Shoenberg Farm helped feed patients at National Jewish Health

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

While many of Colorado’s pioneers arrived looking for the legendary potato-sized gold nuggets, a good number of folks came to find a cure for tuberculosis. Around the time of Colorado’s gold rush, a new medical movement was stirring, known as the sanatarium movement. Sanataria (or sanitaria) were popping up all over Europe and the United States, many of them offering hotsprings as a cure for every ailment. Patients with tuberculosis were lured to rural spots where they would be cured by a nutritious diet and a long quiet rest in a high altitude setting. Colorado was a prime location.

One local sanitarium was the famed Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society (JCRS) in Lakewood. Another was Denver’s National Jewish Health. Both of these institutions needed fresh dairy and produce to feed their patients, many of whom were non-paying. JCRS had its own small farm but National Jewish Health was having problems keeping all their patients fed. In stepped Louis Dudley Shoenberg.

Shoenberg (who later changed his name to Beaumont) got his start with the Manhattan Clothing Co. in Leadville, along with his partner, David May of the famed May Company. As a wealthy philanthropist years later, Shoenberg decided to help National Jewish Health with their problem. He may have been inspired because his own son, Dudley, had recently died of tuberculosis. He purchased 70 acres located southwest of West 73rd Avenue and Sheridan Blvd in Westminster. He brought in a generous supply of Holstein cows and chickens and set to work building a farm. The complex was completed in 1912 and was soon supplying milk, cream, eggs, poultry and fresh vegetables to the patients in the hospital.

A few years later, Shoenberg considered putting together another farm closer to the hospital, as they were having cost and transportation issues. However, the hospital asked him to build a nurse’s home on campus instead, which he did.

In 1921, the Tepper family took over Shoenberg Farm. Jacob Tepper had previously operated a farm on West Colfax, near JCRS. He was forced to sell that farm in 1920 when his wife left the family. He and his four kids moved to the Shoenberg farm and worked it together. Thirty years later, Jacob Tepper’s Shoenberg Farm was reportedly the largest dairy and poultry farm west of the Mississippi.

In 1941, Jacob’s son Edward added a new business line to the farm – a name that’s familiar to anyone who grew up in Colorado: Dolly Madison Ice Cream Stores. They eventually opened 19 stores in the Denver area, where they sold groceries and ice cream and operated traditional soda fountains. Sadly, the last of the Dolly Madison stores closed in 2001.

Many of the original Shoenberg Farm buildings are still standing. The City of Westminster, the State Historical Fund and other organizations are now working on an “adaptive reuse” initiative that will create a community and commercial center at the location.

(Primary sources: City of Westminster and historian Dawn Bunyak.)

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