Thursday, September 27, 2007

Street Name Histories

With so much to talk about within the realm of downtown Denver history and Denver history in general, it is difficult to pick just one subject. Careful research is required on such topics in order to present accurate information. One aspect of our downtown history that is more readily accessible and, for the most part, that has remained with us from the very beginning of the city's founding, are the street names. Most of the street names for Denver City that were given back in 1858/1859 are still in place. The city was founded by General William Larimer, and with the help of William McGaa, the streets were laid out and named after other members of the Denver City Town Company. We can think of our streets as honoring the "City Fathers" and also for the Indians they supplanted. The named streets downtown generally follow a pattern of one founder name with an Indian name to follow. The streets we know today as numbered streets, such as 16th Street, were originally labeled as letters of the alphabet. Sixteenth Street, for example, was known originally as "G" Street. More information about these patterns will be periodically discussed here. Today, I will give you a bit of information on one of those early founders of Denver, Edward Wanshear Wynkoop.

Mr. Wynkoop was, among other things, the first sheriff for Arapahoe County. The street that now faces Union Station downtown was named in his honor. He was later on active duty during the Civil War as part of the Colorado contingent of volunteers. He was then posted at Fort Riley, Kansas during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. The leader of that atrocity, Colonel John Chivington, was later investigated by Wynkoop and others. While many condemned Chivington, others condemned Wynkoop and his ilk as Indian sympathizers. Through it all, his name remained on his street, even though he didn't remain in Denver. He died in Santa Fe in 1891.

Many today wonder what the correct pronunciation of the street is. According to Phil Goodstein, in his book Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic (Denver: New Social Publications, 1994), the sheriff pronounced his name as Wine-koop. Today, the pronunciation is all over the board, some saying Wine-koop, others saying Win-koop.

All historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

1 comment:

jenn p. said...

I'm moving to Denver from Chicago in a month and just visited last weekend. Both cities have a rich history in it's streets and are laid out in grids. It's really interesting to know that the names switch between founders and Indians. Do you know anything about Beeler street? I have a friend with that name, but spelled Beehler, and it isn't very common.