slovenian culture was the Easter procession around the block, parishioners singing Zvelichar (He is risen), with a strong man carrying the statue of the Risen Christ.   
Father Joseph Albert Meznar: was born in Denver on July 11, 1932. His father Joseph P. Meznar emigrated from Slovenia (then part of Austria-Hungary), worked as a bookkeeper at ASARCO's Globe Smelter and died in 1951. His mother Mary Rose Berce was born of Slovenian parents in Golden, and was a homemaker until 1951, going to work at the Denver Dry Goods for 29 years. She passed away in 1996.  Joseph Sr., and Mary Rose were married at Holy Rosary Church on May 7, 1928. Father Joseph and his brother Father Robert P. Meznar were both baptized and confirmed at Holy Rosary Church and graduated from Annunciation High School and St. Thomas Seminary. Father Joseph was ordained in 1958, Father Robert in 1960. Father Joseph served at Holy Rosary from 1982 until 2009,  overseeing a complete restoration and painting of the church in 1995, funded by the Western Slavonic Association and obtaining state historic designation for the church, convent and school in 1999 (5DV.349).  After struggling with many health issues, Father Joseph retired in November 2009 and passed away June 6, 2015.

Rich Eurich entertaining the crowd in 2006

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Globeville and the Platte River Flood of June 1965

Like many frontier towns, both Denver and Globeville started near a river, the usually 
sleepy, muddy Platte. The Arapaho and Cheyenne respected the river, gypsies camped along its banks, but white settlers mainly used the stream to dispose of refuse and paid little attention to what went on there over the years.
As Denver and Globeville grew, so did their abuse of the Platte. Animal carcasses from meat packing plants, refuse from factories, railroads and the city of Denver found their way into the river. Power stations, chemical plants, oil storage tanks, landfills, weeds, car bodies, tires and hobo camps lined the river's banks as it meandered through Denver. Storm drains poured road salt and raw sewage into the Platte. No one seemed to notice. Over the years, the river gained attention only when it overflowed after cloudbursts or record amounts of snow melt. There were periodic attempts to remedy the problem in Globeville, including a WPA project during the 1930s that redirected parts of the river and installed riprap along the banks. But the neighborhood, like much of Denver, wouldn't pay much attention to the river until June, 1965. 

The spring of 1965 must have seemed like the end of the world along Colorado's front range, with small earthquakes, cool temperatures, rain, hail and tornadoes. Streams were running high with heavy spring snow melt. On Wednesday afternoon, June 16, a cloudburst dumped record moisture over an area south of Denver, turning normally quiet creeks into powerful rivers that  joined the swollen South Platte near Littleton to become a half-mile-wide rampaging flood. 
By early 7:00 pm, mud, cars, trailers, dead animals, parts of houses, uprooted trees, propane tanks and boxcars slammed against bridges in Denver, propane tanks exploded, power outages darkened much of the city, and radio and television stations periodically went off the air. 1.
The rail yards near Globeville, the Slovenian Gardens, the Polish Hall, Holy Rosary Church and 
the meat packing plants all sustained flood damage. When the power went off, the city’s north side sewage treatment plant near East 52nd and Franklin shut down and raw sewage spilled into the river and backed up through floor drains the in neighborhood. Holy Transfiguration, as well as St. Joseph's Polish Church lost records and many homes and businesses suffered damage. 
The Colorado National Guard was mobilized Wednesday evening, June 16, and remained in the damaged areas all summer, while neighbors helped each other put things back in order. Denver and Globeville would be forever changed by the 1965 flood, but it would take almost a decade for any meaningful change to take place. One of Globeville's citizens would play an important part in the change.

John Zapien remembers, "This river trail, the whole thing came about under the administration of Mayor Bill McNichols, who appointed his Republican rival, Joe Shoemaker, to form a committee to decide how to 
use $1.9 million in federal revenue-sharing money." The Platte River Development Committee [PRDC] included Dana Crawford Hiawatha Davis, Jr., Daniel Trujillo and John Zapien. 
"So we formed this committee and we got busy and our biggest adversary was the city! They washed out their concrete trucks in the river and they wanted to put an asphalt plant right where that little park is by the McDonald's.
"We identified 240 places that were polluting and got all but 40 of them to agree to change. Do you remember the old dynamite plant, the Hercules Powder Company, that used to be where the Pepsi plant is now? They had these elevated stands and balls of black powder with little tin roofs over them! That's the kind of challenge we had." 
The first successful projects were Confluence Park and Globeville Landing, with a multi-use trail connecting the two sites. More parks and trails were completed and hundreds of sources of pollution were identified and eliminated. Over the past 40 years, the committee has evolved into the 501(c)3 Greenway Foundation, responsible for over 100 miles of hiking and biking trails, 20 parks and natural areas and has improved the quality of the South Platte River. 2.
Zapien sums it up, "That's the best thing we ever did."

1. Deluge of Century Unloads Fury Upon Foothills, Plains. Denver Post, June 20, 1965 
2. The Greenway Foundation

John Zapien

Globeville Landing Park

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Globeville Feasts, Festivals and Food Summer 2015

Where can you experience the faith traditions of Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Croatia and Mexico and enjoy pierogi, pelmini, potica, tamales and beer? At one of several religious feasts, festivals and parish events in Globeville this summer.
The first event, the feast of Corpus Christi (the body of Christ) occurs at St Joseph Polish Church at 46th and Pearl on Sunday, June 7, after 10:30 am Mass. Four altars are decorated throughout Globeville and parishioners form a procession under a canopy, praying, singing, and scattering rose petals at each site. The first Altar will be decorated by the English-speaking congregation, and the rest by the Polish-speaking members of the parish. This tradition is observed in Europe and also in Mexico. St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church

One of the Polish altars

The largest event is the two day Orthodox Food Festival, July 18 and 19. There will be lamb roasting on a spit, every kind of ethnic food a person could desire, Eritrean coffee, beer (and a shot of Slivovitz, Slovenian plum brandy and a beer). There will also be Ukranian singers, Irish, Serbian and Aztec dancers, bands, accordions, crafts, books, activities for the children, and representatives from neighborhood associations. See a demonstration of icon painting. Don't miss a chance to tour Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral, built in 1898, and glowing with icons, symbols and history.  
Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral

Tour the beautiful Orthodox temple

The Annual Polish Food Festival will be on Saturday, August 22nd and Sunday, August 23rd in the parking lot behind the school. Galumpkis, pierogi, sauerkraut, kielbasa, sausage and Polish beer. Polish bands and Krakowiacy dancers entertain you.

Holy Rosary Parish bazaar, September 5th and 6th. Plans are underway for a two-day festival featuring Slovenian, Croatian and Mexican food, music and entertainment. Stay tuned for details.
Holy Rosary Parish

Monday, April 20, 2015

Globeville - Doors Open Denver 2015

Doors Open Denver, presented by the Denver Architectural Foundation, is the premier event showcasing Denver's unique urban fabric. 
Denver Auditor and Globeville advocate, Dennis Gallagher, will be leading a tour on Sunday Sunday, April 26th, Old Slavic North Denver - the Globeville Neighborhood, which is already sold out. But you could hang around St Joseph's Polish Catholic Church at 46th and Pennsylvania about 3:00 pm and join the throng who signed up for the Gallagher tour. 

The tour begins here at St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church, which was constructed in 1902 (by many of the people who had attended Transfiguration, built in 1898, as well as by many Slovenians and Croatians). The parish struggled as Poles moved away from Globeville after the construction of I-25 and I-70, but enjoyed increase membership after the fall of Communism in 1989, and the papacy of John Paul II brought newcomers from PolandSt. Joseph's is proud of its "Polishness" with ethnic food events, lessons in the Polish language and performances by the Krakowiacy Polish dancers. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic properties (1983 - 5DV.782).


The oldest of Globeville's three Slavic churches is Holy Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral, founded in 1898 by immigrants from the Carpatho-Russian region of Eastern Europe. Working 12 hours a day, six days a week in Globeville's smelters, these families mortgaged their homes to purchase lots and build their temple. The church glows with icons and has a rich, complicated history, which Dennis Gallagher will enthusiastically recite. Holy Transfiguration received state historic designation in 1997 - 5DV.782, and today enjoys a diverse and active congregation.


Holy Rosary Parish was built by Slovenian and Croatian immigrants, who attended St. Joseph's Church even while they were saving money to build their own parish (leading to some hard feelings when Slovenians and Croatians didn't contribute to the parish - Dennis will enlighten attendees) Ground was broken in March 1919 and the church was dedicated on July 4, 1920. Today's parish consists of the descendants of the Slavic founders, as well as a robust Hispanic congregation. Holy Rosary received state historic designation in March 1999 - 5DV.349. 


Info: Dennis Gallagher, 303-477-7089or dgallagh@regis.edu

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dennis Sheedy

“…among the men who have witnessed and aided in an empire’s development the like of which will never be seen again.” This florid description in Jerome Smiley’s 1901 History of Denver applies to Dennis Sheedy,  a recognized leader in several business ventures in Colorado and the man responsible for the success of the Globe Smelter. 1.
Born in Ireland in 1846, Sheedy moved with his family to the United States when he was a small child, first to Massachusetts, then Iowa. In 1858, his brother, sister, and father died, leaving him the sole support of his mother and surviving sister, Ellen. He attended school during the winter months and worked the rest of the year at a general store, “acquiring a practical knowledge of business.” 
In 1863, at the age of 17, Sheedy came to the young city of Denver and found work in a general store. By 1868, he had saved enough money to move to the Montana Territory, set up his own wholesale grocery and begin buying and selling cattle in Wyoming, Texas, California, Kansas, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. By 1882, Sheedy had made a fortune, married Katherine V. Ryan, daughter of a prominent Leavenworth businessman and returned to Denver to settle permanently. 
Success in business led to other opportunities. Sheedy acquired an interest in the Colorado National Bank, becoming a director, and then, in January 1886, vice president. When the bank became concerned about losing their investments in the Holden Smelter in 1889, Sheedy was elected to take over as the President and General Manager, reorganizing, renaming the company the Globe Smelting and Refining Company and turning the business into one of the most successful smelters in the country.
Sheedy’s success in transforming the Globe may have put him in a position to rescue the McNamara Dry Goods Company, which had gone bankrupt during the Silver Panic of 1893. Sheedy’s experience in merchandising led to his being named the president of the re-organized Denver Dry Goods Company in 1894. Once again profitable, the store built a six-story building designed by architect Frank Edbrooke, on the corner of California and Fifteenth Street in downtown Denver. 
Sheedy contributed generously to many Catholic institutions, including St. Joseph's Hospital and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and to many other civic causes. On October 16, 1923, at the age of 77, Dennis Sheedy passed away at his home from pneumonia and is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge.
Photo Denver Public Library
The Sheedy mansion at 11th and Grant was built in 1892.
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan
1. Smiley, Jerome C., History of Denver, Denver, Colorado. 
The Times-Sun Publishing Company, 1901, page 562