By Mike McKibbin
Half a century ago, residents of the rural area known as Wheat Ridge did not want to lose local control or be absorbed by either Denver or Lakewood. That was the impetus behind a 1969 incorporation effort that formed the “City of Wheat Ridge,”which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Howard Jaidinger, now 76, is one of two surviving members of the incorporation group. Kent Higgins, now 74 and living in Highlands Ranch, is the other.
A proposal to form a municipality called Jefferson City (now known as Lakewood) would have included the Wheat Ridge area, Jaidinger said.
A member of the Wheat Ridge Fire Department, Jaidinger said he and around 8 to 10 other firefighters were concerned.
“We agreed we had to find a way to defeat the vote to form Jefferson City,” he stated. “We didn’t want to lose our voice if we would have been forced to join someone else.”
“Lakewood was more commercial with Colfax Avenue,” he said. “It just had a different flair and we didn’t want to lose our identity.”
A unified group effort
Two plaques at Founders’ Park, 3705 Jay St., list the city “incorporators” as Higgins, Jerry Rose, Jack Willis and Marty Weiland. The incorporation group included Albert “Ed” Anderson, Dana Bowling, William McBride, John McElderry, Walt Johnson, Bonnie Scoma, Louise Turner and Jack Prose. The incorporation sponsor was the Wheat Ridge Fire Protection District.
Neighborhood chairs and volunteers were Bill Echelmeyer, Bob Eckhardt, Jaidinger, Higgins, Harvey Kolesar, Warren Yousse, Pat Cunningham, Al Hamme, Ken and Mona Hoener, Jim Russell, Carolyn Rits, Paula Vessa, Ted Erickson, George Fentress and Jay Weiland.
Turner, who passed away on Feb. 13, 2012, at 87, was the first city clerk. In a Feb. 9, 2007, local history video on the city of Lakewood’s web page, Turner said the first area incorporation attempt in 1959 lost by a 9-1 margin. It would have included the Lakewood and Wheat Ridge areas in a city called Ridgewood. Two years later, both areas put incorporation on separate ballots and both lost.
In 1969, the City and County of Denver had been eyeing eastern Jefferson County for annexation. Turner said the effort to form Wheat Ridge was undertaken although “no one in Wheat Ridge wanted to be a city, no one wanted a lot of laws or to change their way of life. But we wanted protection against being annexed into another community. We didn’t want to be Lakewood’s north neighborhood.”
Higgins also noted that while school desegregation was happening in Denver, opposition to that was not “outwardly open” among the Wheat Ridge proponents.
”I don’t recall any major conversations about the integration of Wheat Ridge schools,” he stated. “Our schools were already mixed and we had no issues.”
Backers also worried that even if all Wheat Ridge voters opposed being included in Jefferson City’s limits, they did not have the numbers to defeat the measure.
“So we had to schedule the Wheat Ridge election first,” Turner said.
When asked how the city name was chosen, Turner replied, “There were wheat fields on the ridge.”
Support shown, even in the rain
Public meetings were held to explain why the Wheat Ridge group — led by the fire department and local Grange — did not want the area to be part of Jefferson City.
“I remember we would use the loudspeaker on the fire truck to get people’s attention,” Jaidinger recalled.
Turner was responsible for one of the election petitions and recalled people stood in the rain to sign petitions.
A copy of the Outlook weekly newspaper in the Jefferson County archivist office in Golden reported petitions with 309 signatures were turned in to District Court on May 8, 1969. Included were 18 pages of legal descriptions and 27 pages of maps. A total of 150 signatures of registered voters from the area were needed to place the measure on the ballot.
On May 16, the Outlook reported a June 17 election date was set, while petitions calling for the incorporation of Jefferson City — including the Wheat Ridge area — were also filed. On May 30, the Outlook reported a June 24 election date was set for Jefferson City’s incorporation.
A banner headline on the Outlook’s June 20 front page read, “Wheat Ridge to be Colorado’s 8th largest city.” Voters approved the incorporation by a 3,183-2,636 count. The 5,819 votes cast represented around 45 percent of the 13,000 eligible voters.
The Denver Post, in a June 18 story, described Wheat Ridge’s eastern boundaries as Lakeside, Mountain View and Sheridan Boulevard; to the south, West 26th Avenue and Crown Hill Cemetery; the west, Youngfield Street and Ward Road; and the north, West 52nd Avenue, West 49th Avenue, the north right-of-way of Interstate 70 and Clear Creek.
In a short front-page editorial comment, the Outlook wrote the results were not surprising and noted a month earlier, the paper had predicted the vote would carry by about 60 percent, “so we were not far off.” The paper added its “guess” was that the Jefferson City incorporation vote the following week would also pass, as would a vote to change its name to Lakewood soon after the incorporation election.
After the Wheat Ridge measure passed, “all hell” broke loose among politicians from nearby areas, especially the backers of the formation of Jefferson City, Jaidinger said.
“It blew up like an atom bomb,” he added.
Higgins said the Wheat Ridge measure passed because the community had a unified voice.
“The fire department had 40-50 volunteer firefighters and we all had our own jobs in the community,” he noted. “And the Grange spoke for the agrarian community.”
Setting up a government
Since special districts already provided fire, water and sanitation, and the Jefferson County School District was in place, the only immediate need was law enforcement, Higgins added. Jack Bramble was appointed the city’s first police chief and several county sheriff's deputies were hired as officers to provide weekend coverage, Jaidinger said.
Turner said the new city had 90 days after the election to come up with a “working system” of government. The Post story noted state statutes required an election to designate city council wards with two council representatives from each ward, a mayor, clerk and treasurer.
Turner said a small group of city supporters met twice a week — usually until about 2:30 in the morning — to set up the city.
“There was a lot of anxiety and nervous moments about lots of things,” she stated. “We were kind of ‘what do we do now?’”
Jaidinger said he doesn’t recall tax rates and other financial issues were concerns. A one-cent sales tax was the first money-raising source for the new city.
“I think most people then didn’t give a damn,” he stated. “The more common concern was losing our voice on government issues if Jefferson City was formed. We just didn’t want that to happen. We wanted to protect ourselves and the community of Wheat Ridge, we didn’t want to lose our identity.”
On June 29, the Outlook wrote that voters approved the formation of Jefferson City, then the state’s third largest, by an 8,476-3,371 tally.
Higgins said Wheat Ridge was and still is “uniquely different than Denver or any of the other surrounding communities. I am proud we were able to do it on a shoestring but I don’t think we comprehended the complexity. We were just a bunch of men and women who took a leap of faith to keep Wheat Ridge going.”
“We thought it was absolutely the right move to incorporate,” Jaidinger said. “We thought we were much different than Lakewood. I’m very happy and couldn’t be prouder — except for marrying my wife — than anything I’ve ever done. In a lot of ways, I can’t believe it’s been 50 years.”
By Laurie Dunklee
Sloan’s Lake dog-walkers might do a double-take when they pass the Black and White House, on 23rd Avenue, just east of the park. In this neighborhood of mostly single-story ranch houses, the Black and White House is no exception – save for the big glass cube rising from its middle.
The 1960s home won a Mayor’s Design Award for its transformation into a contemporary home with a two-story glass atrium.
“This design won because it’s a modern redo that fits the block and the neighborhood,” said Alexandra Foster of Denver Community Planning and Development, which runs the annual awards.
“Its scale is the same as the rest of the block, and the way it orients to the street. Lots of new projects in northwest Denver are not like the rest of the block. This is modern and interesting, but it doesn’t stand out in a negative way.”
The basic shoebox-shaped house had remained fundamentally unchanged when Erin Little and Marc Perusse bought it two years ago. It was the perfect candidate for a remodel because the foundation was strong.
“The foundation was two times as thick as it needed to be, and the house could really handle anything we wanted to do with it,” Little told Denver Life magazine.
The couple wanted a view of Sloan’s Lake, as well as a light-filled space, so they hired architect Matt Davis of Davis Urban to rethink the house. Davis left standing the existing home and the existing garage – popping the top – and connected the two by designing a two-story glass cube as a modern bridge between them. The cube creates a grand dining room and a loft bedroom-office.
Little and Perusse nicknamed their finished 3,400-square-foot home “the black and white house” because the materials are limited to white painted brick with black custom steel windows and doors, with a dark charcoal standing seam siding at the addition.
The five-bedroom house, which also includes a finished basement, won a Mayor’s Design Award in the “This is home” category, honoring single-family residences that exhibit “excellence in architecture, exterior design, and placemaking.”
Most of the 17 award winners for 2018 were older places that were saved from neglect to preserve some of Denver’s past—perhaps reflecting a sense of so much history being lost to the massive building boom.
“The history and character of our neighborhoods is important to residents,” said Foster. “People live in a neighborhood because they like the look and feel of the area. The award-winners fit their block as well as the neighborhood.”
Foster said the intent of the awards, begun in 2005, is to highlight good design and improve the public realm. Nominees represent a wide variety of projects, from new mixed-use developments to rejuvenated alleys. Anyone can nominate a project. The 2018 awards selection committee was comprised of an architect, a historic preservation leader, a city planning consultant, and a member of CityBuild (a community of millennials building civic engagement).
“The judges are interested in city life: how a building brings life to a city block, particularly if that building had been abandoned,” Foster said.
The winners include several iconic saves, including the 1895 Bosler House in northwest Denver and the Punch Bowl Social, formerly the control tower at Stapleton Airport.
“Always two or three winners feel unique, like the control tower; we don’t get one of those every year,” Foster said.
Several new commercial buildings got a nod, including the Colorado Health Foundation at 18th and Pennsylvania, and the Circa Building at 16th and Platte. Also recognized were historic commercial buildings that were given new life, notably the large office building at STEAM on the Platte in Lincoln Park, a reclamation of industrial buildings that includes several that were abandoned.
Some of this year’s more unusual projects included a bus shelter near Thomas Jefferson High School and a ticket booth at The Botanic Gardens, created by students at the University of Colorado Environmental Design school.
“This year’s different projects were especially different,” said Foster. “The ticket booth is a first.”
Good design is a concern in northwest Denver, where new building has been vigorous and entire blocks have lost their context. District 1 City Councilman Rafael Espinoza was instrumental in passing a city ban on slot homes: multi-unit residential projects designed around a narrow driveway or open space, aka “the slot.” The outer walls often are bare of details, with blank walls and utility equipment facing the sidewalk. There are no real front doors, which, critics said, isn’t a great way to build a community. Slot homes proliferated in the West Colfax, Highland, Berkeley, Jefferson Park and Cherry Creek neighborhoods before the ban passed city council in May of 2018.
Foster said the winning projects are those that bring a greater sense of community.
“They are striking, and the community takes pride in them. The awards highlight good design as a way to say, ‘These projects are getting it right.’”
A future concern is loss of green space because of increased density. Landscaping is a new Mayor’s Design Award category added this year. Foster said an area of interest is green spaces with public access, like the award-winning Backyard on Blake, a restored warehouse-turned-business-space with grassy and garden areas.
By Meghan Godby
Weather is all around us. It’s the fabric of small talk and the narrative of our morning coffee. But although we interact with it every day, it’s not something most people think about.
This isn’t the case for Ed Pearl, a Lakewood resident who has been practicing meteorology for decades. Ed grew up in Chicago but has lived in Lakewood since 1979. He’s drawn to the region for the same reasons many of us are - proximity to the mountains and convenience to downtown.
His interest in weather began in childhood.
“When I was 10, the forecast showed a high of 53 with a windy storm system to our north,” Ed remembers. “I was such an observer of weather, that I looked at the [clouds] outside [...] and grabbed my winter jacket.”
His schoolmates, dressed for warmer weather, gave him some strange looks. But Ed had faith in his early forecasting skills.
“When I got home from school, there was already four inches of snow on the ground.”
It’s a childhood dream that has blossomed into an extensive and impressive career.
“I started out at the University of Arizona - they had good courses in weather and climatology, which I found fascinating,” he said. “I basically set myself up to be a weather forecaster, but then I went to the University of Chicago and became a supervisory meteorologist in Ted Fujita’s group.”
If that name sounds familiar, it should. Over the course of several years, Ed and Ted developed what is known as the Fujita Scale, a sort of rating system for tornadoes.
“We would look at footage that people had taken while on the ground and measure objects flying around,” Ed explained. “Each frame is so many seconds apart, so we could use that to compute velocity.”
Based on velocity and wind speed data, they ranked tornadoes anywhere from an F1 to an F5, with F5 being the most severe. Photographs were taken both during and after the storm, which could later be used to correlate the damage associated with each step on the scale.
During that time, Ed accepted an offer for a position at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he worked on weather satellites that they were developing.
Shortly after, he moved to Colorado, where he began forecasting on radio and television (he worked on both Channel 4 and Channel 7 for a few years).
In fact, he knows all too well the crazy weather that Colorado can throw at us.
“The 1982 Christmas blizzard here, which was really amazing, [dumped] about two feet of snow at my house. About 36 hours before that, most of the weather forecasts were calling for snow showers. I kept looking at the charts going no, no, we’re going to have a major storm,” Ed recalls. “I called some of the major services including the National Weather Service and told them this looks serious.”
His passion and keen eye for detail eventually led him to a career as a consulting meteorologist, which he still does today.
And it’s given him the opportunity to work on some interesting projects - he’s done everything from forecast Broncos games to concerts at Red Rocks (which snagged him lunches with performers like Stevie Nicks and Willie Nelson).
But the most exciting?
“[Forecasting for] a trans-Pacific balloon flight from Japan to the United States,” Ed shared. “I met with their meteorological service - I was able to use some of their data and even taught them a few things. I worked on models of what type of weather pattern would get them across.”
The key was in finding the perfect jet stream - they needed enough force to make their journey, but not so much that they’d be flying into a massive storm. It was exciting but challenging.
“Trying to do that was really tricky,” Ed explained. “At times, I thought it was nearly impossible.”
But thanks to his accurate forecasting, the flight was successful and all passengers on board landed safe and sound.
In fact, Ed’s become known for his accurate forecasts. The clients he does work for are varied - one day he might be working for the Colorado Symphony (those fancy violins are very sensitive to weather), the next, an agricultural client. And there’s no need for elaborate advertising - lots of satisfied customers means he gets nearly all of his business through word of mouth.
He’s certainly busy, but manages to find time for other projects. He’s been working for the Harris Farmer’s Almanac since 1991, where he writes special articles and composes long-range forecasts. He also works as a meteorologist for Necrosearch International, a dedicated team of researchers that helps with unsolved murder cases.
And he doesn’t plan to change things anytime soon.
“I like what I’m doing,” Ed said. “I like my clients [...] If it’s running well, why ruin it? It keeps me nicely occupied. It’s an interesting business.”
There’s something to be said about doing what you love - especially if it’s a lifelong dream. While no one can say with 100 percent certainty what the future holds, with Ed’s passion, dedication and humor, the forecast is clear - his future is pretty bright.
By Nancy Hahn
The 40 West Art District always benefited from art galleries moving to Lakewood from Denver to escape rocketing rents and property taxes. In May of 2017, for example, Charlie Walker brought Next Gallery to 40 West Art District. With new artists and shows each month, Next Gallery has become a great part of the art district.
After this year’s tax season, several more wonderful Denver galleries are making the move to the art district. The 40 West Art District is such a vibrant and active location, the new galleries will fit right in and everyone will benefit.
Creative people have always imagined bigger and created new. In the 40 West Art District of the past, a pathway of green painted footprints guided visitors to galleries and shops. A 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Grant enabled the 40 West Art District to create an interactive new pathway. The ArtLine features interactive art, fabulous sculptures, and brand new ways for area visitors and residents to explore and interact with art, not just near Colfax, but throughout the surrounding areas. First Fridays in 40 West have grown from visitors simply following a map of galleries with an occasional costumed player. Now, First Fridays can be evenings full of music, face-painters, food, and even an unexpected dinosaur.
Kanon Collective had been part of the art scene on Santa Fe Drive for 13 years. The gallery held a last First Friday sale on Feb. 1, selling off art supplies, odds and ends, and furniture. Kanon Collective’s new home will be in Pasternack’s Art Hub at 6851 W. Colfax. They hope to open by the end of February. Shows will begin in March. Be ready to enjoy this gallery! Kanon has a wide variety of artists. Their artists create art of many forms, materials, and styles. There will, certainly, be unique art at Kanon Collective with something for everyone to enjoy!
Core, another gallery from Denver’s Santa Fe Art District, will be joining Pirate Gallery in their spacious gallery at 7130 W. 16th Ave. Core’s artists create a wide variety of art in many, many styles. Sculpture in multiple materials, collage, painting, traditional and contemporary are just some of the work produced by Core artists. Since Pirate’s shows include, also, a wide variety of art, this will be a wonderful gallery to visit, often.
Spark, another gallery on Santa Fe, is not planning to come to 40 West. At least, they don’t plan to come, yet. Several 40 West gallery owners, are trying hard to convince them.
The 40 West Art District, itself, is a growing and changing work-in-progress. This seems completely appropriate for an art district.
By Sally Griffin
Do you sometimes hear raucous calls outside your window? When you look out, do you see flashes of white against a black background sweeping past your window? Then you too are being visited by one of the most familiar and entertaining birds in Western North America – The Black-billed Magpie. We see and hear magpies in our area under our kitchen window, mostly competing with the squirrels for the pine nuts and other goodies.
They are a flashy relative of crows and, like crows, often gather in large numbers, especially if there is fresh roadkill or other carrion. Like most corvids (members of the jay or crow family), they are very open-minded about their diet. In other words, they will eat almost anything. They will eat wild fruit, nuts and grains. They often forage on the ground for grasshoppers. They have even been seen flipping cow dung to find hidden beetles. They will kill and eat small rodents. They will raid other birds’ nests. They will help themselves to any human food that appeals to them at the time. But they really, really love carrion and will also eat the fly maggots that are found in the decaying meat. Sometimes, when they find a bunch of food, they will hide it so they can keep all the “good” stuff for themselves. They also have a peculiar habit of landing on cows and picking ticks off their backs. This helps the cow get rid of the ticks, but sometimes, to the irritation of farmers and ranchers, they peck too hard and open sores on the cows that can become infected.
Historical records show that Black-billed Magpies have been associated with people for a long time. The Lewis and Clark expedition reported that magpies would walk right into their tents and steal their food. Magpies frequently followed hunting parties of the Plains Indians and would help themselves to the leftovers after the bison kills. The Blackfoot tribe considers the magpie as a clever bird that has qualities associated with healers, soothsayers and elders of the tribe. Roman mythology identifies magpies with Bacchus, the god of wine, so they were associated with drunkenness. In China, a chattering magpie is a sign of good fortune and happiness and, thus, it is considered sacred in the Manchu area of China. They were developed as the cartoon characters, Heckle and Jeckle and were portrayed as loud, abrasive and somewhat looney.
They are large birds, which makes their calls very loud. Their sounds include whining sounds such as “maag” or “awk-awk” followed by a series of raspy “chuck, chuck” sounds. Like other corvids, they are intelligent birds and are quick learners. Like a parrot, they can mimic the calls of other birds and have been known to imitate human words. One writer talks about how the magpies would call the dogs in his mother’s voice. They are attracted to shiny things so you don’t want to leave your jewelry anywhere that they can get to it. Magpies are, surprisingly, the only non-mammals that can recognize themselves in a mirror. What they think of their image in the mirror is uncertain because nobody seems to have ever interpreted magpie speech.
Magpies have long wedge-shaped tails that are longer than their bodies. They have short rounded wings. They average about 19 inches in length and weigh about half a pound. Most people think that they are just black and white in color, but, in fact, the feathers of the tail and wings are iridescent. Viewed from the top, they have a bronzy-green to purple color. They have white bellies and shoulder patches and their wings flash white when they launch into flight. They are not swift when in flight. So, they avoid predators by flitting in and about tree limbs or heading for heavy cover. They will usually stay close to cover, but sometimes forage in the open with a characteristic strut, followed by quick hop if they need to cover ground quickly.
Magpie is an odd name. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they are referred to as “Magot Pies,” probably from the black and white birds that were seen flipping cow pies to look for maggots. In Webster’s Dictionary, the name is supposed to come from “Mag” which is short for Margaret. The “pie” may come from the name of their class of birds, which is “pica.” Or some say the term “pie” is derived from the French for black-and-white or “pied.”
Magpies are capable of causing a number of problems, including damage to crops and livestock. Perhaps the most notorious magpie behavior is that of picking open wounds and scabs on the backs of livestock. If they find an open wound, they can keep picking at it until they create a much larger wound. The wound may eventually become infected and, in some instances, may kill the animal. They can be very destructive to poultry, eating eggs or killing hatchlings. Large roosts of magpies can be a nuisance because of loud noises they make and the excessive odor of their droppings.
They are protected as migratory non-game birds, but there are some things you can try if they become a nuisance:
• Remove offending nests
• Remove things that attract them, like, carrion, garbage, bird feeders and pet food.
• Using netting to protect poultry and poultry nests.
• Use a frightening program that may include the use of fireworks, scarecrows and propane cannons. (You may want to check it out with your neighbors, however, before you start exploding fireworks or shooting cannons!)
• Visual scare devices like Mylar tape, balloons and flags may temporarily scare them.
• Remove brush, and tree branches where they like to roost
• There are traps that can be used, but these require proper care of the traps and the use of decoy birds. You should always check local laws before doing any trapping.
• One authority says to “use an umbrella as a protection against aggressive diving attacks.”
• You can move to Nebraska. (Just kidding!) It seems the Nebraska population of magpies is rapidly declining while the Colorado population is increasing. There is speculation that this is caused by the birds contracting West Nile Virus in Nebraska. The higher altitudes of Colorado seem to be less hospitable to the West Nile Virus.