Signs reading “Sarah’s Bridge” adorn both sides of the bridge over the railroad yards at 48th Avenue to the Pecos Street interchange may leave travelers wondering who “Sarah” was. Most of the time, taking this route is a shortcut to Globeville, but for the last six months, traffic has been stopped for 20 minutes at a time for construction work. I used the delay to remember the woman whose name is on the sign and who fought for the neighborhood she loved.
Sarah Wolf had deep roots in Globeville. With a faraway look in her eyes, she’d say, “I was born in this house. My dad [John Wolf] worked for the Globe Smelter for a dollar a day, using a wheelbarrow to move ore around. He worked nights, and during the day he built this house. As soon as he saved a little money, he sent for other family members from the old country.
“When the family was in Russia, they had no say about their lives and had to answer to the czar. In this country, my dad, a poor immigrant, was elected a trustee of the town of Globeville. He really liked having a say in making his town a good place to live.”
Wolf inherited her father’s pride in his community and his talent for organizing and motivating people. In 1948, she used these skills to fight the elimination of the west side of Globeville by the construction of the Valley Highway (I-25). During the 1960s, she battled the building of I-70 through the heart of the community.
“We held meetings at St. Jacob’s Hall, and at churches; we hired lawyers and we fought the city. When it’s your home, you have to stand up.” But the decision to route the freeways through Globeville had been made long ago. When construction began, many long-time residents moved away.
Not Sarah Wolf.
In the 1970s, the Colorado Department of Highways announced plans to modify I-25, which included eliminating access to the neighborhood at 51st Avenue. Without a challenge to the proposal, the quality of life in Globeville would be dealt another blow. Ambulances and emergency vehicles would have to enter the neighborhood at 58th Avenue, increasing response time for emergencies. Semi trucks would be forced to drive through residential streets to get to
Wolf’s voice rose. “Neighbors went door to door gathering signatures on petitions. People wrote letters, attended city council meetings and made phone calls to government officials. I persuaded the presidents of Noble Sysco (Fritz Knoebel) and Anheuser Busch (Henry Honack) to write letters, and I got Councilman Sal Carpio and State Representative Ted Bendelow involved.”
The organized outcry from citizens, business leaders and politicians paid off. A bridge that connected the Globeville neighborhood to the outside world was built at the 48th Avenue and Pecos Street interchange and dedicated on August 30, 1978. Shortly afterward, Wolf’s neighbors petitioned the city to have the bridge named after her. (It’s customary to wait five years after someone dies for that honor). But in 1988, Mayor Federico Peña granted Globeville citizens their wish.
The signs that read “Sarah’s Bridge” represent much of what Sarah believed: that in America, anyone can make a difference, that persistence can prevail, and that city government can be held accountable to all
Mary Lou Egan is a fourth-generation Coloradan who loves history and 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