Maybe you’re entertaining a curious child or an inquisitive visitor when you realize you don’t know the answer: Why does Denver have a Speer Boulevard?
Denverite has you covered. This weekly feature will bring you bits of Denver history in its most accessible form — its streets.
Robert W. Speer is the simplest reason for the name.
Denver’s 26th mayor was a big proponent of the “City Beautiful” movement, and therefore responsible for many of Denver’s best known features today — Civic Center, its trees, the park at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and, of course, Speer Boulevard.
The idea behind City Beautiful was to make Denver into a commercial hub by making the city into a work of art with trees, parks, fountains and more, according to Phil Goodstein’s The Denver Civic Center.
So to make the city more beautiful, Speer hired the famed George Kessler to redesign the street that is now Speer Boulevard.
Among the priorities: the removal of shanties and industrial ruins along the creek and the stabilization of its embankment, according to The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
But the boulevard grew to include features to enhance the pedestrian experience. For example, “several small, triangular parks were designed at cross street intersections with Speer Boulevard,” according to the Kessler Society of Kansas City. (Hm, sounds a bit like a big crazy idea I once heard.)
That still doesn’t quite explain who started calling it Speer Boulevard. Goodstein writes in his book that Speer owned much of the land along the boulevard, for one. But it seems the name was codified by his city council.
“Shortly after the completion of the road along the stream in 1908, city council, a body completely dominated by Speer, declared the street ‘Speer Boulevard,'” he wrote in The Denver Civic Center.
Correction: This article originally misstated the former mayor’s name.