Cat­a­loging the his­tory of an 1880s com­mu­nity

lake­wood» Nearly a cen­tury be­fore Lake­wood be­came Lake­wood, the first homes in the city’s Eiber neigh­bor­hood went up.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Aguilar

Lo­cal farm­ers grew sugar beets, ap­ples and corn and raised chick­ens for trans­port to the grow­ing Den­ver mar­ket, us­ing the for­mer Smith trol­ley sta­tion at Gar­ri­son Street and 13th Av­enue as a dropoff point for their pro­duce.

That old trol­ley line is now the Re­gional Trans­porta­tion District’s W-Line, which con­veys thou­sands of com­muters to Golden and Den­ver ev­ery day. As one of the old­est neigh­bor­hoods in Colorado has un­der­gone trans­for­ma­tion from an agrar­ian out­post to an in­ner-ring sub­urb, res­i­dents of “Eiber­hood” are strug­gling with how to move ahead with the times while main­tain­ing their neigh­bor­hood’s rich and unique his­tory.

Pos­ing the most im­me­di­ate threat to Eiber’s ex­ist­ing char­ac­ter, ac­cord­ing to Eiber Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Paul Dit­son, is the prospect of denser tran­si­to­ri­ented de­vel­op­ments be­ing built around Lake­wood’s rail stops along 13th Av­enue.

“Eiber, es­pe­cially north Eiber, is fac­ing some sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure as a re­sult of the W-Line and the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of Col­fax Av­enue,” Dit­son said. “Our old­est as­sets are at risk of be­ing torn down to make way for higher-den­sity hous­ing.”

Just last week, the City Coun­cil agreed to down-zone a block of Hol­land Street, be­tween 13th and 14th av­enues, to en­sure that mul­ti­fam­ily homes aren’t built where there is now a row of half a dozen mod­est, sin­gle-fam­ily homes. The city could take a sim­i­lar ap­proach with other blocks in the Eiber neigh­bor­hood — a move­ment is afoot to sal­vage a Ma­sonic tem­ple at 14th Av­enue and In­de­pen­dence Street — to en­sure that new, denser res­i­den­tial projects don’t over­whelm or wipe out po­ten­tially his­toric prop­er­ties.

“This is a very good ex­am­ple of what we can do to pre­serve our her­itage,” Dit­son said.

As a sign of the how im­por­tant his­tory has be­come to a city that of­fi­cially in­cor­po­rated in 1969 and formed a his­toric preser­va­tion com­mis­sion only a few years ago, Lake­wood has em­barked on a his­toric sur­vey of the Eiber neigh­bor­hood, which saw its first res­i­dents stake out ground for farms and or­chards in the 1880s be­fore tran­si­tion­ing 50 years later to a home base for work­ers with jobs at the Den­ver Ord­nance Plant, now site of the Den­ver Fed­eral Cen­ter.

The sur­vey, which is par­tially be­ing funded by a $33,885 grant from the His­tory Colorado State His­tor­i­cal Fund, is hom­ing in on 315 homes built be­fore 1946. The city wants to see whether in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from the sur­vey can iden­tify any struc­tures that might be el­i­gi­ble for his­toric land­mark­ing, be it at the na­tional, state or lo­cal level.

“We’re get­ting a very good un­der­stand­ing of Lake­wood’s his­tory,” said Holly Boehm, prin­ci­pal plan­ner for the city. “It’s help­ing us to un­der­stand our past and the peo­ple who came be­fore us.”

The Eiber neigh­bor­hood en­com­passes a broad swath of Lake­wood, bounded by Col­fax Av­enue and Sixth Av­enue on the north and south and by Oak Street and Wadsworth Boule­vard on the west and east. It is named for Ge­orge and Lil­lian Eiber, who moved to the area in 1920. Ge­orge Eiber, a photo-en­graver for The Den­ver Post, be­gan a poul­try busi­ness in 1943 and joined with neigh­bors in build­ing a lo­cal turkey busi­ness.

The hous­ing stock is di­verse, from low-slung, post­war apart­ment com­plexes to stately, largelot homes that have land for horses, goats, chick­ens and bees.

“I am really im­pressed with the ar­chi­tec­tural va­ri­ety in this neigh­bor­hood,” said Mary Therese An­stey, a his­toric preser­va­tion con­sul­tant with His­tory Mat­ters LLC, who on a re­cent morn­ing went door to door tak­ing pic­tures of 1930s- and 1940s-era homes on Lake­wood Heights Drive. “A lot of peo­ple have lived here for a long time and they care about their prop­er­ties.”

An­stey, who said her work cat­a­loging his­toric homes in Eiber be­gan in the fall and will carry on into the spring, said she has come across houses built in a wide va­ri­ety of styles, such as Tu­dor, Cape Cod, Queen Anne and late Vic­to­rian. Point­ing to a side gable on one home, orig­i­nal steel frame win­dows on another and a cross-hipped roof on a third, An­stey notes that the builder in one in­stance was more em­brac­ing of an avant-garde style while his neigh­bor was more of a tra­di­tion­al­ist.

Not ev­ery­thing passes the test of ar­chi­tec­turally pris­tine or his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant, es­pe­cially if the home has been rad­i­cally al­tered over the years, she said.

“It has to be im­por­tant ar­chi­tec­turally and it has to be phys­i­cally in­tact,” she said.

Own­ers of homes that are deemed his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant may be ap­proached by the city for land­mark­ing. Un­like Den­ver’s more ag­gres­sive ap­proach to land­mark des­ig­na­tion, which last month re­sulted in a public clash be­tween a home­owner and a coun­cil­man over prop­erty rights in the Jefferson Park neigh­bor­hood, Boehm said Lake­wood’s his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion or­di­nance re­quires owner con­sent be­fore such an ac­tion is taken.

Deb Treseder, who lives with a rooster named Tommy, 14 hens and a pair of goats on a three­quar­ter-acre prop­erty on Eighth Av­enue, said the Eiber neigh­bor­hood is “an awe­some lit­tle area.” She said her home was trucked to the neigh­bor­hood from Lowry Air Force Base dur­ing the 1950s.

She has lived in Eiber for three years and wants Lake­wood to take a thought­ful ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment in the neigh­bor­hood, lest it lose a sense of it­self and what it rep­re­sents for the city.

“We want them to pause and see if there is some his­tor­i­cal value to keep­ing some of these homes,” she said.

Eiber, es­pe­cially north Eiber, is fac­ing some sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure as a re­sult of the W-Line and the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of Col­fax Av­enue. Our old­est as­sets are at risk of be­ing torn down to make way for higher-den­sity hous­ing.”

Paul Dit­son, Eiber Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent

Deb Treseder plays with her goats after feed­ing them in the back­yard of her home, in the Eiber neigh­bor­hood of Lake­wood, on Dec. 22. His­to­ri­ans are sur­vey­ing the neigh­bor­hood, which dates back to the 1880s. RJ San­gosti, The Den­ver Post

RJ San­gosti,The Den­ver Post

Deb Treseder waits for her dog to come in the gate after feed­ing her chick­ens and goats in the back­yard of her home, in the Eiber neigh­bor­hood of Lake­wood, on Dec. 22.

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