History of Elm Court 1973-2017

The first 60 years of Elm Court saw the area grow from countryside to a working-class neighborhood.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Denver had deliberately “created or maintained racially or ethnically segregated schools throughout the district” (Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1). The remedy: mandated school busing. Students were barred from attending neighboring schools and instead attended across town with students of other backgrounds. It was well-intentioned, but there was a backlash. That fall, empty school buses were set ablaze and district offices bombed. By 1984, over 30,000 white kids (plus their parents) had fled to the suburbs. Two-thirds of the Denver city residents left behind were racial or ethnic minorities, many of them poor.


These were hard times for inner city neighborhoods like Sunnyside (then called Northside). Gangs ruled the streets. Crime was a big concern, and residents put bars on the windows. Those bars stayed on well into 2000s… a few are still evident today. Forced busing was finally declared a failure in 1995. Children could once again attend a school near their home. Sadly, a racially-diverse student body is still uncommon in many Denver schools and the dream of all students succeeding academically has yet to be realized.

On March 4, 1997, 4527 was sold by Juan Rodriguez, Jr and others to Michael Rodriguez for $83,000. From June 1997 through 1999 there were unpaid sewer (and likely other) bills.

While renovating on 12/15/1997, a welding torch ignited wood and Denver Fire responded to the incident. Losses were reported at $20,000 but confined to the room of origin. New electrical, water heater, and other construction were completed from January through April 1998. On 9/8/98 Rodriguez was cited for unsanitary conditions. It’s been reported that the home was the site of many illegal substance sales during those years. Even children were seen sitting on the front porch and acting as curbside delivery for cars that stopped in front.

The house was used as collateral for a bail bond at 21% interest, which was defaulted on 1/23/2000. Deed was transfered to Melinda Rodriguez in 2003, then to General Lending later that year. On 1/17/04 the house and $9,000 property was seized. The occupant was listed as Jesse Birton. Several neighboring homes were vacant at this time as the block reached its low point.


On September 10, 2004 Patrick Hyland bought 4527 Elm Court for $165,000 from General Lending and began remodeling – the second home on the block to undergo major renovation. Hyland had previously renovated 2626 West 44th Avenue and 4502 Elm Court. For 4527 Elm Court, Hyland pretty much took it down to the bare exterior… then rebuilt it all. The remodel included new stucco exterior, new interior walls, plumbing, electrical, roof, sewer, and a new 3-car garage. I, Robert Pickering, purchased it on July 1, 2005. I constructed the gardens. It seemed to have not had a proper landscape in 100 years.

At first, the duplex next door at 4507 Elm Court was subsidized housing and had many short-term renters. As late as 2008 there were still disputes between gang members. Thankfully the altercations involved tasers and not guns. I recall as many as nine police cars blocking the street late one night.

One by one the houses on this and surrounding blocks were sold and renovated, often selling for double the price a few months later. At the beginning it was one or two homes a year, then two or three. By 2014, it seemed the sound of construction filled the air on a daily basis. Gentrification and a very hot real estate market have transformed Denver. For the most part these changes have been positive, but  not without challenges.


As of 2017, a majority of the houses have been renovated. One of the last is the old Schafer house at 2855 West 45th Avenue. It was sold in 1994 for $86,000, reportedly with an interest-only loan. It sold again in 2016 for $210,000 in deplorable condition. After renovation in 2017, it’s expected to sell for over $700,000.

Elm Court and Sunnyside have seen many changes, and with trendy shops, restaurants, art galleries and nightlife, it’s become one of Denver’s hottest neighbhoods.

More about Elm Court

© Robert B Pickering 2017