History Colorado's Denver A to Z is designed to stir up interest in this city's story, but the interactive displays linked to letters of the alphabet is a real snooze — and a historically inaccurate nap, at that. Zombies? Would it have been so tough to cook up a heartier mix of history? Here's our alternative to HC's offerings (in italics):
A is for Altitude
Not Adrenaline: Even before Coloradans passed Amendment 64, Denver had earned its label as the Mile High City. Its location at exactly 5,280 feet is confirmed by a plaque on the Capitol steps — and the shortness of breath experienced by anyone visiting this city from the flatlands.
B is for Beer
Not Public Art/Blue Bear: Long before Denver was dubbed the Napa Valley of Beer, it was renowned for its beer-makers. Today there are more than 160 breweries devoted to craft beer (not microbrews, HC's obsolete term).
C is for Cowtown
History Colorado got this one right: Denver started as a cowtown, and will always be a cowtown. We're in the West: "Embrace it."
D is for Dinosaurs
Not Devoted Bronco Fans — and definitely not Dino, the worst mascot in professional sports: Dinosaurs once roamed this part of the earth. At Dinosaur Ridge, you can walk along the ripples left by Colorado's ocean lapping along Morrison's sandy beaches.
E is for Elitch's
Not Emergency: When Elitch Gardens decided to leave its almost-century-old home in northwest Denver in favor of the Platte Valley, it wanted a financial assist from Denver — and wooed voters to approve $14.9 million in bonds with the slogan "Vote for Elitch's — It's Denver." Two dozen years and several owners later, Elitch's is a downtown landmark, and the only urban amusement park in the country.
F is for Football
Not Fudge: Roll out the Barrel Man! The unceasing popularity of the Denver Broncos has definitely earned this team a spot in Colorado history. But does History Colorado really have to resort to cajoling visitors into donning barrel costumes in commemoration of one of the game's most devoted — and naked — fans?
G is for Gold
Not Go, or Union Station: The discovery of gold inspired the establishment of Denver in late 1858, and led to the Rush to the Rockies the next year. The gold soon played out in Denver — but the town remained.
H is for Hamburger
Not "Hate It or Love It": Louis Ballas claimed to have invented the cheeseburger at his Humpty-Dumpty drive-in in 1935; a monument on Speer Boulevard marks the spot. Dubious as that claim may be, there's no question that the Mexican hamburger was invented in Denver — at Joe's Buffet on Santa Fe Drive in the late '60s. And in his book Taco USA, Gustavo Arellano calls it "the dish that best personifies the Mexican-American experience."
I is for Indica
Not Intersection (or Five Points): Welcome to the really Mile High City.
J is for Jaywalking
Not Joy (or Casa Bonita): A true Western city, Denver went directly from cow to car — and many traffic-related innovations. The Denver Boot was invented here sixty years ago; around the same time, a city traffic engineer created the Barnes Dance, which allowed people to cross downtown streets on the diagonal. The Barnes Dance was finally retired last year — but sadly, jaywalking remains a city no-no.
K is for Ku Klux Klan
Not Knockout: In the '20s, the Ku Klux Klan threw a white sheet over much of this town. Clarence Morley was elected governor in 1924 on a campaign that included the slogan "Every Man Under the Capitol Dome a Klansman," and, in fact, the Klan controlled the State Assembly.
L is for Light
Not Lasting (St. Cajetan's): Denver tourism boosters tout this city's 300 days of sunshine. But that's only by a very generous count: While about 300 days have at least one hour of sunshine, only about 115 days per year fit the classic definition of "clear."
M is for Mountains
Not Microbrews: Rain, sun, sleet or snow, the Rocky Mountains create an incredible backdrop for the Mile High City, with 54 peaks rising over 14,000 feet. Without them, we doubt we'd look like Omaha — but we wouldn't want to try life without them, either.
N is for Nuggets
Not Near and Dear (Mountains): These days, the most valuable nuggets are not the ones early miners panned out of steams and carved out of rocks. No, they're members of the Denver Nuggets, the basketball team that just won eight in a row...without Carmelo.
O is for Outdoors
Not One & Only (Red Rocks): Sure, Denver has history (and history museums), arts and amenities. But it also has an incredible setting that's truly the great outdoors.
P is for Parks
Not Prepared: Denver loves its parks, including the two dozen mountain parks that this city was smart enough to start acquiring a century ago. Two have their own buffalo herds, one its own ski resort, and the most famous an amphitheater that's the envy of cities around the world: Red Rocks.
Q is for Queen City of the Plains
Not Quality (Air): In the 1800s, Denver was known as the Queen City of the Plains, a center of agriculture. A century later, it earned the nickname when it attracted gays from across the Rocky Mountain West with its open skies and open acceptance of the gay lifestyle.
R is for Railroads
Not Renewal: Fast work by some city boosters who built a branch line to Cheyenne in 1868, when the railroads decided to pass this city by, kept Denver from turning into an isolated backwater. That spirit lives on in RTD's light rail and FasTracks — and the renovated Union Station that will be unveiled next year.
S is for Sand Creek Massacre
Not Silver: Members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, whose ancestors were killed by Colonel John Chivington's troops on November 29, 1864, continue to request that History Colorado close Collision: The Sand Creek Massacre from 1860s to Today, calling the exhibit inaccurate and insulting ("Collision," February 14). So far, their request has been denied.
T is for Tabor
Not Triceratops: This letter goes to another dinosaur: Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or Tabor, which voters passed in 1992 and still has this state's budget tied up in knots.
U is for Uranium
Not Us: After the turn of the last century, uranium mining took off — and so did the processing of uranium into radium, which became a boom industry in Denver. In the late '70s, the Environmental Protection Agency combined over thirty radium-processing sites across Denver — including Capitol Hill streets that had been paved with dirt contaminated by radium — into a massive SuperFund site.
V is for Verde
Not Variety: Green chile, or verde, could be this town's true liquid asset — a gravy-like variation on the thin brew of New Mexico.
W is for Water
Not "Why are you here?": Wars have been fought over water in the West, and the battles will continue in the Great American Desert. But at least Denver Water rates among the top public taps in the country.
X is for X-rated
Not Xplore: The late Linda Lovelace, star of the legendary 1972 porn film Deep Throat, didn't make a penny on the film, which grossed over $600 million. In 1990 she moved to Denver and launched an anti-porn crusade.
Y is for Yosemite
Not "You decide": Yosemite is the street that divides Denver from Aurora — and under the former DA of Arapahoe County, separated a one-year term for a crack bust (Denver) from a 48-year habitual-criminal charge (Aurora).
Z is for Zebulon Pike
Not Zombies: We know zombies are hot — but they're hardly historic. Why not dig up a real figure from Colorado's past? Zebulon Pike led the Pike Expedition in 1806-7, exploring the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase and discovering the mountain that today is known as Pikes Peak. Or bust.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.