Highland is a city-center neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, located immediately northwest of the original city site, today on the west side of Interstate 25. The neighborhood is bounded by Interstate 25 on the east, West 38th Ave on the north, Speer Boulevard and 29th avenue when the two roads meet on the South, and Federal Boulevard on the West. West Highland is a neighborhood to the immediate west of Highland, with the borders of 38th and 29th Avenues on the north and south and Federal and Sheridan Boulevards on the east and west. To distinguish between its immediately adjacent neighbor, West Highland, Highland is sometimes referred to as East Highland. The two together are casually called “the Highlands,” a term which often encompasses other nearby neighborhoods such as Jefferson Park.
Highland is often confused with the suburb of Highlands Ranch, located approximately 20 miles to the south. The similarity in name is merely a coincidence.
After the May 1864 flood wiped out parts of Denver, new people moved up the hill to the west. The Fifteenth Street Bridge made the western hills accessible and as the years passed streetcars made the area even easier to reach.
In 1875, Owen Le Fevre and other developers petitioned the Arapahoe County Commissioners to establish a village government. After annexing Potter Highland and Highland Park, they form the Town of Highland which became a city in 1885.
Residents were fairly homogeneous. Most were Protestant and they tended to vote Republican. Many men participated in the Masonic Lodge and other similar clubs. In 1892, the young men of Highland formed the North Denver Athletic Club which gave them facilities similar to those enjoyed at the Denver Athletic Club, playground of Denver’s elite.
The women joined churches and other societies. One society of note was the North Side Women’s Club, where they heard lecture and completed good works around the area.
The residents also counted on Owen Le Febre’s artesian well for clean drinking water and the breezes from the west provided clean air by blowing away any smog. Residents supported bond issues for schools, a library, and other civic improvements because they expected to have those services. The founding fathers eventually found it difficult to maintain such city services. In 1896, after considerable discussion, the residents voted to allow Denver to Annex the town.
Separated from the city by the South Platte River and neighboring railyards, Highland remained suburban in character for some time while attracting a variety of immigrants. Large numbers of Italians migrated to the area, as well as a group of Scottish settlers who formed a small enclave in the area. In the latter part of the twentieth century, the area became popular with Hispanic and Mexican immigrants.
By the latter part of the twentieth century, Highland had a marginal reputation among Denver neighborhoods despite its relative proximity to downtown Denver. Separated from downtown by decaying viaducts and the no-mans-land of railyards and industry below, Highlands was considered inaccessible and undesirable.
The redevelopment of the Central Platte Valley in the late 1990s saw Highland’s fortunes rise. Highland became much more accessible to downtown with the construction of the Millennium Bridge and Platte River bridge in the Central Platte valley, along with the construction of the Highland Bridge over Interstate 25 in 2006. Preservationists stepped in to save some of the city’s most architecturally interesting neighborhoods, such as Potter-Highlands Historic District and Stonemans’ Row Historic District. Proximity to downtown led to rapid gentrification of the area in recent years, while the area today is one of the more sought-after city-center neighborhoods. Consequently, considerable redevelopment is occurring in Highland along with a noticeable rise in density, as high-end condominiums and lofts replace older structures and parking lots. However, Highland still offers a large stock of historic single family homes — now some of the closest historic single family construction to Denver’s original town site on the South Platte River.