Whittier Elementary SchoolDenver’s historic Whittier neighborhood is named for the school¹ now located at Downing Street and 24th Avenue, but originally built along Marion Street. The school’s name honored the nineteenth-century abolitionist poet, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892). Whittier was a founding member of the Republican Party. His poems attacked the injustices of slavery, while at the same time condemning the inherent hypocrisy of a nation that was founded on the ideal of freedom. A religious man of Quaker faith, he was deeply concerned about social justice. After the Civil War, Whittier remained a moral voice for the country in its struggle to overcome racism.

Whittier Neighborhood Denver Namesake John Greenleaf WhittierThe legacy of John Greenleaf Whittier² has lived on in the Whittier neighborhood. Given the fact that the neighborhood has been racially integrated since the 1890’s, the Whittier name signifies the role the neighborhood has played in the history of segregation and integration in Denver.

The developers of Whittier were among Denver’s earliest citizens. These pioneers played vigorous roles as leaders in agriculture, mining, railroading, education, manufacturing, retailing, and government during the formation of the city. A. B. Case, one of the first settlers in Denver in 1859, was a founder of the University of Denver and a prominent figure in the movement to reform city government. The Case Addition, filed in 1868, was the first subdivision platted in Whittier and is located in the northeasternmost quadrant of the neighborhood.

Historic Schulz-Neef House in DenverThe neighborhood was home to many of Denver’s finest craftsmen, who contributed to the architectural details of some of the community’s most significant structures. Their skills are evidenced in ornate details found on many of the homes. Most of the larger and more ornate residences are located on corner lots, which display their impressive details to the best advantage.

The historic significance of Whittier was noted in 1974 and again in 1983 in surveys conducted by the Colorado Historical Society. The Denver Landmark Preservation Commission, in a report issued in 1995, recognized the potential for designation of High and Williams streets within Whittier as a historic district.

Historic Whittier Neighborhood Denver BookThe information on this page was excerpted from the book, Whittier Neighborhood and San Rafael Historic District, written by Jim L. Raughton, and designed by Cathy Calder (both Whittier residents). The book features four walking tours of the two neighborhoods, with photos and information about all of the featured structures. The book can be purchased from the Whittier Neighborhood Association.

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1. Photo of school used with permission from the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library.

2. Photo of John Greenleaf Whittier used with permission from Stanley L. Swartz, PhD, California State University.