A castle-like building with a garden in front, with text overlaid that reads "Mosaic Community Campus, 1890-Present"

I. The Land

When Europeans came to the land that is now Denver in the mid 1800’s, it was Arapahoe territory.  Sand Creek runs through East Denver, near the current location of Mosaic Community Campus, and down into the plains of Southeast Colorado, where the tragic Sand Creek Massacre was perpetrated by white settlers against a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho Native Americans. The encampment was mostly made up of women, children, and elderly people. On November 29th, 1864, American soldiers under the command of Colonel Chivington murdered 230 Cheyenne and Arapahoe people in this encampment in a scene that even fellow soldiers thought was disgusting, cowardly, and horrific. Denver was built on the ancestral land of these tribes, and we cannot forget either their past and ongoing contribution to the landscape, or their treatment at the hands of white settlers.

Site of the Sand Creek Massacre marked on 1890 USGS Kit Carson quadrangle topographical map.

This campus resides in Denver’s thriving Park Hill neighborhood, although at the time the campus was built, Park Hill consisted of only one housing development, and the rest of the land was expansive plains and farmland. Over the next century, Park Hill grew into a bustling neighborhood with shaded boulevards, restaurants, stores and parks, and expanded to include North Park Hill and Northeast Park Hill. After World War II, many Black families moved to Park Hill, and it became a national example of a racially integrated neighborhood. There is little information about the integration of the Colorado Women’s College, although we know that a woman named Henrietta Dove became the first Black student at Colorado Women’s College in 1951, three years before Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in schools. Like much of Denver, gentrification has been heavily impacting the neighborhood since the 1990’s, which has driven up housing costs and displaced long-time residents. Urban Land Conservancy has a long history of working with the Park Hill Community; you can view ULC’s other properties in Park Hill here.

II. Colorado Women’s College


In the 1880’s, less than 20 years after the Sand Creek Massacre, Denver’s population was growing quickly. Baptist Reverend Robert Cameron saw a need for an institute of higher education for the women of Colorado, and in 1890, after the project was approved by the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association, construction began on a 20-acre site on the plains east of Denver. The first, and only building at this time, which would later become Treat Hall, was designed by Frank H. Jackson and Betts in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.

Treat Hall in 1906

An economic downturn in the mid 1890’s and a lack of funding meant that the college did not accept its first class of students until September of 1909. That year, 59 women made up the first class of the college, which grew to 178 students by 1914, as more and more young women were drawn to the Colorado sunshine to take courses in home and family, algebra, Latin, English, psychology, as well as to play sports, learn instruments, and otherwise socialize with other young women.

Due to increasing enrollment over the years, the campus kept expanding. Additions included:

1916 North Wing of Treat Hall, designed by S. Arthur Axtens 1929 Foote Hall, designed by Axtens 1939 Porter Hall, designed by Axtens 1947 Pulliam and Mason Halls, designed by Axtens 1956 Curtis Hall, designed by Axtens 1962 Whatley Chapel and Dutton Hall, designed by Stanley Morse 1963 Campus Library completed, designed by Victor Hornbein and Ed White 1965 Dunklee Hall completed, by Stanley Morse
The laying of the cornerstone at Colorado Women's College
The laying of the cornerstone at Treat Hall in 1890

At the time, only three other states—New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire— had colleges that were comparable to the new campus being built in Denver (Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith, respectively). 

The Denver Evening Times reported of the new college:

quote that says "There are all over the Union many narrow-chested and consumptively inclined girls, who have high aims, ambitious purposes, and an insatiable thirst for learning. To gratify these commendable longings in the damp climate of the East involves great risks and often certain death. In Colorado, however, the pursuit of learning might be made to run parallel with the acquisition of health.”
CWC students playing basketball in the early 1900's
CWC students playing basketball in the early 1900's
Porter, Pulliam, and Curtis halls
An aerial view of the campus in 1940, showing Foote, Treat, and Porter Halls
“Being a student in a new building, the first college for women in the West, was itself an adventure to the maids of that era,” recalled an alumna.

III. Denver Law School

IV. Johnson and Wales University

V. Mosaic Community Campus