NewsFront RangeDenver


Archaeological dig reveals truth about residents displaced by Auraria Campus construction

9th street historic park
Posted at 9:51 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-24 00:25:10-04

DENVER — Artifacts from an archaeological dig in Denver’s oldest neighborhood reveal the true history of the people who were displaced from what is now the Auraria Campus.

The 44-piece collection is part of the “I Am Auraria” exhibit at the Auraria Library.

“Some of the best artifacts that tell that story are particularly related to children,” said Michael Kolb, a professor of anthropology at Metropolitan State University (MSU). “When you find a doll leg, when you find a piece of children's china, when you find a little token for a carnival.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of families and businesses were removed, and the buildings were demolished to make way for what is now MSU, Community College of Denver and University of Colorado Denver. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority director at the time said the area was blighted and that most of the buildings were "skid row types.”

The Auraria neighborhood, which was filled with predominantly Latino residents, fought the removal but lost.

“It's time for people to know the truth,” said Virginia Castro with the Aurarian Historical Advocacy Council.

The dig was the result of a joint venture between the three colleges that now occupy the neighborhood. Part of a home, a cistern and working tools were recovered. Many of the homes in that area date back to Denver’s original settlers in the 1860s.

“It shows that people were living here. There wasn't a hiatus. The houses weren't abandoned. These were working class families, it just wasn't laborers,” Kolb said.

The exhibition also includes stories and photos from the residents who once called the campus home. Only a few homes on 9th Street remain standing on campus.

“It’s emotional to me because it's emotional to the people it all belonged to, and they're finally able to come in and share with each other what happened,” Castro said.

The exhibition is also an opportunity for the colleges to repledge their promise of free tuition to the descendants of the former neighborhood.

Students will start the next dig Friday in the 9th Street historic district on campus.

To learn more about the "I Am Auraria" exhibit, click here.

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.