Congress, which had originally designated the acreage for burials, switched it to parkland at the request of Denver officials. By 1894, graves had been relocated, burials suspended, and the area fenced, but the incipient Cheesman Park remained barren and deserted until landscape architect, Reinhard Schuetze, drew up formal plans in 1898 that included a lily pond, Pavilion, and rows of Linden trees. Adjacent cemetery tracts became Morgan’s Historic District, Congress Park, Denver Botanic Gardens, and soccer fields – planted above the city reservoirs, the soccer fields are located directly north of Congress Park.
As conceived of by Schuetze, Cheesman is a serene expanse in the midst of the bustling city, a peaceful enclave for quiet contemplation, picnicking, reading, and viewing the mountains. Its seclusion is sufficient to lure the occasional bagpiper out to practice amidst the rolling fields at the park’s center.
In 1907 funds for a pavilion were donated by the widow of Walter Cheesman in exchange for naming the park in his honor. Inspired by the Acropolis in Athens and hailed as Denver’s “temple in the sun,” the Pavilion was constructed of white Colorado marble and decorated on the west by reflecting pools and fountains.
The Colorado Mountain Club contributed a guide to the Front Range peaks cast in bronze and mounted along the Pavilion’s west promenade to enrich the viewing experience. Cheesman Park Esplanade, created in 1912, linked Cheesman to Seventh Avenue Parkway and the Williams Street Parkway leading to the Country Club neighborhood.
Intended as a Japanese tea house, the wooden edifice at the park’s north end is currently undergoing renovation after years of neglect. During the ’30s and ’40s, supported by Helen Bonfils, owner of the Denver Post, Cheesman Park hosted seminars and theatrical productions that drew enthusiasts by the thousands each summer.
Cheesman Park remains a significant neighborhood gathering spot, attracting legions of joggers, walkers, picnickers, and sunbathers, much as Schuetze may have originally envisioned. He might also be gratified at the sight of parents and their children flocking to the west-side playground. On breezy days, the sky above Cheesman springs to life with brightly colored kites, and following winter storms, ski tracks soon crisscross the freshly fallen snow.
Hang around long enough and you’re sure to spot some of the diverse wildlife that periodically wander into the park from Cherry Creek or the Botanic Gardens, among them, marmots, foxes, rabbits, and even deer. More common visitors include crows, pigeons, woodpeckers, squirrels, and, on occasion, herons, hawks, Canadian geese, and ducks.
Cheesman Park and environs offers an unparalleled opportunity to fully engage with Colorado’s outdoor lifestyle in an urban setting. “Central Park” in Denver is a compelling reminder to us all why “’tis a privilege to live in Colorado.”