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The Beginnings of Westminster, Colorado

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

At the corner of West 73rd Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard in Westminster sits the remaining acreage of Shoenberg Farms. Built in 1911, Shoenberg Farms provided the necessary dairy, eggs, fresh vegetables, and poultry needed for the consumption patients of the National Jewish Hospital. Today, this historical area is being restored to maintain its historical integrity and for community use in the future.

Establishing Westminster - 1870

In the 1850s, before becoming Westminster, the area was littered with herds of buffalo and antelope, and the landscape included small marshy ponds. There is evidence in the area of Gregory Hill suggesting that the Arapaho Indians maintained a semi-permanent encampment in the area. When gold was discovered in Little Dry Camp in 1858, pioneers began migrating to the Colorado area rather than continue to California for their riches. More people came from the east after the passing of The Homestead Act of 1862.

The first recorded permanent home built in Westminster was by settler Pleasant DeSpain in 1870. He chose 160 acres of farmland in the area now established as 76th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. With his five sons at his side, the family would plant grain and maintain orchards (apple and cherry). DeSpain’s orchards would be Westminster’s true economic beginning. The area was known as DeSpain Junction and would attract settlers, forming a small farming community. Merchants would also settle, facilitating the needs of the community. The train depot would be constructed in 1881.

1920 to 1950

As Westminster began to grow, it soon became the epicenter for apple and cherry orchards in the country. People would travel from Denver in the spring to take in the beauty of the blossoming apple trees and again in the fall to purchase fruit and cider. The town built an apple house to store the fruit and make the cider, with a special railroad spur added to pick up the town’s produce and deliver it across the US.

Shaffer Orchards remained in operation until 1950 but were sold to make room for the Denver-Boulder Turnpike to be built. Madison Orchard was sold in 1922, and 725 acres of the land now make up Shaw Heights.

In the 1950s, Westminster was still considered a quiet rural town, with a population of 1,686. The town would begin booming when the Colorado State Highway Department began construction on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Completed in 1952, the turnpike would bring approximately 7,000 people through the area every day - this number would almost double by 1966. In 1951, Dow Chemical opened its Rocky Flats plant, creating more jobs and demand to the north and west of Denver. By 1953, 2,500 people would call Westminster home, with the population reaching 13,850 by 1960.

Westminster’s Historical Landmarks

The Westminster Historical Society offers a list of the historical sites in Westminster’s heritage. The current list offers 25 locations - including Shoenberg Farm, Semper Farm, Westminster’s First Town Hall, and more. The interactive map shows you the location of each historic landmark and provides information on the background of each location. Thinking about visiting historic Westminster? Use the Westminster Historical Society’s map to plan your tour of this historically rich Colorado town.

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