Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

LoDo one of country's 10 great neighborhoods, even if no one knows how it came to be

Yesterday, the American Planning Association officially named LoDo as one of its 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2010 -- even if the Washington, D.C.- and Chicago-based nonprofit has a rather unusual view of the history of that neighborhood: "Founded by General William Larimer, Jr., in 1858, LoDo was originally the birthplace of Denver," the APA announcement reports. But here's the real lowdown on LoDo:

True, Larimer founded a town on November 22, 1858 on the east side of Cherry Creek -- 21 days after another group of miners founded Auraria on the other side of the Platte. But Larimer was a better promoter: "I am Denver City," pronounced the general (who'd taken up that title while in the Pennsylvania State Militia) in a display of braggadocio that also managed to suck up to James Denver, then the governor of the Kansas Territory, which included the new settlement.

But Larimer didn't dream up the nickname "LoDo" for the Lower Downtown section of Denver. That didn't come until 1983, when then-Denver Post writer Dick Kreck first labeled the old warehouse area between Union Station and Larimer Square as "LoDo" in his column. "Dana Crawford hated it," Kreck remembers, referencing the preservationist whose creation of Larimer Square in 1969 rates a listing in the "strong leadership" section of the APA announcement. "She thought it was demeaning to the neighborhood."

But Lower Downtown was a tough neighborhood to demean at the time -- and the LoDo name caught on quickly.

Five years later, the area became an official historic district, with its own organization, the LoDo District.

And today, LoDo is officially one of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2010. Even if no one can remember how it got that way.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun