In a proclamation at the Nov. 16 City Council meeting, the Arvada City Council will designate Dec. 1, 2020 as "Arvada Naming Day" in recognition of the vision, hard work and dedication of our founding community members.
December of 2020 marks the 150th anniversary since a small plat map was filed in Jefferson County creating the framework for a thriving Arvada. In honor of this significant occasion, we take this opportunity to acknowledge that our community has developed within what we now call the Clear Creek and Ralston valleys, which are the ancestral lands of the Cheyenne, Ute and Sioux Peoples past and present.
Our gratitude and thanks to the Arvada Historical Society for providing the information for the following article and for the use of the photos provided by the Arvada Historical Society and Jefferson County Archives.
How a few blocks of land became the thriving community we call Arvada
In 1870, the area we now know as Arvada was a collection of large, primarily 160-acre farms established near Ralston and Clear Creeks. The completion of the Colorado Central Railroad, connecting Golden and Denver, created an opportunity for a post office and other amenities, but that would require a town plat – a map, drawn to scale, showing property divisions with streets and individual lots.
Area landowners Benjamin Franklin Wadsworth and Louis Reno took the initiative to create a town plat on their properties, which were adjacent to the new rail line. The plat established the framework for a new community, identifying transportation corridors and residential and commercial areas. Wadsworth also applied for a new post office, while his wife Mary named the new town Arvada after her brother-in-law, Hiram Arvada Haskin. These events set the stage for the Arvada we know today.
Arvada’s plat map, filed with Jefferson County on December 1, 1870, included all of the key ingredients of a successful community: transportation (streets and blocks), communications (post office), and residential and business designations. Indeed, it provided the framework for the community to thrive. Later expansions increased Arvada’s size and scope, but it all started with the platting of a few blocks of land. Today we know the original plot as Olde Town Arvada, which includes four blocks between Yukon and Upham, and two blocks between Grandview and Ralston. All of the streets shown in the original 1870 plat still exist, but only two retain their original name: Ralston Road and Grant Street.
1870 - 1903
Arvada grew slowly during the 1870s and 80s; only a handful of businesses were established within the plat boundaries. In 1889 and 1890, however, two more plats were filed on the west side of Olde Wadsworth. These plats created Reno Park and Reno Park First Addition land owned by Louis Reno. The Reno Park plat included the first street name change, establishing Grandview in place of Railroad Avenue. Arvada now had a clearly defined residential neighborhood of affordable small lots. The framework of the future town was expanding, with three more streets added to the west as far as Allison.
The ability of residents to live near their businesses spurred growth. On Grandview, for example, Albert H. Barth constructed Arvada’s first two-story brick building in 1898. Other businesses replaced homes, particularly along Grandview given its proximity to the railroad.
A notable street name change took place in 1893, following the sudden passing of Benjamin Wadsworth who was killed in a runaway horse accident. The original street name, Sheridan, was changed by the Jefferson County Commissioners to Wadsworth – today one of the most traveled north-south arterials along Colorado’s Front Range.
A significant plat for Arvada was filed in 1903, as part of a ballot proposal to incorporate Arvada. The boundaries extended further west to Carr Street and east to Lamar, as well as a narrow band on the north side of Ralston Road and an addition south of the railroad tracks.
The Rest Is History
Arvada’s framework was established in 1870 by a small plat map that included a few streets and a post office in response to the completion of a railroad, and the rest, as they say, is history. Our growth and eventual incorporation in 1904 have led to a community of more than 120,000 residents... and growing.
- Self-guided historic walking tour: Discover historic elements of Olde Town through this self-guided tour, which will take you past many commercial, residential and religious buildings that were important in the development of Arvada. Map and information provided by The Arvada Historical Society." Please note: The descriptions are intended to illustrate history - the occupants of our historic buildings that played an important role in the daily lives of the people in earlier eras. In a few cases, a modern business might be mentioned that no longer exists at this location. Some of the buildings noted are included on the panels found throughout Olde Town, while others are not mentioned on those panels, yet were important locations in our community's history. For feedback and questions, please contact the Arvada Historical Society at 303-431-1261.
- Arvada Cemetery Tour: Take a step back in time in this short video of the 2020 annual walking tour through the Arvada Cemetery hosted by the Arvada Historical Society.
- 2004 Centennial videos (history of Arvada): To learn much more about Arvada's beginnings and evolution through the century and decades, view the following video series created for the 2004 Centennial celebration of the 1904 Articles of Incorporation for the Town of Arvada.
- by City Manager