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By Arrnica Dayannandan
Living a mile high can play tricks on your psyche. Even in Denver, a tranquil day in the park may not be what it seems. Especially in Denver, you’re very likely to encounter a park with a macabre stratum.
Denver’s Cheesman Park – despite its comedic moniker (it’s actually named after the 19th century water baron of Denver, Walter S. Cheeseman) – will call out to your need for serenity. The calming aura and collection of sombre trees can be a refreshing sight. You may think that you’re finally going to get off the busy streets of the city once and for all. Looking around, you might stop and wonder what kept this place so untouched? How could such a peaceful locale remain virgin and untouched by developers? Certainly, it isn’t the 150 miles of panoramic views.
From Congress Park to Cheesman Park
To really dig into its history, you’ll need to consider its life as and former name of “Congress Park.” Even before the location was known as Congress Park, it was an abandoned and disused cemetary, full of broken coffins and grave-robbed holes. Local landowners didn’t want an abandoned cemetery bringing down land values, so real estate developers determined a park would add more to property values. Colorado Senator Teller went to the U.S. Congress to have the cemetary converted to a park. In recognition of the swift approval in Congress, Denver named the place Congress Park.
Then came the dirty work. Families of the deceased were asked to claim their corpses. For those who went unclaimed, the city inked a contract to a local undertaker known as McGovern. McGovern’s contract was terminated as a result of unscrupulous business practices. His work went incomplete, and unclaimed bodies remained underground.
Over the years Congress Park was demarcated in half by a residential community. The sale of this land towards the end of the 19th century, gave rise to an ordinance motion being passed and approved by the City Council, thereby preventing future sale of this park.
Heroes and saints were not interred here, but rather the first to be buried here were John Stoefel and the brother-in-law that he murdered. These are the two people who never found peace in the exact place where you might be standing. So now you need to ask yourself: Why were you led to Cheeseman? Was it the unclaimed souls who couldn’t find peace in a park?
Today, Cheesman Park is bounded on all four sides by the historic districts of Wyman’s Island, Humboldt’s Island and Morgan’s Island. It is one of the first residential areas in the whole of Denver that has the honor of being classified as a historic district. Its controversial history, spooky stories and beautiful landscapes make it an enigmatic location of interest for locals and tourists alike.