la alma mural

"La Alma (The Soul)" by Emanuel Martinez in 1978, located at the La Alma Recreation Center.

Denver's city council will vote on whether the La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood will become its second historic cultural district in the coming weeks.

The district designation is proposed as a way to preserve the cultural history of one of Denver’s oldest residential neighborhoods and the site of extensive Chicano history, protecting significant buildings and sites within La Alma Lincoln Park, backers said. 

“The cultural history of the neighborhood is reflected in the built environment,” said Kara Hahn with Community Planning and Development. “Its layers of history and cultural significance provide an understanding of how the site has been used by past generations and changed overtime.”

La Alma Lincoln Park community boosters have pushed for historical designation for more than four years and applied in March after a policy change made the neighborhood eligible.

In 2019, Denver updated its landmark preservation ordinance to allow landmark designations based on cultural significance. Backers say La Alma Lincoln Park qualifies as the home of important events and leaders connected to the Chicano movement.

La Alma Lincoln Park was established as a working-class neighborhood in the 1870s and 1880s, near the railroad and Burnham Yards. The current neighborhood architecture reflects the early development of the area.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the neighborhood housed much of Denver’s Chicano community and was the meeting place for community gatherings and equal rights advocacy, backers said.

“For many years La Alma Lincoln Park has been one of the pillars in our community and culture,” said Larry Martinez, a Mexican-American Denver native. “From Aztec dancers to murals, sporting events, festivals, community gatherings … La Alma Lincoln Park has been the common connection to our culture for so many in the region.”

The council land use committee unanimously approved the neighborhood’s historical cultural district designation Tuesday, moving the decision on to the full council for a final vote.

If approved by the council, La Alma Lincoln Park would be Denver’s 57th historic district and second historic cultural district. The Five Points Historic Cultural District recognizes the neighborhood’s African-American history and culture.

The designation would also be the first historic cultural district in Denver to recognize Latino, Mexican-American and Chicano residents.

The neighborhood is also significant because of its art and architecture, including historical murals and vernacular architecture such as Italianate, Victorian, front gable, terrace, foursquare and bungalow styles, Hahn said. 

“La Alma Park is one of the few neighborhoods left in Denver that still embodies traces of the Chicano movement,” said Lucha Martínez de Luna, director of the Chicano Murals of Colorado Project. “The neighborhood and murals demonstrates the close connection between place and the people, made tangible by the central role of La Alma Park in the community’s life.”

The historic cultural district would be roughly bounded by 14th Avenue on the north, Kalamath Street on the west, 10th Avenue on the south and Mariposa Street and on the west.

During the community outreach process, organizers received eight comments from organizations in support of the designation, 12 from individuals in support and two from individuals in opposition. An online survey found that 60% of respondents supported the designation, 9% were undecided and 31% opposed.

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