For the second installment of Warm Cookies of the Revolution’s Stompin’ Ground Games, the organization dedicated to civic health will celebrate the neighborhoods of southeast Denver — Virginia Village, Washington-Virginia Vale, Cook Park, Hilltop and other nooks and crannies — with a participatory program of urban storytelling and oral history on November 14 at the area’s oldest landmark, Four Mile Historic Park. Haven’t spent much time in that part of town lately, except while driving through? You’re not alone. But there are many reasons to love southeast Denver, and here are six of them:
1) Garland Park
6300 East Mississippi Avenue
Garland Park is everybody’s park. It belongs to the stroller pushers, the dog walkers, the Russian ladies, the tennis aces and volleyball spikers, the Little Leaguers, the picnickers, the radio-controlled boat enthusiasts, the Sunday bicyclists, way too many geese and all the rest of the multigenerational and multicultural denizens of Washington-Virginia Vale. We’ve sung the praises of this all-purpose park near the banks of Cherry Creek before, and we’re singing them again: With the placid duck pond Lollipop Lake as its centerpiece, Garland Park is a recreational oasis with no prejudices.
2) Les Delices des Paris
Leetsdale Center, 600 South Holly Street, #101
Southeast Denver might not be known for its classy eateries and chic boutiques — things are a little more down-to-earth along Leetsdale Drive — but it does have Les Delices, a little piece of Paris that holds its own in a nondescript strip mall at Leetsdale and Holly. The tiny pâtisserie, run by Christelle and Gerard Donat, is full of pastry, beginning with perfectly flaky, butter-laden croissants and ending with more inspired confections, from rich petit fours to full-blown cakes slathered with ganache or buttercream and layered with many secret and delicious, strictly-French ingredients.
3) Virginia Village Branch Library
1500 South Dahlia Street
The Virginia Village library got its start in a strip mall at Florida Avenue and Holly Street, where it operated as a sort of mini-library with limited services. Back in those days, its current location down the street at Florida and Dahlia was still home to one of the once-ubiquitous carnation-growing greenhouses of southeast Denver, a little reminder of the area’s agricultural past. Once it became cheaper to ship fresh carnations in from South America, where the flowers grew outdoors and didn’t require the expensive upkeep unique to greenhouses, the carnation-growers of Denver bailed. Now a busy, full-service library that draws families from the neighborhood, the VV branch operates in a building that evokes the past with a row of peaked roofs recalling the corner’s agricultural roots. What goes around comes around.
4) Burns Park
250 South Colorado Boulevard
Spread out in a green triangle at the western foot of Hilltop along Colorado Boulevard and Alameda Avenue, Burns Park is an art park, dotted with minimalist sculptures, most of them survivors of a "temporary" show placed there in 1968 as part of the Denver Sculpture Symposium, and recently refurbished. Though questions still swirl as to what the city should do about the park, which seems to be caught in a vortex of rushing traffic and encroaching urban redevelopment, we’re glad it’s there, reminding us that life is more than ferrying yourself from one big box to another.
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5) Four Mile Historic Park
715 South Forest Street
Built around the city’s oldest structure, a stage stop constructed on the banks of Cherry Creek in 1859 by the Brantner brothers and a landmark for travelers on the Cherokee Trail, Four Mile Mile Historic Park is a back-in-time treasure where folks get a look at what life was like on the Colorado plains more than a century ago. Now a living-history museum where kids can do a rain dance in a tepee, bake in an earthen oven or take a ride on a horse-drawn wagon, it’s a thriving educational reminder that there was a time when Target stores didn’t exist. Stompin’ Grounds boss Even Weissman loves it so much that he recommends attendees at Saturday’s event go early and enjoy the park first.
6) Krisana Park: East of Dahlia Street to Fairfax Street/Filbert Way, between Florida and Louisiana avenues.
Lynwood: East of Holly Street to Jasmine Street, between Mexico and Jewell avenues.
Built by H.B. Wolff in the mid-’50s, these two Virginia Village enclaves on opposite sides of Holly Street are composed of sleek, Eichler-style contemporary knockoffs built low to the ground with open kitchens and California-style privacy features. From the start these homes, though relatively modest by modern standards, were obviously a cut above the rest of the neighborhood, design-wise, and they appealed to academics and free thinkers of the time. Some of them have since undergone careful renovations aimed at preserving the mid-century style, thanks to proud owners who value their place in architectural history.
Learn more about the ‘hood and its musicians, artists, activists and storytellers at the Stompin’ Ground Games from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, November 14, at Four Mile Historic Park. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested (or bring scannable personal memorabilia of the surrounding neighborhoods for Historic Denver to scan into their collection and get in for free). Of course, warm cookies will be served. Visit Warm Cookies of the Revolution online for information.