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Shepherd's journey leads to church vote

Editor’s note: The Denver City Council on Monday night, in an 8-3 vote, agreed to grant historic designation to the former Beth Eden Church in West Highland. The church is in District 1, represented by Susan Shepherd, who explains her vote in this essay.

Highlights:

  • Guest column by Councilwoman Susan Shepherd.
  • Shepherd’s past guides her on church vote.
  • Seven other council members voted with Shepherd.

By Susan Shepherd

Special to InsideRealEstateNews

Councilwoman Susan Shepherd.

Councilwoman Susan Shepherd.

I grew up in a soulless 1960s-era suburb 18 miles east of downtown New Orleans, miles away from any vibrant commercial areas or any urban feature of interest. The houses were mostly cookie cutter one-story ranches, with slight variations of trim and color as the only distinguishing feature from one to the next.

In high school I was fortunate to attend a magnet public high school on the opposite side of town in the well-known Garden District.

I often rode the historic St. Charles street car to get to school, down a lush oak-tree lined boulevard with gracious mansions on large lots set far back from the street with verdant gardens of azaleas and magnolias.

Sometimes I also used to ride the bus down to the famous French quarter, and passed some of my free time among the 300 to 400 year old colonial structures with distinctive wrought-iron balconies, wandering in and out of cathedrals, museums, and unique specialty shops.

I barely had two nickels to rub together, but I was entertained by the plentiful and talented street entertainers of all shapes, sizes and colors.

Little did I realize how much my teenage wanderings would come to later influence my life choices and profession

Fast-forward about 25 years, as my husband and I were searching for our first home together in 
Denver.

I convinced him to move to my northwest neighborhood, and like so many, we came for the character, history, diversity, charming local businesses, and proximity to downtown.

We bought an 1891 Victorian home with high ceilings, a beautiful oak banister and lovely crown molding in the Witter-Cofield Historic District.

The home was built by Frank Reistle, one of Denver’s early engravers who had a business in the 1400 block of Lawrence Street. Many other homes in my little neighborhood have similarly interesting stories, and were carefully and lovingly researched by my neighbors who published a fascinating book on the area called Side By Side.

I deeply cherish the history and diversity of my neighborhood, which has embraced many people of all stripes throughout time, including Orthodox Jews, Italians, Irish, Mexicans, and native Americans, as well as their descendants. Like me, many of them came here searching for a better life for themselves and their families.

The stories of their triumphs, struggles and tears are indelibly etched into the buildings they left behind, from the Victorians to the bungalows to the mid-century modern homes. It is this unique tapestry of northwest Denver that continues to attract new generation of “settlers,” and with it, their unique tastes.

To the chagrin of some, many older, smaller homes have been scraped in favor of larger contemporary homes with bigger bedrooms, more bathrooms, and generous closet space.

Denver’s booming and well-diversified economy is creating many new, high-paying jobs, and attracting educated young people from all over the country, who love the amenities of our cosmopolitan city, our transportation options, and our active, outdoor lifestyle.

Northwest Denver residents are enjoying great new locally owned restaurants and shops, property values are rising quickly, and our neighborhood schools, long in decline, are benefiting from soaring enrollment and increasingly engaged parents.

We have much to be thankful for, especially since Denver recovered so quickly from the crisis of the housing bubble and the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

Many of our peer cities across the country are faring far worse.

However, the frenzied pace of the current building boom is unsettling to many, downright shocking to some.

Special and unique places are essential to good urban design, and data shows that people are attracted to places with a vibrant and exciting mix of old and new.

While we cannot control the innumerable variables that contribute to a booming economy, we must be intentional about how we grow, and I firmly believe it is our duty to both present and future generations to preserve and honor shining examples of our past.

While we continue to embrace waves of “settlers” looking for a better life of their choosing, we cannot know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been.

We each continue to weave our colorful and diverse threads into the ever-evolving and complex tapestry that is northwest Denver, but the unique attribute that makes it so strong is that no individual thread is more important than another, but all are equally cherished and honored and essential to the design.

And that demonstrates the intentionality, beauty, and grace and resiliency of our community.

It also is the reason I was proud to vote and advocate for the historic designation of the Beth Eden church near 32nd and Lowell Boulevard, so that this venerable 1931 structure may go on telling our community’s fascinating story to present and future generations.

Interested in buying a home in West Highland and want to learn what is on the market? Please visit COhomefinder.com. Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.