The Birth of a 1950s Suburb: Broomfield Heights

This article first appeared in The Broomfield Enterprise.

In August of 1955, the Boulder Daily Camera announced the creation of a sparkling new city located in the countryside between Denver and Boulder called “Broomfield Heights.”

The modern new city was located on the sprawling Zang property, known as the Elmwood Stock Farm or Elmwood Ranch. In the late 1940s, the Zang family had sold the farm to a cattleman named Biddle. After opening the Denver-Boulder Turnpike in 1952, the Turnpike Land Company purchased the property from the cattleman. They soon announced plans to transform the old farming community into what they alluringly dubbed a “city by the turnpike.” (One wonders if a turnpike was considered romantic in those days.)

Broomfield Heights was touted by enthusiastic local commentators as a “dream city.” One writer from the Rocky Mountain News noted that it was one of only three cities in the country that would claim membership in the “garbage elite.” This proud designation meant that no rumbling garbage trucks would mar the serene neighborhood streets because each of the beautiful new homes included a garbage disposal. First invented in 1927 and nicknamed the “electric pig,” when the garbage disposal finally asserted its place as part of the American household, some apparently expected that it would “dispose” of the issue of garbage altogether.

The developers laid out their new city just north of the turnpike and east of the old Cherokee Trail ― also known as Highway 287. It was a pleasant setting that boasted rolling hills and two small, tranquil lakes that had been created decades earlier by the Zangs. Track Lake and Willow Lake were well-loved by early Broomfield pioneers as favorite places to swim, fish and go boating. The developers had other ideas, though, and drained the lakes. Today, Kohl Elementary School and Target now occupy the spots where the lakes once offered a pleasant respite.

Early aerial depiction of Broomfield Heights

Broomfield Heights was advertised as country living with all the modern conveniences. The new homes not only featured the magical garbage disposals, but also offered washers, dryers, and dishwashers. The streets, which still hadn’t been paved when the first residents moved in, were named after minerals and flowers ― Agate, Beryl, Coral, Daphne, and later on, Emerald, Flint, Garnet, Hemlock, Iris, Jade, Kohl, and Laurel.

The first crop of completed homes was ready in late summer of 1955. Eighteen brand new modern homes opened for viewing, and 25,000 people showed up to find out what country living could do for them. Prices for the new homes started at $12,000.

It wasn’t long before the first new residents moved in at Broomfield Heights ― the Eloe family, who purchased the brick home at 305 West First Avenue in September 1955. A month later, the Bright family moved into the house at 160 Daphne Street. These Broomfield Heights homes were the earliest of a planned 954 residences that are still referred to by many as the “First Filing.” (See Broomfield: Changes Through Time by Silvia Pettem).

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Her first week on the job, and Marshal Beth Mayo is hit with a sex assault case. It’s a nasty shock for the bucolic mountain town of Sugarloaf and for Mayo, who is still recovering from her husband’s death. Her initial skepticism grows into disbelief over the victim’s zany story, and she dismisses the case as a false report. Unfortunately, the same woman is soon discovered in the ruins of a ghost town, most definitely murdered.

Mayo unravels the complex case through a parade of colorful suspects and misfit family members, all the while following a common thread from 150 years earlier — Colorado history’s most notorious event, the Sand Creek Massacre.

2 thoughts on “The Birth of a 1950s Suburb: Broomfield Heights

  1. I’m learning a lot of Colorado history from your blog, have subscribed, and am especially enjoying your book, FORGOTTEN HEROES AND VILLAINS OF SAND CREEK! I grew up in Cambridge, MA, a place so saturated in history I took it for granted. Thanks, Carol, for giving me a whole new appreciation for historical understanding.

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