Cheesman Park is one of Denver’s oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods. It was annexed in 1883 by the city of Denver and by the early 1900’s some of the city’s wealthiest people began construction of stately homes and mansions that would surround the park. In the 1930’s, the attraction of the neighborhood caused it to become denser with the construction of many apartment buildings. Today, weather permitting, you’ll find the area vibrant with young and old in the park playing kickball, volleyball, lounging with a good book, or practicing yoga. It’s probably one of the happeningest parks in all of Denver.
The history of Cheesman is an interesting one. It actually began as Mt. Prospect Cemetery, with the first burial in 1859. The cemetery was segregated by religions, ethnicities and fraternal organizations like the Society of Masons, Jewish, Catholics, and those of Chinese descent. The cemetery’s edge soon became home to paupers, vagrants and outlaws. As a result, the graveyard was not maintained and became an eyesore especially to those high society individuals bordering the park.
In 1872, it was determined to be a piece of federal land that was deeded in 1860 by the Arapahoe Indians and the government soon sold the land to the City of Denver for $200. By 1890 the cemetery grew into deeper disrepair and Senator Henry Moore Teller presented a case to US Congress to allow the graveyard to be converted to a park.
Families were given 90 days to remove the bodies of their loved ones to other locations. Those who could afford it began to transfer bodies to other cemeteries throughout the city and elsewhere. By 1893, many of the paupers and outlaws bodies were left unclaimed resulting in the City of Denver awarding a contract to an undertaker to remove the remains. The job began orderly until the undertaker, E.P. McGovern, saw an opportunity to increase his profitability. Unscrupulously, he elected to bury the remains in cheaper child-size coffins. The bodies were made to fit by sawing them into pieces. It is believed the individuals’ remains were scattered into up to three caskets. Soon the disorganization drew hunters who looted the open graves and coffins. As soon as the health commissioner got wind of the heinous act the contract was terminated and a new one was never granted. The account lends itself to many ghost stories and haunted tales, with supposed sightings of children playing or sad ghosts showing up on the doorstep of some of surrounding homes. Since record keeping of bodies are shoddy at best, it is believed that hundreds of bodies still remain under the grounds of the Park. http://paranormalstories.blogspot.com/2005/10/cheesman-park.html
In 1909 the Pavillion, inspired by the Acropolis in Athens, began construction. Alice Cheesman, the widow of Denver water baron Walter Cheesman, commissioned the structure built of white Colorado marble. In exchange, the city agreed to rename the area Cheesman Park. It was hailed as Denver’s “temple in the sun”. The building is home to occasional weddings, ballroom dancing, and other functions hosted by the City of Denver. The park is located at 8th and Humboldt and is worth a visit!