Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District

Self-guided Sidewalk History Tour

Photo provided by the Lakewood Heritage Center

Villa Italia 1966-2001
NW Corner of Alameda and Teller
History: Looking south across Alameda stood the vast Villa Italia Mall built by developer Gerri Von Frellick. Upon completion in 1966 “Villa” was over 500,000 square feet, making it one of the largest enclosed malls in the world. With its distinctive Italian design Villa became a prime shopping destination in the Denver region and the symbolic center and gathering place of the new City of Lakewood incorporated in 1969. After a period of decline in the late 1990’s Villa closed in 2001 and was demolished in 2002. One part of the original mall can still be seen today, the Foley’s Department Store building was repurposed as the Belmar Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Belmar est. 2004
SE Corner of Alameda and Teller
History: As Villa Italia declined the City opted to take action and start looking for a developer to help them imagine how a mall might one day evolve into a real downtown. This process eventually led the city to Continuum Partners and a remarkable public-private partnership was formed to give the property new life and once again transform the area. From the ruins of the deteriorating Villa Italia mall arose Belmar. The new 22-city block downtown designed in the style of a mid-twentieth century industrial streetscape included over 50 new buildings laid out on a brand-new network of streets and sidewalks with a plaza and ice rink at its center. Today Belmar is the thriving heart of Lakewood!

Photo provided by the Lakewood Heritage Center

Belmar Mansion 1937-1973
Location: NE Corner of Alameda and Teller
History: In 1933 May Bonfils-Stanton, heiress to the Denver Post newspaper fortune, inherited 10 acres of land on Kountze Lake to the southwest across Wadsworth. In 1937 she built the stately 20 room Belmar Mansion with 10 acres of magnificently landscaped grounds. The mansion, built of concrete covered with terra cotta glaze to resemble marble, was designed as a replica of Marie Antoinette’s Petite Trianon Chateau. The mansion was torn down in 1971 but the gates still stand near the entrance to the Lakewood Heritage Center and original boat house is preserved in Belmar Park.

Belmar Farms 1933-1962
Location: NW Corner of Alameda and Teller
History: The area of Belmar you see to the south was once part of Belmar Farms created by May-Bonfils on the land surrounding her estate, primarily as a hobby farm and to further protect her privacy. She raised Black Angus cattle and prized Suffolk sheep, milk cows and chickens and oats and barley in the outlying fields. May entered some of her finest livestock in the Colorado State Fair. She also created a private nature preserve on her estate with a herd of deer and peacocks. Some of the original Belmar Farms buildings are preserved today in Belmar Park including the calving barn, auction house and caretaker’s cottage.

Photo courtesy of the Lakewood Police Department, circa 1971

City of Lakewood Incorporation 1969
Location: SW Corner of Alameda and Wadsworth
History: The largely rural area that ultimately became Lakewood changed dramatically during WWII when wartime production at the Denver Ordinance Plant (now Denver Federal Center) brought extraordinary population growth. This trend continued after the war with construction of numerous subdivisions. The population of Jefferson County grew by 80% during the 1940’s and doubled again in the 1950’s. In June 1969 the City of Lakewood incorporated by vote of the people after several failed attempts dating back to 1947. The new city spanned 26-square miles and created one of the largest incorporations in the country at that time.

Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District (ACBID)
Location: SE Corner of Alameda and Wadsworth
History: The Alameda Corridor Business improvement District was established by Lakewood City ordinance in 2003 to improve the West Alameda area from Sheridan to Carr Street. Within the corridor business property owners voted to tax themselves to make their community cleaner, safer and more vibrant. ACBID continues to serve the area through numerous public art installations, landscaping, public event sponsorships and support for community organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jefferson County.

A screenshot of this undated historic photograph submitted to the National Register of Historic Places pictures life around the Schnell farm. (Photo from the National Register of Historic Places

Schnell Farms. Photo from the National Register of Historic Places

Lakewood Agricultural Heritage
Location: NE Corner of Alameda and Wadsworth
History: Lakewood’s agricultural roots dates to its earliest settlers in the 1860’s. Apple orchards, dairies and turkey farms once dotted the largely treeless area of West Alameda. One of the most prominent farms in this area was the O’Kane Farm and Harp Dairy located to the northeast at West First Avenue between Teller and Newland streets. The original O’Kane farmhouse dating to the 1890’s can be seen today preserved at O’Kane Park. As late as the 1940’s it was not uncommon to see ranching families like the Peterson’s drive their cattle to market along the sides of West Alameda.

Alameda Ave. Extension Project WPA 1935-1937
Location: NW Corner of Alameda and Wadsworth
History: In the midst of the Great Depression in 1935, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) started work on the Alameda Extension Project connecting Denver with Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. Denver Parks Department Director George Cramner had envisioned West Alameda Avenue as a beautiful, tree-lined boulevard. 5000 men labored by hand for 2 years to build the road, which officially opened in 1937 and is commemorated with a plaque located at the northwest corner of Alameda and Sheridan. To the west, WPA crews uncovered dinosaur tracks today protected as part of Dinosaur Ridge National Natural Landmark.

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