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Arapahoe Acres tour offers slice of history

Look at historic neighborhood highlights culture, challenges


In a show of angular architecture, wood-and-stone contrast and lofty designs iconic of a past age, Englewood-area residents walked through mid-century modern homes on a tour of the historic Arapahoe Acres neighborhood for potential buyers and history lovers alike.

The Feb. 24 tour brought a crowd through five homes in the idyllic Englewood neighborhood, which was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Constructed from 1949-1957, the post-World War II development holds significance both in design and in culture — as its residents are glad to talk about.

“Everything is angled to (create) conversation between the houses,” said Jill Horch, a real-estate adviser with Thrive Real Estate who lives in the neighborhood.

Horch's and other engaged neighbors' goal is to educate potential homeowners about the underlying culture and story — and intent — behind the design of the homes. The tour was organized with involvement by the Thrive Real Estate Group, 20th Century Interiors, the Leak Finder Roofing Company and the Englewood Historic Preservation Society.

The neighborhood is bounded by East Dartmouth Avenue, South Marion Street, East Bates Avenue and South Franklin Street.

“This is an American story,” said Eric Crotty, owner of a house at 1420 E. Cornell Ave. in the neighborhood.

Ninety-nine of the roughly 120 homes can be attributed to designer and builder Edward Hawkins and his team, with another 20 thanks to Czech-born architect Eugene Sternberg, Crotty said. Hawkins was influenced by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago.

“The original landscape was done by a Japanese-American immigrant,” Crotty said. The neighborhood had influence “from East and West, new and old world, and Asia — as much a melting pot as anywhere else in the country.”

The arrangement of the homes intended to build community among the residents, Horch said.

“They built it to attract people of different economic backgrounds,” she said.

Lately, the desire for the culture to be preserved faces headwinds in the increasingly expensive Denver metro housing market.

“My concern is that it can't be,” Crotty said. Somewhere around the 1990s, he said, the houses were being bought by people who “cherished the design.” Crotty and his partner moved to the neighborhood toward the end of when it was still affordable in the early 2000s, he said.

Amid rising prices, the next wave of buyers had more money.

“When you have money to buy them (now), you probably have the money to change them,” Crotty said, adding that the houses have become “trophies” for people who might not understand their significance and make renovations that water down the original qualities.

The neighborhood was formed with the intention of creating a homeowners' association that could review design changes, but it never materialized, Crotty said. Homeowners need to form the association to exercise that review power, he said, to preserve the character.

Some homes now fall in the $1 million price range, in contrast with when an 800-square-foot home in the neighborhood cost around $10,000 decades ago, Crotty said.

“Today, that sells for between $300,000 and $400,000, and it's probably not (the former),” Crotty said.

But Crotty still hopes the culture will persist for future homeowners.

“This, to me, has been one of the most pristine examples of mid-century modern residential architecture in the country,” said Crotty, who has a background in architecture and landscaping.

Owning a home there is an opportunity to be a steward, Crotty said, so that future residents can understand how the neighborhood came to be developed and enjoy it.

“We need to respect that,” Crotty said.


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