Cottonwood and willow trees sigh in the breeze, cream puff clouds dot the sky, and bird calls punctuate the solitude. Much like it would have been in 1876, when the Sanguinette family settled in the area.
Peter Sanguinette emigrated from Genoa, Italy, stayed for a time in New Orleans, and then opened a saloon in Georgetown. Seeking a more stable place for his family, Peter purchased 10 acres of farmland along Watervliet (Washington) Street in Globeville. The Sanguinettes clan was large (Louis and his wife, Mary, had 14 children), and they all lived together on the farm. Their neighbors included a few homesteaders, the Arapaho and Cheyenne traveling through the area, and Roma, who occasionally camped along the Platte River.
As smelters, railroads, and meatpacking plants built nearby, the pristine quality of the area began to erode. Peter fought back, and in August 1880, led a fight to stop slaughterhouses from dumping their waste in the Platte River.
For more than 50 years, the Sanguinettes raised enough vegetables, turkeys, and chickens to support themselves and to sell to local markets, delivered by horse and wagon and later by truck. The farm was best known for its celery, crisp and almost white.
But low crop prices during the Depression took a toll. In 1936, the family sold part of their property to the City of Denver for a sewage treatment plant. As asphalt plants, trucking companies, and salvage lots took over the area, family members moved away. When Peter’s grandson, Jim Sanguinette, died in 1952, his widow, Ida, sold much of the remaining acreage to the Westerkamp family, and moved to North Denver. Don Juan’s Café now occupies the site of the Westerkamp’s Grocery Store.
In 1966, use of the sewage treatment plant was discontinued and, for the next 30 years, the area weathered neglect and abuse. The ponds were filled with trash and the sluices covered with graffiti. That’s when another pioneer associated with Globeville, Sal Carpio, stepped in.
In 1975, Carpio became the first Hispanic to represent District 9 on Denver’s City Council, serving three terms and giving a voice to the growing Hispanic community. In 1976, he wrote the ordinance that gave neighborhoods a say in land use decisions and then secured the money to buy the property that housed the former treatment facility.
In 1999, with input from the neighborhood, this blighted site was transformed into the thirteen-acre Northside Park. Portions of the concrete barriers functioned as sculptures, and filtration systems became benches with quotations from residents engraved in them. Large trees framed soccer fields, walking paths, and biking trails.
When Carpio passed away in September 2014, citizens of District 9 began discussing ways to honor him and give the open space a less generic title. A renaming process for the park was begun in early 2016 with the help of Councilwoman At-large Debbie Ortega, and on October 9, 2017, the former Northside Park was renamed Carpio-Sanguinette Park.
This urban gem retains both the rural and the industrial legacy of the neighborhood and commemorates two of its pioneers, Sal Carpio and the Sanguinette family.
Mary Lou Egan is a fourth-generation Coloradan who loves history, especially stories about immigrants in the West. She is working on a history of Denver’s Globeville neighborhood. Her blog http://globevillestory.blogspot.com contains tidbits about the community. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org