Saturday, October 10, 2009

The History of the Naming of Market Street

I have been working on a HUGE project all year of which I will make an announcement shortly. But it also relates to my being away from this blog. Too many obligations and too few Shawns.

Last time however, I said I would follow up with the street histories of Lower Downtown Denver. But since the history of Market Street is the most complex, I'll write that below and follow up with the rest of the streets soon. Enjoy!

Following Larimer Street, we come to Market Street.

Market and Walnut: This street has the most interesting history of any downtown. Originally known as McGaa Street, it was changed in 1866 to Holladay Street. In 1858, William McGaa had been entrusted by Charles Nichols to safeguard the town claim for Saint Charles while he went back to eastern Kansas territory to officially file the town claim. No sooner had Nichols left, then William Larimer arrived on the scene. McGaa ignored the Saint Charles interests and helped Larimer name the early streets of the city. Because he was living with the Arapahoe Indians, he insisted on naming one street for himself (and others for his wife (s)). Along with Larimer, he is most responsible for the street naming system of downtown Denver. Unfortunately for McGaa, small town politics got in the way of his legacy. When he became known as the town drunk, city fathers voted to remove his name from the street in favor of Benjamin Holladay. He was the savior of Denver in the 1860s for choosing the city as the terminus for the stage coach over rival Auraria. So popular was he that the city felt justified in naming the street in his honor. The oldest building remaining in downtown Denver in fact was the stage headquarters at the southwest corner of 15th and Market (Holladay!). This building dates from 1868-72. Anyhow, by the 1880s, Denver was booming and dear Holladay Street had become the center of the city's red light district. The shocked Holladay family petitioned the city to remove their name from this street and the city complied, renaming it Market. While there were legitimate wholesale markets along the street, the more interesting flesh market was known all throughout the west, remaining a legitimate business until reform moved it underground around 1915. Furthermore, residents who lived wholesome lives north of 23rd Street (Park Avenue) and south of Cherry Creek in Auraria (west Denver) were offended to be associated with such a bawdy street as Market. They petitioned the city between 1899 and 1903 to have their sections renamed Walnut Street, a name that remains in place today. This is one of the only places in Denver where adjacent streets have two different names.


Jeff Smith said...

Very interesting Shawn. Glad to see your return.

Anonymous said...

My great grandfather Thomas S McMurray was mayor of Denver 1895-99. We have donated two large scrapbooks to the Denver Historical Library of the all of newspaper articles-pro and con-You will find them fascinating--Where can I buy Denver Pen and Pictures 1898? Marshall Schmidt---