Who Is Wadsworth Boulevard Named For?

An old photo of Wadsworth Blvd. and Alameda circa the late-1970's, photo from Pinterest.

All things considered, Wheat Ridge claims relatively little of 30-mile-long Wadsworth Boulevard; however, right now, those two miles are truly the bane of our existence. I try to make good use of Teller and Pierce to the east; I even cut over to Sheridan when I have to engage in some serious north-bound travel. I do the same to the west when I can on Garrison, Kipling and even Ward. But encroaching forgetfulness, coupled with sheer force of habit, often finds me in the middle of some bodacious back-ups mere blocks from my home. And I fear it’s going to get worse before it gets better. If you see me on Wadsworth, wave; I’ll be the Subaru with clouds of blue smoke emanating from the windows and a pinched face, mumbling crude obscenities at my own mistake.

These forays into unplanned waiting left me wondering where the name – often shortened to “Wads” – came from. Shame on me. The street was named using the same formula used for most other streets, parks, mountains, streams, towns, etc., in the West – yet another adventurer, traveler, wanderer, soldier of fortune who got permanent name recognition simply because he was here and built a reputation before the Colorado Territory got statehood. 

Naming rights were plentiful in the early to mid-1800s, but good men were scarce. Men with gold in their eyes and fabulous wealth on their brains poured into the area from the late 1840s on, bringing with them greed that led to evils ranging from graft to murder, not to mention plenty of tuberculosis. Contrary to people like former Governor Evans, who gave the okay for the Sand Creek Massacre, Benjamin Franklin Wadsworth was a good guy. 

Many new arrivals to the territory died or moved on, but some thrived, becoming farmers and merchants. Ben Wadsworth was one of them. After mining didn’t pay off, he moved from Empire to this area in 1865 and settled in Ralston Point, now called Arvada. Wadsworth and friend Luis Reno watched as prospectors poured into the fertile valleys and took up farming. They decided to file for township status, and Wadsworth’s wife chose her brother-in-law’s middle name, Arvada, to name the town.

Reno left, but Wadsworth stuck around and definitely left his mark. Increasingly active in the city, he filed the first town plat for the growing city of six streets in 1870. Along Centre Street (in Olde Town Arvada), Wadsworth encouraged the growth of merchant-owned shops. He also supported a local railroad stop, a singularly important development. A regular stop meant a post office was a necessity. Because of his hand in the planning, Wadsworth was named the first postmaster and even erected the first post office building.

Benjamin Wadsworth died in 1893, a full decade before Centre Street was renamed in his honor and began appearing on maps as Wadsworth Boulevard in 1904.

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