Denver’s Cheesman Park is a great place to walk, jog, picnic, sunbathe, and relax. But did you know that it was originally a cemetery? And, what’s more, there are still as many as several hundred bodies still buried there!
In a nutshell, the site of Cheesman Park was once City Cemetery. This was not an unusual ancestor for a park — cemeteries in the 1800s were designed to be restful, contemplative places with parklike greenery. When Denver was brand-new in the 1860s and 1870s, City Cemetery was considered far away from the city. But as the city grew, development expanded and the cemetery was removed in the 1890s to be replaced by a park. Originally named Congress Park, it was renamed for Denver water magnate Walter Cheesman, whose widow funded the construction of the Cheesman Memorial Pavilion.
However, the reason that so many bodies are still there is because of a scandal involving the removal of the corpses. You can read about it in “Denver’s Cheesman Park: A Place for the Living, or the Nonliving?” in the November/December 2012 issue of Colorado Heritage, the magazine of History Colorado (formerly Colorado Historical Society), which is available for checkout from our library. Copies of articles can also be requested; visit our library’s homepage for information.
For more about Cheesman Park, the Memorial Pavilion, and other Denver parks, see the Colorado Historical Society publication Denver’s Historic Markers, Memorials, Statues, and Parks, also available from our library. Finally, for more fun Cheesman/Capitol Hill trivia, see the article “Walter Cheesman’s Cow” in the Summer 1996 issue of Heritage.
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