The White City: Lakeside Amusement Park

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

The town of Broomfield, Colorado was originally called Zang’s Spur. Philip Zang, a prominent Denver brewer, once owned huge chunks of what is now Broomfield.

Philip’s son, Adolph Zang, also an industrious businessman, maintained a family home in Broomfield, which still stands on Poppy Way. Adolph invested in a wide variety of ventures, including the creation of the famous Lakeside Amusement Park. Lakeside today is one of the oldest amusement parks in the nation and is the oldest in Colorado that still operates in its original location.

Known as the “White City” because of its thousands of bright lights, Lakeside opened in April, 1908. According to the Colorado Transcript, a newspaper of the day, Adolph’s daughter, Miss Gertrude Zang, broke a bottle of champagne at the main entrance and several mayors were available to glad hand their constituents.

At that time, Lakeside offered a “natatorium” (a swimming pool in its own building), boat rides, fishing, roller skating, roller coasters, train rides, and dancing. The reporter seemed amazed to note on opening day that “[t]here was not the slightest display of rowdyism nor intoxication. No complaints were received of pickpockets and not a single arrest was made.” (Colorado Transcript, June 4, 1908.) It would seem the Wild West hadn’t quite been tamed.

Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver

Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver

Unfortunately, about a year later, Adolph Zang and his fellow investors were arrested for violating liquor laws by serving liquor on a Sunday at White City. During Zang’s trial that November, it came out that most of the witnesses against him “admitted that they had been hired by a representative of the Anti Saloon league to go to the White City and obtain evidence…” (Colorado Transcript, November 18, 1909.) The Anti Saloon League was an organization dedicated to Prohibition and would have good reason to go after Zang, whose brewery was the region’s largest.

Zang and his co-defendants claimed they were not acting illegally because the liquor had been served with meals. Zang’s attorney also argued that Zang was not involved in the management of the White City’s ratskeller and therefore should not be held responsible. However, the jury was out only a few minutes before returning with a guilty verdict.

Within a week, Zang’s attorney got the verdict set aside. The case ended when the defendants agreed to enter pleas of nolo contendere (Latin for “I do not wish to contest”), a clever method of admitting one’s guilt without actually admitting one’s guilt. The accused promised not to serve liquor on Sundays and the judge promised not to impose fines or jail terms.

The agile Mr. Zang apparently saw which way the wind was blowing and the following year he sold out his shares in the brewing business. A few years later, Colorado became one of the first states in the union to go dry, and Adolph wasn’t around to watch while Zang’s brew was dumped into the sewers of Denver.

Adolph Zang House

Adolph Zang House in Denver (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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