A 1950s Postcard Road Trip Through Denver’s Urban Parks

1950s postcard of the Mile High City

On a warm summer day in the late 1950s, a family visiting from out of town embarks on a day of sightseeing in Denver’s urban parks and botanic gardens. Welcoming them at each stop are flowering trees, warbling birds, sociable honeybees, and locals enjoying the Colorado sunshine. Follow along through postcards from the 1950s as they make their way through Washington Park, City Park, Cheesman Park, and the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Washington Park

1950s postcard of Washington Park boathouse in Denver, Colorado
Greetings from the idyllic Washington Park, where we were met with wonderful sights such as a perennial garden in full bloom and a grassy meadow with honeybees rummaging through pink clover blossoms. At a charming lake flanked by a boathouse and bathhouse, we saw swimmers splashing in the water and enjoying the summer day, while mallard ducks dabbled along the shoreline. We also came upon the park’s lawn bowling green, where members of Denver’s Croquet Club were engaged in light competition.

Denver Botanic Gardens

1950s Postcard of Denver Botanic Gardens in Denver, Colorado
Denver’s lovely botanic gardens welcomed us with a spectacular profusion of floral beds, and hundreds of varieties of plants, trees and flowers. A truly colorful spot in the “City of Green.” Meandering along dirt paths, some lined with blooming crabapple trees, we enjoyed a curated collection of rose bushes (many quite fragrant), a rock garden representing flora from Colorado’s high mountains, and a peaceful stream leading to a storybook lily pond, where lily pads of varying size floated lazily upon the still waters.

Cheesman Park

1950s postcard of Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado
Neighboring the Botanic Gardens is Cheesman Park, with its grand Memorial Pavilion—a marble replica of an ancient Greek Temple that overlooks a long slope of green lawns and flowerbeds, and enjoys a view of the mountains in the distance. Listening to the birds warble in the trees, the sunlight shimmering upon the grass, we felt this must be one of the most serene settings in all of Denver; a place where one could spread out a blanket for an afternoon picnic and enjoy the gradual passage of the day.

City Park

1950s Postcard of City Park Panorama in Denver, Colorado

The view of the Rocky Mountains from City Park is one of the most spectacular in Denver. At the foot of the park are a calm lake and elegant pavilion, and in the distance, a snowy range of which Mount Evans is the highest point. Incredible to imagine that one may glimpse the peak from here in the morning, and arrive at its summit by car before night. We hope to visit the historic museum (opened in 1908) on a future visit, where a collection of rare minerals, cultural artifacts, and exotic fauna are featured.

Beacon Supper Club

1950s postcard of Beacon Supper Club in Denver, Colorado
After a pleasurable day of touring Denver’s urban parks and botanic gardens, our stomachs were growling and it was time to eat dinner. A local recommended the Beacon Supper Club, Denver’s original seafood cocktail bar. It struck us a strange suggestion at first—seafood in a landlocked state!—but the delicious cuisine and congenial atmosphere served up by our hosts, “Willie” Hartzell and “Jerry” Bakke, did not disappoint. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

See The Sights Today

Washington Park, Cheesman Park, and City Park are the jewels of Denver’s urban parks system. Tended grounds replete with trails meandering through groves of trees, gardens abloom, and duck-filled lakes can be discovered at each, along with opportunities for recreation and picnics. At the Denver Botanic Gardens, visitors are enchanted by mature theme gardens and a grand conservatory. The Beacon Supper Club, however, no longer exists.

Washington Park

The boathouse of Washington Park in Denver, Colorado

Washington Park is home to the largest meadow and floral summer beds in Denver’s urban parks system, along with two beautiful lakes (where swimming is no longer allowed), and a historic Boat House. Romantic trails meander through the park’s deciduous trees, while a paved path popular amongst walkers and cyclists curves through the interior. Tennis and basketball courts, picnic sites, and playgrounds offer parkgoers a range of activities.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens Lily Pond in Denver, Colorado

Denver Botanic Gardens features a rich collection of horticultural gems throughout their myriad theme gardens. Often cited favorites include the Lilac Garden, Sacred Earth Garden, Victorian Secret Garden, and O’Fallon Perennial Walk. In the conservatory, visitors can explore a rainforest with an abundance of tropical flora, and view rotating art exhibits. During the warmer months, outdoor concerts at the sunken amphitheatre are a popular attraction.

Cheesman Park

Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado

Cheesman Park, a place of tranquility with its grand pavilion and acres of tended meadows, heirloom rose gardens, and native trees, has an unexpectedly dark past. Denver’s first cemetery was located on the land where Cheesman Park is situated today. According to local legend, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of burials remain undisturbed, parkgoers unaware of the history beneath their feet.

City Park

City Park in Denver, Colorado

City Park is host to the Denver Zoo, the Museum of Nature and Science, tennis courts, picnic sites, and the historic City Park Pavilion. Over 3,000 trees, representing hundreds of different tree species adapted to the Rocky Mountain Region, thrive throughout the park. A three mile trail called the Arboretum Tree Walk winds through groves of cottonwoods, crabapples, lilacs, and cherry trees.