Damien in Aurora writes, “What’s driving you crazy? Do you know about this?”
Good thing you included a picture Damien when you asked the question to give me something to go on. You are talking about the two short streets hidden in the Congress Park neighborhood called Colfax A Place and Colfax B Place. The two little, one block streets lie between Cook and Madison Streets parallel to Colfax and 14th Avenues.
According to the book, Denver’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood, the neighborhood is called the Snell Addition Historic District. The district was named for Denver native Frank Snell, who built 25 houses there between 1905 and 1911. Snell’s idea was to fit more houses in the block by eliminating the backyards. Snell believed that large yards were undesirable “junk catchers”.
Noted Denver historian Tom Noel in his book, Denver Landmarks and Historic Districts, says the one block development is a rare early Denver experiment in small lots and higher-density single-family homes that did not catch on with Denverites, who were accustomed to detached homes with relatively spacious yards. Snell contended that many people would rather not spend their time caring for large lawns, an idea ahead of its time. It wasn’t until the 1980s did many Denver homebuyers begin to show a preference for smaller lots, condos and lofts.
Most of the Snell houses are foursquare variations varying in brick color and detail. Snell built a home for himself at 3421 Colfax A Place with dormer windows on three sides of the third floor. Across the street at 3422 Colfax A Place lived Luisa Ward Arps, author of the classical local history book, Denver in Slices, published in 1959. Arps was instrumental in getting the two blocks designated as a historic district.
About 17 years ago, residents on Colfax A and B wanted to change the street names citing trouble with deliveries and even getting 911 service. The names of the streets however, were never changed.
If you drive either street today they appear virtually unchanged from when they were first constructed just over 100 years ago. If you are interested in seeing another example of Mr Snell’s architecture, take a drive just east of downtown Denver to the ornate Perrenoud apartment building built in 1902 that still stands on East 17th Avenue at Emerson Street.
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