When the City of Lakewood was incorporated almost 50 years ago
in 1969, it was a remarkable task of weaving a community together from
neighborhoods with a strong sense of identity founded on decades of residents
working together to build schools, lay pipelines or install other improvements
The name Lakewood originated long before the city existed, and
it came from a subdivision that William Loveland, owner of the Colorado Central
Railroad, established in 1889 near West Colfax Avenue and Harlan Street. In the
early years, residents in the area ranched, raised turkeys and operated
dairies. In the 1940s, the federal government acquired the land now known as the Federal Center, and in the decades that
followed, agriculture gave way to neighborhoods, each establishing a sense of pride.
Several efforts to incorporate into a city occurred in the 1940s
and 1950s, but they failed. In 1969, fears of annexation to Denver and a lack
of law enforcement resources began to concern residents, now numbering over 90,000.
Boundaries for a new city were drawn on a basement pingpong table in the home
of James Jeff "Jim" Richey, chairman of the Citizens for Incorporation. In June 1969, those
living in neighborhoods such as Alameda, Green Mountain, Bear Creek, Applewood
and Lakewood voted by more than a two-to-one margin to create a city, one of
the largest incorporations of its time. Richey became mayor, but the City
Council had to find offices and supplies on a shoestring budget. The city's
name was soon changed from Jefferson City to Lakewood after residents favored
that name in an advisory vote to the City Council, which changed the name by
From the beginning, Lakewood's growth was positive, progressive
and visionary. The Police Department became one of the first ever to require
its agents to have a college degree. In 1983, Lakewood residents approved a
City Charter, which is essentially the City's constitution.
What started as ranchland, turkey farms and early subdivisions
of homes has become one of the largest cities in Colorado with more than
44-square miles and a population of just over 150,000. Lakewood is the third
largest city in the Denver metro area and the fifth largest city in the state
of Colorado. One-quarter of Lakewood’s land is dedicated to parks and open
space, and the city has several major employment centers such as the Federal
Center, Academy Park, Union Boulevard and the St. Anthony Medical Campus.
Residents are also served by several special districts for water, sewer, fire and
schools, all remnants from the early days when residents banded together to
create services for themselves before the city existed.
To help preserve Lakewood's history, the Lakewood Heritage
Center is home to more than 30,000 historical objects and more than 8,000
historical photographs. These artifacts and photographs tell the story of the Lakewood, Jefferson County, the state and national and world events as
they relate to Lakewood residents. These artifacts cover, but are not limited
to, the history of 20th century business and technology, textiles and personal
artifacts, toys, military life, domestic life and material culture. You can learn
more about this important community amenity by visiting Lakewood.org/HeritageCenter.