This week's cover story, "Ghosts of Auraria," examines recent efforts, through new construction and revised master plans, to change the look and design of the Auraria campus -- and looks back at a time when the area was a thriving working-class neighborhood, one that was leveled in the early 1970s to make way for the higher education center of tomorrow. Fragments of that neighborhood still survive, but much of it is now consigned to memory. And to aging photographs.
The photos presented here are provided by local historian and architect Gregorio Alcaro; they're part of a collection belonging to Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage, a nonprofit committed to preserving the history of Auraria and the legacy of the former Casa Mayan restaurant, now part of Ninth Street Historic Park. They feature scenes of family life and neighborhood events revolving around the Casa Mayan, which evolved into a kind of cultural center offering dance and guitar lessons, literary soirees and more.
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Alcaro's grandparents, Ramon and Caroline Gonzalez, arrived in Denver from Mexico in 1919. They purchased the house on Ninth Street in 1933 and opened the Casa Mayan there in the 1940s, while continuing to live upstairs. Many families in Auraria had similar arrangements, operating businesses out of their homes. When they were forced to relocate to make way for campus construction, it was a struggle to find affordable housing -- and most of the small businesses went under. Continue for more photos of vanished Auraria. And the band played on... Other photo collections of the old neighborhood can be found in the archives of the Auraria Library and the Western History collection of the Denver Public Library. For an excellent oral history, see Where the Rivers Meet: The Story of Auraria, Colorado Through Our Eyes, by Magdalena Gallegos, Anthony J. Garcia and Daniel Valdez, which also includes the Westside Oratorio. More from our Follow That Story archive: "Auraria campus expansion: See plans for new athletic fields and more."