Lakewood Heritage Center celebrating city’s 50th birthday

Museum selecting 50 objects to best represent city’s past for new exhibit

Posted 11/28/18

James Jeff “Jim” Richey had love and passion for the city of Lakewood. Richey, the man who became known as the “Father of Lakewood,” drew out the boundaries for the city on a pingpong table …

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Lakewood Heritage Center celebrating city’s 50th birthday

Museum selecting 50 objects to best represent city’s past for new exhibit

Posted

James Jeff “Jim” Richey had love and passion for the city of Lakewood. Richey, the man who became known as the “Father of Lakewood,” drew out the boundaries for the city on a pingpong table in the basement of his home.

Richey’s pingpong table proved to be a significant piece in Lakewood’s history, and that story is one of many that the Lakewood Heritage Center wants to tell as it prepares to celebrate the city’s 50th anniversary.

Lakewood is turning 50 on June 24 of next year, and the Lakewood Heritage Center, a museum that displays artifacts that shows the history of the city, is planning on adding more artifacts to continue to tell the story of Lakewood. Museum officials are currently in the draft process of adding to the Lakewood Heritage Center, but after public meetings, Caitlin Lewis, a museum curator, said herself and others have an idea of what they want to add to the museum — information and artifacts about the history of the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD), the Denver Federal Center and health and wellness in the city.

“We wanted to pull on some of the emotional heart strings and mental memories of people who have lived here for a long time. We’re trying to talk about where we came from to where we are now,” Lewis said. “This is a really exciting project.”

By displaying information and artifacts about RMCAD, the Lakewood Heritage Center will tell a story about a Jewish community that held a strong presence in the city. The arts college used to be the site of the Jewish Consumptives Relief Society, and the area had a high Jewish population because many Jews left Eastern Europe to escape tuberculous, according to Lewis.

“There are diverse groups of people who have lived in Lakewood. We know those stories are out there, and we’re trying to collect them,” Lewis said.

The Denver Federal Center has been one of Lakewood’s biggest employers since its early days when it employed people to produce gun ammunition. The Lakewood Heritage Center possesses some artifacts from the Denver Federal Center like gas masks, but it is hoping to add more items to display. Lewis said the Denver Federal Center aspect of the museum will contain oral history from people who worked there, World War II posters, photographs and maps.

With plenty of parks and open space in Lakewood, health and wellness has always been a big part of the city’s culture. The Lakewood Heritage Center is planning on honoring that culture by displaying information and photographs of Lakewood’s parks and the city’s country clubs including the Lakewood Country Club and the former Green Gables Country Club. Lewis also said the museum will have early bicycles on display.

Museum officials are also hoping to create a more hands-on experience for people who visit the Lakewood Heritage Center. The museum is planning on adding a juke box, a historic television with information about the incorporation of the city playing on it and a pingpong table that will display information and photographs from a projector onto it as an ode to Richey.

As the city approaches its 50th anniversary, the Lakewood Heritage Center is preparing a project called “50 Objects for Lakewood’s 50th Anniversary.” The museum has 40,000 artifacts, but a small amount of them are on display, just like at any other museum. Museum officials are planning on choosing 50 significant objects from its permanent collection to place online. Those items will relate to key things from Lakewood’s history like agriculture, commercial growth, community culture, the incorporation of Lakewood as a city, education and more. Part of the project will also see museum officials add artifacts to the online database every month next year.

“What we’re striving to do is make our collection more accessible to a broader audience. A big reason why we’re doing (50 Objects for Lakewood’s 50th Anniversary) is so that folks who aren’t able to get here are at least able to connect with some of the artifacts who make us who we are,” said Betsy Bowers, Lakewood Heritage Center administrator.

Outside of the museum, Lakewood is planning out other ways to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Residents can vote for its 50th anniversary artist at lakewoodtogether.org/Lakewood50. That artist will create a permanent public piece at Addenbrooke Park to celebrate the past, present and future of Lakewood.

Lakewood will also host pop-up parties all throughout the city beginning at the start of 2019. The city also launched a historic scavenger hunt that takes place at different historic homes, farms, a cemetery and more.

“The goal is really to celebrate the community we’ve become and to celebrate the residents and businesses who have helped us become who we are today. This is about Lakewood and its residents and the great community we’ve become today,” said Michelle Nierling, Lakewood’s Heritage, Culture and the Arts manager.

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