The neighborhood of Barnum is a haven for working class families and home to many proud residents. It’s a small area bounded by Sixth Avenue, Federal, Alameda, and Perry Street. Often overlooked by the city, Barnum’s identity has been shaped out of a strong sense of community and quiet development. Although it was never an affluent neighborhood, it’s always been more prosperous than many of the other Westside Denver neighborhoods.
Barnum began as a nineteenth-century Denver suburb and quickly became a haven for working-class families. In 1865, Daniel Witter bought 160 acres southwest of Denver. This was the first in a series of deals in the development of Villa Park. He envisioned this land becoming an expansive development that would be home to Denver’s wealthy elite. But his vision was never realized due to lawsuits and eventual bankruptcy. On March 11, 1878, the land was offered up for sale. In just two weeks, the American circus mogul, P.T. Barnum, bought up 760 acres for a mere $11,000. A few years later, the Barnum subdivision was platted.
The circus tycoon’s involvement with the development has become something of folklore in Denver. One legend even claims that the showman planned to establish a winter home for his circus there. The truth, however, is P.T. Barnum never wintered his animals here. In fact, he only made four documented visits to Colorado in his lifetime. Eventually, he sold off as much of the land as he could before trading what was left to his daughter for one dollar.
Barnum earned a reputation as a community devoted to improvement and ready to direct its energy at a government perceived uninterested in it. Early and continued efforts to secure necessities such as access to transportation, paved roads, and other basic amenities added to this reputation. Perseverance and humor were essential to life here. The community was annexed to Denver in 1896, and its fortunes improved as a result. New residents, new businesses, and new amenities followed.
During the last part of the twentieth century, there was a high rate of home ownership and household incomes. Much higher than other neighboring communities. Housing values for many of the modest homes remained high and the area continued to be a place where you could find comfortable homes at reasonable prices.
Barnum was once labeled as one of the least desirable neighborhoods in Denver. While Barnum may have a rough exterior, if you take time to scratch the surface you will find a neighborhood with lots to offer. In fact, in 2016 the community was even dubbed one of Denver’s hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods. The proximity to Denver is convenient, it’s full of rich history and charming character, and the views of the Denver skyline are unmatched.
People love living in this community so much that they don’t want to sell their homes. More than two-thirds of the community’s housing is owner-occupied. Here you will find lovely post-war cottages built in the 1950’s that are well taken care of and well loved. And it remains a neighborhood for families of modest means. Barnum is home to over 11,500 people and the residents are younger than the rest of Denver. Although this community has a ways to go before it becomes as desirable as Sunnyside, it is an urban oasis of affordability which will likely pay off for homeowners in the long run.