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La Alma Lincoln Park becomes Denver's second historic cultural district
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“La Alma,” painted by Emanuel Martinez in 1978, is a mural on an exterior wall of La Alma Recreation Center at 11th and Mariposa.
“La Alma,” painted by Emanuel Martinez in 1978, is a mural on an exterior wall of La Alma Recreation Center at 11th and Mariposa.

DENVER — Denver City Council voted August 2 to designated the La Alma Lincoln Park (LALP) neighborhood as a historic cultural district. Before the vote, Five Points was the only Denver neighborhood with such a designation.

The vote was unanimous.

“Thrilled with the support of Denver City Council!” District 3 Councilwoman Jamie Torres tweeted after the vote. “Thank you to all the orgs and residents who have been working on the La Alma/Lincoln Park Cultural Historic District for ~5 years!”

Torres’ district includes LALP.

According to Historic Denver, a nonprofit that provided grant money for historical neighborhood research back in 2016, LALP became home to a large Hispanic/Latino population by the mid-20th century. Many influential members of the Chicano Movement lived in the area.

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In the spring of 1969, when Denver high school students protested the lack of equity in education for Hispanic/Latino students by marching through the neighborhood over the course of many days, they “made Lincoln Park historically important ground for Chicanos/as rights in Denver, and further made the La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood an incubator for the Chicano Movement.”

A closeup of Martinez' "La Alma," painted in 1978 and restored a couple times over the years.

There is a difference between historic districts and historic cultural districts. Denver has 55 historic districts, which highlight the history and architecture of an area. But the cultural districts, as Historic Denver puts it, “honor the cultural history of a community and acknowledge the important contributions these neighborhoods have made to Denver.”

The boundaries of the neighborhood.

Preservation was a major motivating factor for the people and organizations working to make LALP a historic cultural district. For years, the Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project (CMCP) has been working to preserve Chicano/a street art in Colorado. LALP hosts many of these iconic murals. One of the most recognizable pieces is “La Alma,” painted by Emanuel Martinez in 1978. The large mural is located on an exterior wall of La Alma Recreation Center at 11th and Mariposa.

Establishing a cultural district in LALP would help preserve this art, as well as protect old homes in the neighborhood. Historic Denver says most of the homes in the neighborhood were built between 1879 and 1889.

The new designation means that new construction in the neighborhood will have to gel with the historic architecture.

“It doesn’t make it impossible to do upgrades, renovate or make additions,” Torres told The Denver Post. “It just has to then go through this design criteria.”

Historic Denver compiled a helpful “Frequently Asked Questions” page on what the new designation would mean for residents in LALP. For example, residents will still be able to paint their house any color they want or renovate the interior. However, things like adding a garage, changing windows or doors, and enlarging the home would have to be reviewed by the Denver Landmark Commission.

The Landmark Commission would also have to approve any demolitions. Read more of the FAQs here.

The new designation for LALP comes about four months after the application was first filed.


Kyle Cooke is the Digital Media Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

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