On November 22, 1998, Arapahoe Acres was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As of December 2004, it remains the only post-World War II residential subdivision to be listed as a National Register Historic District.
Arapahoe Acres expresses new patterns of residential development which emerged in response to rapidly expanding family housing needs in the wake of World War II.
Architectural Design History
Arapahoe Acres embodies the characteristics of the International and Usonian Styles of architecture in their application to postwar residential design.
It is also significant for its association with designer/builder Edward Hawkins, a local pioneer in modern residential design, development and construction; Eugene Sternberg, a regional master of mid-20th century modern architecture; and Joseph Dion, a prominent local modernist architect.
Planning Design History
Arapahoe Acres displays important modern concepts in community planning, residential site development and neighborhood planning.
Landscape Design History
Arapahoe Acres is distinctive for its landscape design, integrating the landscape and built environment to create a neighborhood of remarkable visual continuity.
Construction Technology History
Arapahoe Acres exhibits innovative construction techniques and materials, many of which emerged from wartime technological advances.
Because, at the time of nomination, the homes of Arapahoe Acres were not yet fifty years old, it was necessary to establish the “exceptional significance” of the neighborhood in order to merit historic district listing in the National Register.
“Exceptional significance” was established on the following basis: the extensive press coverage which Arapahoe Acres received throughout its design and construction; through comparison with other related local residential developments; as a result of the recognition of the historical importance of modern residential architecture and development patterns which developed during the post World War II period. Finally, Arapahoe Acres met the National Register criteria for “exceptional significance” because it retains its overall architectural integrity.
Quite simply, architectural integrity means the neighborhood looks remarkably like it did in 1957, the year of its completion.
No homes have been demolished or so heavily altered that they no longer express their original design. The relationship of the houses to the street and to each other remain largely the same, unchanged by incompatible or oversized additions that obscure the original balance between the landscape and the structures. The exterior materials, the detailing of the walls, windows, doors and rooflines are largely original. Alterations that have taken place have little visual impact or are reversible, such as the conversion of garages and porches to living spaces, inappropriate window replacements, and incompatible minor material and paint color changes.
Since Arapahoe Acres retains its architectural integrity, or historic appearance, it retains its ability to communicate its original history and significance.
How did Arapahoe Acres retain such a remarkable degree of integrity?
First, its unique design qualities attracted many loyal, long-time residents who worked to maintain their homes in original condition. When exterior changes were made, they were sympathetic to the original, historic qualities of the homes and neighborhood.
Second, the economic value of the neighborhood was largely stable, retaining original owners and drawing sympathetic new homeowners who performed timely repairs and routine maintenance. It also ensured that the neighborhood remained largely owner-occupied.
The recent age of the neighborhood has also been a major factor in preservation. There have simply been fewer years of wear, deterioration by the elements, and fewer owners, reducing the amount of remodeling, renovations and additions on individual homes.
The Arapahoeacres Historic Preservation Network
In 1999, the neighborhood’s informal association was christened the “Arapahoe Acres Historic Preservation Network.” Suggested by homeowner Yvonne Russell, the name was selected by homeowner vote from a list of potential names submitted at a community gathering.
The name reflects the group’s goal — to create a network that promotes preservation, shares information and resources, and conducts educational programs.
As a result of National Register listing, the neighborhood qualified to apply for state preservation funds. Since the Arapahoe Acres Historic Preservation Network was, and remains today, an informal and voluntary organization, the 501C3 non-profit Historic Denver, Inc., agreed to apply for the grant funds on the neighborhood’s behalf. The successful 1999 grant application, written by resident Diane Wray, successfully secured $72,400 from the State Historical Fund of the Colorado Historical Society to advance historic preservation in the neighborhood.
The grant was awarded to assist in creating a voluntary program of historic preservation in the neighborhood.
The grant funds were used to establish a website; conduct workshops on repair and maintenance issues tailored to Arapahoe Acres homes; document these workshops through a series of “Technical Briefs” prepared by homeowner Dave Steers; assist homeowners with a variety of exterior historic preservation projects; assist the city of Englewood and homeowners with the restoration and re-creation of lost Arapahoe Acres signage; and to prepare and print a revised version of the original neighborhood history book including a new section defining a Design Vocabulary to guide preservation efforts.
All of the information produced by the grant was to be made available to the preservation community and the public at large. During the course of the grant, site tours were provided to the Design Council of the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Historical Society, and for national conferences of the Society of Architectural Historians, the American Planning Association, the board of the National Association of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Presentations including the newly developed Design Vocabulary were made to the Englewood Historical Society, the University of Colorado’s College of Architecture and Planning, and a gathering of Colorado Certified Local Government representatives. In 2005, there will be a site tour in conjunction with the annual conference of Colorado Preservation, Inc.
This new volume will be given free of charge to homeowners of Arapahoe Acres and will be available to realtors selling homes in the neighborhood, and designers, architects, and contractors who do work in the neighborhood. Copies will be donated to the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library, the Englewood Library, the University of Denver Archives and the Colorado Historical Society. Additional copies will be available for sale to interested individuals and organizations, the funds used to continue historic preservation work in the neighborhood.
Organization of an Arapahoe Acres archive has also begun, starting with materials gathered by Diane Wray for the preparation of the history book and National Register nomination. The archive is envisioned as a central repository for historic and current photographs, plans, drawings, and print materials associated with the neighborhood. It includes original items and copies of materials owned by other homeowners and former residents. Donation are encouraged to make sure that the archive is as complete and comprehensive as possible. In 2005, in order to preserve the collection, archival encapsulation will begin. To insure that the collection stays together and remains accessible to all homeowners into the future, plans are being made to locate the archive at the Englewood Public Library.