Olde Town Walking Tour

There's gold in Arvada. It's not exactly a guarded secret, but until recently only a lucky few, locals mostly, knew of its existence. Now, the word is out and the rush is on. The story of the Olde Town National Historic District, as told in this “virtual tour”, is available to one and all.

Arvada's past can be summed up with three words: gold, grain, and groceries. Lewis Ralston discovered gold near the confluence of Clear and Ralston creeks on June 22, 1850. Ralston returned to Colorado eight years later, helping to ignite the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Since gold mining rarely panned out, prospectors exchanged picks for plows and established a farming community called Ralston Point near the original discovery site. When the Colorado Central Railroad built its Golden-to-Denver line in 1870, Benjamin Wadsworth established a post office and named the town after his brother-in-law, Hiram Arvada Haskin.

Farming became Arvada's economic base. In 1926 entrepreneur Eugene Benjamin capitalized on the region's abundant wheat crops by building a steel-clad flour mill near the bustling downtown commercial district. The Arvada Historical Society restored the Mill, placed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and now operates it as a museum. In 1947, on the cusp of Arvada's post-World War II population boom, Lloyd King opened a grocery store in downtown Arvada. This first King Soopers launched a grocery empire. Four years later, Arvada's population reached 2,359 and it migrated from "town" to "city."

Olde Town's streets and buildings distinguish Arvada from other suburban cities. Visitors will find structures built in a broad range of architectural styles, from the late 1800s to early 20th-century commercial and residential, reflecting the natural evolution of the community. One and two story brick businesses stand beside Gothic Revival and Queen Anne homes converted into shops. The Town Square and the Romanesque Revival Shrine of Saint Anne Catholic Church further separates Olde Town Arvada from the strip malls associated with Denver's suburbs.

Arvada is unique in the nation: the original commercial district is flanked by two original residential districts - Reno Park to the west and Stocke-Walter to the east. In many cities, these original residential districts have been demolished. Visit these virtual tours to learn the stories of the people who built Arvada into the wonderful place that we love today.

Interpretive panels throughout the district cover topics from transportation to building styles through the years of Arvada’s development. Some have "pages" like giant books. A printed brochure, available from the Arvada Historical Society and merchants, supplements information from the panels. In 2012, a new panel was added to commemorate the excellence of Arvada’s fire protection, especially the pivotal role of Arvada’s volunteer fire department in saving "our town" from the Metz Lumber Fire in 1960 which nearly destroyed this historical treasure.

Today's prospectors, searching for a good place to eat or shop, need only look for the Water Tower, visible from Interstate 70 or the Wadsworth Bypass. It leads to a veritable gold mine of locally-owned restaurants and shops. And the more observant fortune-seekers just might notice shiny ingots embedded in the sidewalks, reminders of Arvada's golden beginnings.

Acknowledgments:
State Historical Fund - grant to the City of Arvada for the Olde Town Walking Tour brochure
Arvada Historical Society - for information in the Walking Tour brochure
Arvada Urban Renewal Authority - for the period streetscape

Arva-Pride Flour Mill

5590 Wadsworth Blvd - Built in 1926 by Eugene Benjamin on land that he leased from the Colorado & Southern Railroad for $48 a year. The workers used only hand tools to dig the basement and built the mill. He called his building…

The Arvada Water Tower

The Arvada Water Tower has been a local landmark since 1910, when it began operations. Before it was constructed, citizens hauled their water from creeks and ditches. There were only a few known wells, which were expensive to dig, and they required…

First National Bank & Fuller Block

7530 Grandview Ave. - Built in 1903, originally of locally manufactured red brick similar to that of other buildings in the area. The tile facade was added in the late 1930's or early 1940's to update the appearance. In its early days,…

The Nicolino Building

Built in 1925. Marcello Nicolino purchased the Continental Oil Company on the corner and the Reno property, razed the old Reno home, and built a two-story brick structure on the site. In July, Dawson and Dawson opening the first "serve yourself…

A. L. Davis Block

7535 Grandview Ave. and 5642-5630 Wadsworth Blvd. - In 1916, A.L. Davis, owner of the first automobile dealership in town, built the two-story building between Grandview and the alley to the north to house his Dodge Brothers and Chevrolet automobile…

The Arvada School

5650 Wadsworth Blvd - This land was deeded to School District No. 2 in 1876 by Benjamin Wadsworth when the First Arvada School, a frame one-room schoolhouse was built. It had a seating capacity of about 50. It was replaced by this brick school house,…

Eustice House

Built for his family in 1893 by Thomas Eustice, a miner from Silver Plume who developed "miners consumption" and needed to relocate to lower altitude. In later years, this was the home and medical office of Dr. Richard Russell. He was an…

Greene House

Built in 1889 by Dr. Edward Greene, an osteopath, this small building served as his residence and office until 1904. This was a rather typical family home of this time period. In 1940 Marquis Johnson operated the Johnson and Son Insurance Company…

Arvada Electric Company

Built in 1939 with two storefronts, the local electric company occupied the south side. Through the 1960's, the north side of the building housed a cold storage and food locker plant with more than 300 individual food lockers, each 5.5 cubic…

Clear Creek Valley Grange

Built in 1874, this building is the second oldest grange hall in the United States and is the oldest remaining building in Olde Town Arvada. The Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry was a national organization founded to help farmers. The hall was used…

Albers Funeral Home

Built in 1940, Herman Albers operated his funeral home until 1963 in this building. It was also the Albers family home.

Arvada Methodist Church

The land for this structure was donated by B.F. Wadsworth. The Methodist Episcopal congregation was organized in 1870. They met at the grange hall until funds were acquired to build the original structure. The first service was held in the church in…

Arvada Navy Surplus

Originally built for Safeway in 1939, the structure burned down and was rebuilt to the same specification in 1989. It was constructed so that pillars were not necessary to support it. It was the first grocery store in Arvada with refrigerated cases…

Dutch Inn Building

In 1933 the prohibition enforcement bill was amended to legalize 3.2 beer. This was the site of the Dutch Inn, the first issued beer license was given to Adrian Klein, who opened the Inn. It had the dirt floor from the previous blacksmith business,…

Primo Vino

Built in 1934 to replace the original building (1904) which was destroyed by fire. From early on to 1935 it served as a Blacksmith shop which was the demise of it. It was the home of Wadsworth Liquors from 1946 to 1962.

Rheinlander Bakery

Built in 1910, used as George Scott Hardware. This was the Telephone office from 1919 to 1952 housing the switchboard equipment and operating staff. It has been a bakery since. 1957.

Steve's Meat Market

Built in 1913 as a livery stable and served as one up until about 1931 when a blacksmith was added. From 1934 to 1948 it served only as a Blacksmith and Arvada Iron Works. Later businesses included Arvada Tire, Battery and Bake and Lincoln Cab.

Ashton Motor Company Building

Built in 1933, Ralph Ashton housed his automobile dealership here, which he started across the street at 5757 Wadsworth. Ashton was an inventor, businessman and civic leader who served on the Town Board and the Chamber of Commerce. Financing for the…

Craig-Frederick Chevrolet Building

Built in 1946 and 1957 by Ralph Ashton for Fred Craig and C.T. Frederick, the building housed their automobile agency when it moved from Golden. Art Moderne style with minor alterations.

Shrine of St. Anne Catholic Church

Built in 1922 by a 50 member parish and has been a Catholic church since its inception. In 1924, the Ku Klux Klan marched to St. Anne's and burned a cross on the church property. The Klan attempted to deal with the influx of immigrants while…

McIlvoy House

7307 Grandview Ave. - Built in 1897 by Dennis D. and Clemency McIlvoy, this residence was surrounded by beautiful gardens. In 1919, after Dennis' death, Clemency donated her home and grounds to the town of Arvada intended to always be used for…

Wilson House

Built in 1889 by Major W.H. and Mary Wilson, this grand wood frame house was "...one of the most conspicuous buildings along the Colorado Central railroad." (Denver Republican, November 1889). After the Major died, Marie Moore purchased the…

Foster House

Built in 1889, this housed served as home and practice for early Arvada doctors. Harry T. Hallock practiced here until 1902 when he sold his home and practice to Dr. Richard Russell. Dr. Russell also operated a drug store which was located next door…

Wiebelt Building

Built in 1903 by Theodore Wiebelt. He operated a pool hall on the first floor and the second floor was home to his family. Many businesses to follow included the Arvada State Bank, Arvada Post Office, mercantile, barbershop and grocery store.…

7411-7425 Block

These four buildings were constructed between 1885 and 1895 and look very much the same as they did in 1909. They housed an array of early businesses. All are 19th Century style except 7411-15 which is Neo-Victorian.

Barth Building

Built in 1898 by A. H. Barth, this building was the town's first two story brick commercial building. It is the only commercial building with its original cast iron front remaining. The first floor was a grocery and hardware store, then just…

Nolan Building

Built in 1908 of brick from the Denver Shale & Brick Company (north of Arvada) this structure was a major commercial building housing mainly Arvada's longest operating business, Arvada Pharmacy. The business was known as Rexall and owned by…

Metz Lumber Fire

On a lovely, clear day, May 14, 1960, a massive plume of black smoke arose from the center of Arvada - the Metz Lumber Company was ablaze! The smoke could be seen throughout the Denver Metro area and drew huge crowds of onlookers. The Arvada…