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Published in March 2015.
Compiled by Robin Chotzinoff
Designed by Kenny Be
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Stapleton Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities
An All-Star Cast. Stapleton: An Oral History
The transformation of Stapleton from an international airport into a thriving neighborhood was fraught with as much drama as a 1970s made-for-TV airplane disaster movie. The cast included Denver's biggest stars and scores of walk-ons and stand-ins. Over 60 of the lead players were interviewed in Stapleton: An Oral History. Excerpts and images from the book are shown below...
Stapleton: An Oral History
Interviews compiled by Robin Chotzinoff, designed by Kenny Be. Above, the former Stapleton International Airport Control Tower, as seen from the empty lot at East 29th Avenue and Uinta Street. Photograph taken on May 8, 2012 by Kenny Be.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Harry Lewis
"In 1938, my parents bought their home at 1755 Glencoe, in Park Hill. Also in the late ‘30s, the City of Denver issued the first airport revenue bonds, to grow Stapleton Airport. Most people don’t realize that the first airport revenue bonds in the United States were issued by Denver."
New Home Construction in Denver
Former Stapleton International Airport control tower as seen from the 3200 block of Trenton Street in Stapleton’s Central Park West neighborhood. Photograph by Kenny Be (2012)
Stapleton: An Oral History. Marge Gilbert
"When we moved to Park Hill, in 1948, there was nothing between us and the airport. I could see the tails of the airplanes from my kitchen window. But there were no jets!
When the jets arrived, they were dripping hydraulic fluid on the clotheslines – this was before dryers. That was the first intrusion. Then blue ice, which is the toilet stuff, fell through the roof of a house in the neighborhood. We were constantly being criticized for complaining: 'Well, you knew what you were doing, moving in next to the airport.' Yes, but there were no jets!"
Chapter 1: I Loved That Old Airport
Denver Municipal Airport 1949.
Chapter 1: I Loved That Old airport
1950 Stapleton Municipal Airport in Denver, Colorado.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Lee White
"Sam Gary had the vision of this gigantic, multi-use plan – a diverse, urban model and a city-planning view that would emphasize design and sustainability. Back then, Sam sounded a little weird. Twenty years later, everything I read about development sounds a little Sam-like."
1951. Frontier and United Airlines on the tarmac at Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado.
1952. Continental Airlines comes to Denver, Colorado.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Angie Malpiede
"The issue at Stapleton isn't parking for cars, it's parking for strollers.They can have a thousand strollers at any given event. People take their kids all over – to open movie nights out on the green,, farmers' markets, swimming pools. It's kind of fun to watch, actually."
1958. Terminal expansion at Stapleton International Airport.
1963. New Control Tower opens at Stapleton International Airport.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Gene Amole
"The way this whole thing is shaking out is that big government, big business, big labor, big developers and the big media are all on one side, and the little guys who actually live in this town are on the other."
Stapleton: An Oral History. Federico Peña
"I think Gene Amole was concerned about the rapid change of the city and wanted to keep it like the old Denver. It reminds me of the book The Old Grey Mayors, where there's a picture of old Mayor Stapleton standing in the mayor's office looking out the window with all these people, and this is right after the war, when a lot of people were coming to Denver – and he says, 'If all these people would just go back to where they came from, we wouldn't have these problems.'"
1977. Interior view of new Main Terminal expansion project by Architect Paul Reddy.
1978. Full Moon image of Denver's Stapleton International Airport terminal and control tower as viewed from the tarmac.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Beth Conover
"In the '90s, I felt like there was a big demographic of people – like my husband and me – that would buy a Prius, that we were looking for opportunities to buy an energy-efficient house in a dense neighborhood, that would love being near all these cool urban things. We knew people from north Denver and Park Hill and Washington Park who couldn't afford bigger houses and wanted more house for the money, where they could still live relatively urban, get the new house and be assured of non-toxic materials, and be right by all these parks and greenways."
1979. Take off from runway 8L-26R at Stapleton International Airport.
1981. The mosaic above, titled “Progress of Flight,” was designed by Stapleton International Airport terminal architect Paul Reddy and made from rare Cambridge tile by artist R. Plochman. Photograph by Keith Kinman.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Bill Fulton
"We were one of the first families to move in. I remember staying up late painting one night, and when I looked out the window, there was nothing. Pitch black. No streetlights. Earth-moving equipment. One of the model homes and a few houses behind us. It felt like being on an island. Lots of risks, but such a sense of possibility."
1984. Stapleton International Airport postcard view.
1985. Stapleton International Airport postcard.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Hubert Farbes
"My plan had been that every irrigable space other than the individual private residences would be irrigated by grey water. Not only did we take recycled water and utilize it for open space, we also deliver the water in an irrigation system aimed at creating a high-plains environment. It's still a model among cities – to have the number of acres of open space that we have, 100% grey-water irrigated."
1980s. Stapleton International Airport Terminal Layout diagram from OAG Flight Call.
1986. Aerial view of Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado looking southeast toward runways 8L-26R.
Stapleton: An Oral History. Kat Allen
We were supposed to be on the five-year plan – have the big house in Stapleton while we still needed it, and then move back to Park Hill. But, I think about going back to the little kitchens, and I can't imagine it.
1989. Postcard view of the control tower and terminal of Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado.
1988. Postcard featuring a view of the United Airlines Concourse at Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado.