Dr. Thomas J. Noel is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Colorado Denver. Known as “Dr. Colorado,” Noel has written more than fifty books and numerous articles about the state, including the perennially popular Colorado: A History of the Centennial State.
In preparation for Colorado Day on August 1, we asked each member of the State Historian’s Council to reflect on what “our beloved Colorado” means to them. There are so many reasons to love Colorado that it’s hard to keep count, but “Dr. Colorado” Tom Noel shares his top ten.
Today, Jefferson County residents know Belmar as a vibrant shopping, dining, governmental, and residential development that opened in the heart of Lakewood in the early 2000s. The main attraction, once known as Villa Italia, opened in 2004 as one of the state’s largest shopping malls. It has since evolved into a much larger commercial and retail complex that keeps expanding.
What shoppers, residents, and visitors may not know is that the name “Belmar” comes from the extraordinary estate built there by May Bonfils, daughter of Fredrick Bonfils. The Bonfils name—both famous and infamous—conjures not only Colorado’s most successful and feared newspaper tycoon but also his two feuding daughters, May and Helen, striving to improve and culturally enrich the lives of Coloradans.
Once upon a time, Columbus Day was not a source of contention but of celebration. Italian-Americans led by Denverite Angelo Noce pushed for the holiday to honor their national heritage. Italians are generally so integrated today it is easy to forget that they were once near the bottom of Colorado’s pecking order.