Black and white photo of 3 women in the 1950s. Two adult women in dresses pose with a young girl.

Museum of Memory

Westside Memory Project: The Bottoms

Header image courtesy of the Mares family.

The Westside Memory Project: The Bottoms brings together stories and memories of community life in Denver’s lower West Side–from 8th Ave to the stadium and from west of Lincoln Park to Federal Boulevard–in the second third of the 20th Century.  This is a community-driven effort to collect and preserve the history of the neighborhood known as the Bottoms because of its proximity to the South Platte River.

Nearly 60 years since the community was wiped out by the flood of 1965 and with the support of the Estate of Richard and Gloria Lucero, this effort responds to the community’s request to document their history on their own terms and how they want to remember it. This effort is part of a larger collaboration to document the history of the neighborhood between the History Colorado Center, the Sun Valley Kitchen+Community Center, and current community members supported by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Prior to the Denver Urban Renewal program in 1973, the area stretching along the South Platte River from the Mile High Stadium to South Federal was home to a close-knit and vibrant community until the flood of 1965 severely damaged their homes, which were located in what is now the Mile High stadium parking lot. This area was first home to a Jewish immigrant community that began to settle in the late 1890s through the early 1900s establishing in the neighborhood a synagogue and other small businesses such as markets, bakeries, a recreation center (Rude Park), a pickle factory and a rag shop. By the early 1930s the Jewish community moved out. A community of Hispano families originally from Southern Colorado and New Mexico moved into the neighborhood.

The community kids all went to Fairview Elementary, Lake Junior High School and West High School. After the flood families tried to move back into the Bottoms but the living conditions were unbearable and the homes were condemned. The only family that was able to stay left the neighborhood in 1973 when the city acquired the land to develop it primarily with industrial facilities. This community overlapped for a few years with two Denver Housing Authority (DHA) housing projects, Las Casitas (1942-1980) and the Sun Valley Homes (1958-2022). Early residents of Las Casitas, DHA’s first public housing complex, also considered themselves part of the Bottoms. In a 1973 report the Denver Planning referred to this section of Denver’s Westside as Sun Valley. 

This collection of oral histories, photos, documents and illustrations by artist Leticia Tanguma interpreting the community’s memories documents community life in the Bottoms, including the variety of businesses in the area, recreational activities, family life and the experiences of the flood of 1965. But especially, it celebrates the community’s strength and resilience. 


Check back soon to access the full collection of oral histories.