From farmland to suburb: Bal Swan and the Turnpike Land Co.

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

In the late 1950s, Broomfield was poised on the brink of transformation from farm and ranchland to a brand-new suburb of Denver. The people making this happen had formed a corporation called the Turnpike Land Co. This was a privately-held corporation with fewer than 20 stockholders, among whom was President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a fishing buddy of the principal owners.

The driving force was a man whose name is still familiar in these parts — Bal Swan. With his partners, K.C. Ensor, Aksel Nielsen and others, Swan had ambitious plans for the “City by the Turnpike.” The result was a suburban neighborhood called Broomfield Heights, a shopping area called Broomfield Retail Center and the Broomfield Mutual Service Co., which provided water and sewer using the Great Western Reservoir. Financing came primarily from Swan’s Empire Savings and Loan.

Among those associated with these enormous projects was a young junior CPA named Ron (“Ronnie”) Lantz, who still lives in Broomfield with his wife, Margie. The Lantzes came to Broomfield in 1959 and bought a home on Beryl Way, glad to escape Denver for a more rural environment in which to raise their family.
Lantz’s job was to audit all four companies. He describes Swan as a “gruff old guy” who scared a lot of the employees. As an auditor, Lantz often had the unenviable task of telling Swan “no,” but this seemed to earn him the elder man’s respect. He occasionally was invited upstairs to Swan’s office, complete with a private bar and full-time “gentleman’s gentleman,” where Swan would tell stories about fishing with his good friend, President Eisenhower.

Swan considered Broomfield his baby, Lantz said. There was no city and no government, and therefore, no services. After a young man was hit by a car and folks had to improvise to get him to a hospital, Swan donated an ambulance. According to Margie Lantz, the fledgling community organized a group of volunteers, including Margie, to manage the ambulance. It was housed in a building at Garden Center and volunteers took turns staying there on call in case of an emergency. Eventually, those volunteers got some training.

Other services we take for granted today had to be provided by the company or created by volunteers in the community. The first school in the neighborhood was opened in one of the unsold houses (on First Avenue, facing Beryl Way), called a “cottage school.” The Lantzes’ daughter attended kindergarten in that school. Next door, another house was used as a temporary library, until the community created a more official version.
Swan, who owned Rock Creek Farm at the time, was married but had no children. He left a lasting legacy in the area, not the least of which is the Bal Swan Children’s Center. Ron Lantz said that Mr. Swan passed on to him this important piece of advice, directly from the mouth of President Eisenhower — sage words that still hold meaning today: “Never pass up a chance to use the bathroom.”

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