Friday, July 29, 2016

Denver Doings

The Denver area, part of the Territory of Kansas, was settled by Cheyenne and Arapaho
Stream with waterfall in a meadow
Indians and a few Anglos until the late 1850s. However, in 1858 Green Russell and Sam Bates found a small placer deposit that produced about 20 troy ounces (620g) of gold, and the Pike's Peak Gold Rush was on; the population bloomed to about  100,000 gold seekers in just two years. The same year that Russell and Bates found their gold, Denver City was established through rather under-handed means. This rather lawless city prospered as a mining town for a few years, but once the gold played out the population dropped. Denver eventually became a supply hub for mining in the area, cementing its place in history. It was named the seat of Arapahoe County, then six years later the Territorial Capital. By 1881, Denver had become the permanent state capital, having survived the fire of 1863 that destroyed most of downtown, the flood a year later that devastated cattle and crops, and a final attack by swarms of grasshoppers that stripped away the remaining vegetation.

As with many small towns in Texas, the savior of the society was the railroad.  Denver was linked to the Colorado Territory by the Denver Pacific Railway while Colden was connected
Brick house circa 1940 - 1950
to Cheyenne by the Colorado Central Railroad. Once these railways were under construction, other rail companies wanted to link with Denver, as well. The population of Denver soared, along with additional businesses and an attractiveness to tourists. In 1874 there was a silver boom, and Denver residents profited from the additional commerce this brought to the area. Along with the new residents came new corruption.  Soapy Smith and Lou Blonger, along with city officials and the police raked in profits from gambling and other criminal activities. Prostitution, gambling and bunco artists flourished.  However, if there is criminal activity, there are people who will oppose it. Religious groups openly condemned corrupt behavior while establishing a social welfare system, free medical services, an employment bureau, youth and education services, and English language classes. Women’s suffrage was also supported, and Colorado was one of the early states that allowed women to vote. Through the late 1800s and 1900s Denver has had its social and economic ups and downs, vacillating from far right wing to a rather liberal population.  In the midst of these changes, the Denver Botanic Garden was founded.

Cheesman Park, Congress Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens occupy what used to be Mount Prospect Cemetery. The cemetery was claimed by the US Government as federal
Top L to R: Yucca garden, View through Japanese gate
Bottom L to R: Interactive earth, Waring House with Chihuly sculpture
land, and then two years later sold to the city of Denver. Many bodies were removed in 1893, although I can’t find whether or not they were re-buried, particularly since there are multiple claims of abuse and fraud associated with this exhumation. Bodies continued to be removed through the 1950s, but in 2010 still more graves were found during overhaul of the park's irrigation and sprinkler systems. The actual botanic gardens fill a 23-acre park containing a conservatory, some theme gardens and a sunken amphitheater. There are also riparian areas and a natural meadow. The gardens features North America's largest collection of cold temperate climate plants and seven gardens with plants from Colorado and neighboring states. This is also the location of the world's first Xeriscape Demonstration Garden; it includes drought-tolerant plants from the West and from Mediterranean areas. There are also lovely greenhouses with tropical plants as well as some unusual carnivorous plants. Since I love Japanese Gardens, I was particularly pleased to be able to wander through Shofu-en, the Garden of Wind and Pines, designed by Koichi Kawana and Kai Kwahara. And since I am enamored with sculpture, I was also happy to be able to visit the gardens when selections from the Walker Art Center were featured. This was a gorgeous day to spend in the gardens, although by noon it had gotten rather warm. We did wander through the science building and played with some of their interactive exhibits, but by that time we were feeling rather peckish and began looking for a place to eat. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

What we ate:

Three carrots
The botanic garden has a nice restaurant with various offerings that, while fresh, are pre-
Top: Garden salad
Middle: Chicken with goat cheese 1/2 sandwich
Bottom: Inside restaurant
prepared or only heated while you wait. The menu, for Offshoots at the Gardens Café (1007 York St, Denver, CO 80206, 720-865-3501), is on the wall with daily specials listed on a chalk board. There is ample indoor seating, but this is a noisy place and if weather allows, you’re much better choosing an outdoor table if you want to have a conversation. Bek and I split a sandwich and a salad; there was more than enough for two and the food was tasty.

Since it was a relatively long drive back to Manitou Springs and it was a hot day, we decided that a quick stop at Bonnie Brae Ice Cream (799 S University Blvd, Denver, CO 80209, 303-777-0808) was in order. There are lots of flavors and combinations from which to 
Left: Bonnie Brae cow
Right T to B: Inside restaurant, Ice cream
choose and one looked just as good as another. We sat outside, under the careful eye of the cow, and enjoyed out just desserts. Bek had a scoop of mint chocolate chip and I had raspberry; both were wonderful. There is limited parking on the street, so you may have to park some distance away and walk.

What we did:

Four Carrots

Sculpture in the parking garage
The Denver Botanic Garden (1007 York St, Denver, CO 80206, 720-865-3501) is a wonderful jewel tucked into the university area of the city. If you go, plan to spend at least three hours wandering the grounds. Be sure to check out the sculpture in the parking garage – it’s an interesting array of colorful panels that reminded me of a rainbow or the petals of a flower. I’d like to go back during spring and fall just to see what was new in the gardens.

Barry Flanagan's Hare on Bell, my favorite sculpture
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