Auraria's First Immigrant Groups

Published: May 17, 2016

By Aimee Wismar Germans


Picture of Brewers outside the Tivoli Brewing Company
Picture Brewers gather outside the Tivoli Brewing Company.
Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library

In Auraria Germans began immigrating to Denver in the 1860s and quickly became the city’s largest foreign-born group. Many German immigrants settled in Auraria. From the 1860s until the early twentieth century, German immigrants were Denver’s most prosperous immigrant group. They opened bakeries, groceries, pickle factories, and, most importantly, breweries.

St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church

Photo of St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church

Picture Image courtesy of Thomas J. Noel St.

St. Elizabeth’s church was a pivotal German institution in the Auraria neighborhood. The church was founded by Franciscan brothers who built the church in 187?. Although the church was intended for the German population of Auraria, many of their new Irish neighbors also flocked to the church. This caused many tensions between the new and old immigrants, and just a year after the dedication of St. Elizabeth’s, the Irish population of Auraria petitioned to have their own church. By the early 1900s, the Auraria neighborhood was beginning to change. No longer was it a middle-class neighborhood. With the rise of industrialization in the area, Auraria became a working-class neighborhood, and the German population was replaced by Jewish and Hispanic immigrants.






Photo of house on 9th Street

Picture 1045-47 Ninth Street was built in 1890 by William F. Shulz, a German immigrant and bookkeeper for the Tivoli Brewing Company. Prominent Irish immigrant, Eugene Madden once lived at 1047 Ninth Street. Madden was a Denver City Councilman, proprietor of Madden’s Dry Goods, and owner of a popular Auraria saloon. Image courtesy of Aimee Wismar Picture Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library.



The Irish in Auraria


The few Irish immigrants who settled in early Auraria were miners drawn to the area by the promise of gold and riches. As Auraria expanded(and eventually became co-opted by Denver) many Irish men worked as common laborers, while women worked as domestics, seamstresses or laundresses. Many Irish immigrants owned and operated taverns as well. Even though the Irish only represented three percent of the cities population, they operated ten percent of the city’s taverns. As the nineteenth century closed, the Irish population in Denver soared, and many were able to escape their menial jobs of the past. They became police officers, firefighters, business owners and politicians. Eventually the Irish left the working-class Auraria neighborhood and moved to middle-class sections of the city, but they left their permanent mark on the neighborhood.




St. Leo's Catholic Church

St. Leo's Catholic Church

Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library


St. Leo's Catholic Church The Catholic Church was an important feature for the Irish living in the Auraria neighborhood. Initially, the Irish shared St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church with the German immigrants living in the neighborhood, but social and ethnic tensions between the groups led the Irish to request their own church in the area. St. Leo’s was funded, in part, by John K. Mullen, and was consecrated in 1890. In the early years of the church, St. Leo’s was one of the most successful Catholic churches in the city, with over 2500 parishioners, but by the early twentieth century, many of the Irish who had lived in Auraria had moved. Hispanics had begun to move into the neighborhood as well. For a period, the Irish and Hispanics shared St. Leo’s, with the Hispanic services being held in the basement. In 1925 Mullen helped finance the building of St. Cajetan’s so the Hispanic population of Auraria would have their own place to worship. Because many of the Irish families had moved from the neighborhood, St. Leo’s permanently in 1965. The church was torn down with the building of the new campus, and the Auraria Technology building stands where St. Leo’s once was.