The Elephant House – Horticulturists, Aaric Starks & Deb Gallegos

Two people standing in front of a building.

Have you ever wondered about the history of the charming brick bungalow standing at the foot of Ferril Lake northeast of the Pavilion? Welcome to City Park’s Elephant House! First known as the Parks Maintenance Building, the structure was built between 1907 and 1908 and started its life as the pumping station for the park’s irrigation system. According to Denver’s City Park by Bette D. Peters, the station circulated the water from Ferril Lake to the electric fountain and “had the potential for supplying a town of 75,000 with drinking water.†The little building packed a wallop of irrigation equipment within its walls including “two Prescott-Cross Compound Corliss high duty engines, two 125 horse power Bonson boilers, a feed water heater, a hot well and two vacuum pumps.”
Deborah Gallegos & Aaric Starks, City Park Horticulturists at Elephant House
In 1950, the bungalow packed a new kind of wallop when Cookie, the Denver Zoo’s first elephant took up residence. Cookie was soon joined by Candy and the two elephants became a popular feature in City Park. One of their favorite antics was spraying their keeper from their water buckets. In 1959, the elephants were removed to the new pachyderm house at the Zoo and the Elephant House became the pumping station for City Park irrigation as well as the park’s maintenance and operations shop once again. Joe Renteria – as City Park’s Operations Supervisor – now calls Elephant House home.  Along with City Park Horticulturists, Aaric Starks and Deb Gallegos and others, Renteria advocates passionately for City Park and its growing needs during these times of pandemic and drought. These individuals are among City Park’s current heroes.
2018 City Park Master Plan Update, Recommendations, Page 21
The Elephant House could take on a new life if recommendations in the 2018 City Park Master Plan Update gain support. The plan asks for consideration of historic designation of the Elephant House and more: “Consider a community use in Elephant House and in portions of the site. Allow interior modifications of the front two portions of the building for food and beverage and park use, i.e., small restaurant or café, community room, or public restrooms.â€

The recommendations also suggest “modifying portions of the maintenance yard as an outdoor gathering space. Preserve significant and notable trees and incorporate them into a usable park space. Provide a raised pedestrian crossing across North Park Road to connect with Ferril Lake. Consider terraced seating along Ferrril Lake to accommodate park users on an every day basis and during park events.†Click here to see the proposed designs in detail:

Repurposing the Elephant House for community use is just one of the many suggestions/recommendations in the 2018 City Park Master Plan Update. Please take a look at the entire Update and start thinking about how you want to see our park, the Peoples’ Park, continue and evolve.,and%20dozens%20of%20individual%20donors.

Credit: Mel Haynes, Jr.
Denver Municipal Band: “And the Band Plays Onâ€: RMPBS, Feb. 3,7 pm
The Denver Municipal Band has been a vibrant Denver institution since 1861. It was formed as the Denver City Band to bring culture to a town with teepees on one side of Cherry Creek and log cabins on the other. It has survived and thrived fulfilling its mission to bring music to Denver-area residents for free in parks near them. On Feb. 3, Rocky Mountain PBS will feature the Denver Municipal Band’s history and “the importance of music and the necessity of public-private commitment to enrich community,†according to its press release. Please tune in to this program featuring our well-loved Denver Municipal Band. There will be an online Watch Party on the Denver Municipal Band Facebook Page and opportunities to chat with Band members and their community of fans and supporters as the show is broadcast.

On Friday, June 3 at 6:30 pm, the Denver Municipal Band will perform at the Band Shell outside the Pavilion in City Park. The performance is part of City Park Day and the Ice Cream Social sponsored by City Park Alliance.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in City Park, January, 2022
On January 17, jacketed crowds with many children mounted on shoulders looking out over the sea of attendees, gathered at the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream†Monument in City Park for the 37th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Marade. Vern Howard is the Chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission. The theme for this year’s Marade was “The Security of Justice.â€

The program featured many speakers addressing the enduring power of Dr. King’s legacy. Colorado Senators Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper were among those who spoke with passion about the need to reinforce the 1964 and the 1965 Civil Rights Acts and to continue to fight for the right of every U.S. citizen to vote and to push back against any form of voter suppression. Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife, Wilma were particularly eloquent. Mayor Webb spoke about the challenges his wife faced as she fought for years to establish Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday in Colorado – before it was celebrated nationally. “She was told she would never succeed for three reasons,†he said. “Number one, no one would vote for it; number two, she was a woman; number three, she was black.†But Wilma Webb persevered. As a Colorado state representative and after three unsuccessful tries, she finally won adoption of the bill that established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Colorado in 1984.  In the speech she made following her husband’s, Wilma Webb made it clear the fight goes on and that she, for one, will be there to secure the world of peace, justice, compassion and dignity that Dr. King envisioned.

Following the program, attendees proceeded along the Esplanade to East Colfax and marched to Civic Center Park where a few hours of entertainment, awards and celebration took place.

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