The Berkeley area’s humble beginnings came about in 1863 when the first homesteads in the area were granted. They were later sold in 1879 and turned into an alfalfa farm named Berkeley Farms. By 1892, 450 people lived in the area and the town named itself the Town of North Denver.
One of the main attractions that brought people to the Berkeley neighborhood was Elitch Gardens which was originally located at 38th and Tennyson. Elitch Gardens opened in 1890 as a zoological and botanical gardens. Elitch’s had a strong influence on the art culture in the neighborhood.
The first movies shown in Denver were screened at Elitch’s. Elitch Theater became known across the country as having some of the best summer stock and many of the top actors of the early 20th century performed here. According to the Denver Householder’s Directories, Elitch Gardens looked like a microcosm of the Berkeley neighborhood today, with bakeries, grocery stores, hardware and furniture stores, tailors and dry cleaners, barbers and beauty shops, physicians and pharmacies.
Due to Elitch’s popularity, the “Berkeley Motor” became one of the most traveled trolley lines in the city. Newspapers began advertising large homes listed as “along the line known as the Berkeley Motor” which helped start a slow but steady growth of residents to the area. Between 1926 and 1950, the number of properties on Tennyson between W. 38th and W. 44th grew by 50%.
The Town of North Denver changed its name to Berkeley in 1898 and was officially annexed in 1902 when it was included in the state legislature’s official creation of Denver as a city and county. After annexation, Berkeley saw a slow but steady growth in its popularity, both with city residents and visitors.
The area continues to grow today, both in residential and commercial properties. The neighborhood prides itself on the variety of services available as well as the many special events that bring people to the area, most notably the First Friday Art Walks.
And while the types of services and merchants may have changed since the early days, the charm and history of the neighborhood can still be seen in many shops along Tennyson were locally owned and operated businesses occupy original buildings.