Peeling up layers of a mid-century mystery

Homeowners, historic groups seek background of Northglenn's Deza Estates

Posted 3/19/17

The first thing Cole and Danielle St. Peter did after unloading the moving truck at their new home in Northglenn's Deza Estates neighborhood was to rip up the carpet.

“It told us that the carpet was original, but there was definitely a '70s …

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Peeling up layers of a mid-century mystery

Homeowners, historic groups seek background of Northglenn's Deza Estates

Posted

The first thing Cole and Danielle St. Peter did after unloading the moving truck at their new home in Northglenn's Deza Estates neighborhood was to rip up the carpet.

“It told us that the carpet was original, but there was definitely a '70s remodel in the kitchen,” Cole said, pointing to the sliver of linoleum that had been covered with a deep-red, disco-style tile.

The couple is peeling back the layers to uncover the original pieces of their home, built in Midcentury Modern style in 1956.

The St. Peters closed on their house March 1 and are now a part of a growing group of homeowners in the area — located between Croke Drive and Huron Street and between 100th Avenue and 97th Avenue — that wants to learn more about the history of their properties.

“The architectural structure is totally different than the rest of (Northglenn),” said Mayor Joyce Downing, who also serves as the chair of the Historic Preservation Commission. “We're trying to find out all the information we can.”

Lauren Weatherly and her husband bought their home within Deza Estates about four years ago and have since become virtual scholars in the architecture style and era-appropriate furnishings.

“Each house has architectural elements that are creating a sense of space,” she said. “Frank Lloyd Wright started this thinking around modern design and architecture; he invented the concept of a suburb.”

Old advertisements from the Denver Post highlight that Deza means “high place” in Navajo and that the properties are built on the highest point outside Denver. Looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows in these homes you can see the Denver skyline below with a breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

Cole wakes up to watch the sunrise from his expansive porch nearly every morning and catches the sunset from the exact same spot every night.

The few Denver Post advertisements are the only historical data that's been found so far. They tell that the homes were made by developers H.A. Swanson and Associates and priced between $15,000-$45,000. But prices and developers could have changed after the ads were published.

Community centers like new swimming pools, schools and stables are advertised as well, but were never built.

Weatherly is also a member of the Historic Preservation Commission and she's leading the initiative to discover the details of Deza Estates.

She started her research by reaching out to Atom Stevens, who lives in Denver midcentury neighborhood Harvey Park — a recognized enclave for Midcentury Modern architecture. Stevens has confirmed that the California architect Cliff May designed many of the homes in the Harvey Park neighborhood, including the one he lives in.

He's currently working toward a historic neighborhood designation and possibly a conservation overlay, as well. These designations would create specific restrictions when it comes to exterior modifications of the home to preserve the integrity of the Midcentury Modern era and the original intentions of the design.

“With Deza Estates, if the city council wanted to, we could declare it a district of special interest,” Downing said. And then there would be an opportunity to set similar protections.

However, there is a lot of information to uncover before the homeowners and the Northglenn Historic Preservation can pursue special districts of their own. They still don't know what architect was responsible for designing their homes and just how many homes in the neighborhood were built during the Midcentury Modern era, spanning from roughly 1933-1965.

Residents' interest and involvement, like that exhibited by the St. Peterses and Weatherly, are really the only ways for a historically prominent area to earn the classifications necessary to maintain the architecture.

This is the St. Peterses' second home renovation project that they will take on themselves — the first was in Harvey Park. As they continue to chip away at the foundation, exposing the original structure, they will contribute to the community's undertaking to discover the history behind this intriguing and architecturally relevant neighborhood.

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