Tree-lined paths, lush greenery, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and summer concerts contribute to Cheesman Park's reputation as one of Denver's crown jewels. For those unfamiliar with the area, the 80-acre Cheesman Park looks and feels like any other park, ideal for strolls and picnics in the cool shade of the park's many trees.

Unbeknownst to them, they could be walking or sitting on the grave of one of the many people buried here in the 19th century. Cheesman Park, located in the heart of downtown Denver, Colorado, is popular with visitors who want to explore its botanical gardens or take in the 150-mile panoramic view from the pavilion. It is also said to be the home of several restless spirits.

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An Eye-Opening Look into Cheesman Park's Past

Mount Prospect Cemetery was the name of the current Cheesman Park in the mid-nineteenth century. Near the top of the hill, some of the cemetery's most essential sections housed the city's wealthiest and most influential residents. In contrast, the cemetery's outermost perimeter was reserved for criminals and beggars, with the middle class interred in the middle.

As the cemetery's outskirts attracted more criminals, homeless people, and the needy, locals in Denver began to refer to the area as the "Old Boneyard" and "Boot Hill." Despite Larimer's best efforts, the cemetery never achieved the esteem he envisioned. Denver society's wealthy and prominent members buried their loved ones elsewhere. John Walley, a cabinet-maker and would-be undertaker, staked his claim to Mt. Prospect after Larimer left Denver. When Walley was in charge of the cemetery, he performed a terrible job of maintaining it, allowing it to fall into a dreadful state of disrepair as graves were damaged, and sometimes even cattle were permitted to graze on the property.

Because of federal legislation passed in the late 1800s, Denver was able to transform the abandoned cemetery into a public park. Families had 90 days to relocate the remains of their deceased loved ones, and those who could afford it began moving the dead to other cemeteries throughout the city. Due to the enormous number of graves in the Roman Catholic sector, Mayor Bates sold the 40-acre property to the archbishop, renaming it Mount Cavalry Cemetery.

The bulk of those buried in the cemetery were vagrants, criminals, and impoverished individuals, which explains why more than 5,000 bodies went unclaimed. The City of Denver gave E.P. McGovern a contract to remove the remains in 1893. McGovern was to supply a "new" coffin for each deceased individual and transport them to the Riverside Cemetery for $1.90 apiece. The first few days of the relocation went well. However, the deceitful McGovern quickly devised a scheme to increase his profit on the contract. He used child-sized caskets one foot wide and three and a half feet long instead of adult-sized coffins. When dismembering the corpses, McGovern used up to three coffins for a single body. In their haste, body parts and bones spread about in an unorganized manner.

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A 2008 review undertaken by the city government of Denver proposed recreating a significant portion of Reinhardt Scheutze's 1902 concept for Cheesman Park. This objective would be achieved by growing trees over time, replanting them, cleaning out any overgrown vegetation, and re-establishing the parkway's original figure-eight layout in addition to the previous esplanade and gardens surrounding the Cheesman Memorial Pavilion.

Cheesman Park is now a pleasant urban park in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood, with the Denver Botanical Gardens on the park's western edge. A nice run begins downtown, continues along the state Capitol, and completes the 1.6-mile dirt outer loop path around Cheesman Park. The route includes some of Denver's most beautiful homes, the Denver Art Museum, Colorado History Center, and St. John's Cathedral. Add a half-mile run into Congress Park, or explore the historic neighborhoods west of the park between Colfax to the north and 8th Ave. to the south.

The Denver gay community often congregates in Cheesman Park. The annual PrideFest parade, which begins in Cheesman Park and ends in Civic Center Park in the city's downtown, is one of the most well-known LGBT-related events held there. The park is also the site of the annual AIDS Walk Colorado, which takes place in September.

  • How to arrive at Cheesman Park from Denver: Denver and Cheesman Park are 2 kilometers apart. The quickest way from Denver to Cheesman Park is by taxi, which costs between €7 and €9 and takes 4 minutes. A direct bus runs from 12th Ave & Washington St to 12th Ave & Race St. Services run every 30 minutes and are available 24 hours daily. The journey takes approximately 5 min—more on rome2rio.com.
  • Where to eat: The Hive is a contemporary restaurant tucked among the woods near Monet Pool. Daily operation; no reservations accepted. The restaurant serves seasonal dishes, such as burgers, sandwiches, and salads, made to order. See the menu here.