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"Winding streets surrounding an elliptical-shaped park make Bonnie Brae a serene residential enclave in the midst of the city,” began the description of the Bonnie Brae neighborhood in Historic Denver’s 1997 Annual House Tour.
The winding streets and elliptical-shaped park were purposely planned by Denver’s most renowned landscape architect Dutch immigrant Saco DeBoer, who put form and substance into Mayor Speer’s vision of a City Beautiful program. Deboer departed from the traditional grid system because he was worried about the impact of the automobile, a growing form of transportation in the 1920s.
Bonnie Brae was originally developed by businessman George Olinger, in the 1920s. He patterned the development after a similar subdivision named Bonnie Brae, “pleasant hill”, in Kansas City. He tried to create the appearance of a Scottish village. His company declared bankruptcy shortly after the great crash of 1929. Only a few homes were constructed in the 1920s. Building began after the end of the Great Depression. Deboer’s Ellipse Park, now Bonnie Brae Park, was finally constructed in 1936 and homes were built around it. After WWII housing boomed in the neighborhood as elsewhere in Denver.
The delay in building from the 1920s to the late 1930s allowed Bonnie Brae to showcase many new architectural styles developed originally in Europe. These included The International Style, which focuses on a building’s primarily minimal function; Art Moderne, which uses classical elements in different ways, emphasizing horizontal lines, softened angles and curved corners; and Art Deco, which emphasizes vertical lines, ornate detail taken from Native Americans and the Egyptians. Many of these homes still exist today, but, many have been scraped and replaced with current modern designs.
A delightful business district thrives on Bonnie Brae’s each boundary on University Boulevard, between Exposition and Ohio. The neighborhood boundaries are Exposition Avenue on the north, East Mississippi Avenue on the south, Steele Street on the east, and University Boulevard on the west. The neighborhood has easy access to downtown and Cherry Creek.
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