Arvada's Century: Community and Culture

The town of Arvada was the business and social center of the valley. Everyone came to town on Saturdays. Most stores had a hitching rack to tie up horses while customers shopped, and trees in the middle of Grand View provided welcome shade. There were no paved streets or sidewalks. Planks were laid across the largest puddles in wet weather.

Early Arvadans participated in community activities of all sorts, and founded service clubs, literary societies, sporting clubs, farming organizations, pioneer associations, and adult education. There were always lectures or club meetings to attend. Barn dances were held in various people's barns or in public buildings. Women brought cakes and pies, and passing the hat paid local musicians.

In 1925, the first concrete road between Arvada and Denver was completed and the newly formed Chamber of Commerce planned a huge celebration with Arvada's fall harvest for October 17. An appearance by the Governor and a football game were planned, as well as speeches, displays of goods and farm animals, and music and dancing. No one counted on a blizzard the night before the celebration, but Arvadans shoveled the roads and celebrated anyway, without the Governor or the football game. Thus the annual Harvest Festival was born. Only three times since has the Festival not been held-one year during the Great Depression, once during World War II, and once during a polio scare.

In 1937, a group of Arvada women decided to get together to discuss the growing of plants and flowers. Soon the group became the Arvada Garden Club. Their motto was: "Strive to develop the beauties of our town." Until 1999 when the Club officially disbanded, members planted trees, flowers, and shrubs all over the community, including Olde Wadsworth Boulevard, Hackberry Hill Park, the Arvada library, and McIlvoy Park, a held fund raisers to support community projects such as providing Christmas trees to Fitzsimmons Hospital and running a therapy project at the Ridge Home.

The idea for the Arvada Center began in 1972, when almost 160 sixth grade students from Secrest Elementary School presented a pageant called Look Back With Pride. Arvada teacher Lois Lindstrom had written the pageant so these students could learn about Arvada's rich history. That same year, the Arvada Historical Society was formed by Lindstrom, who served as its first president. In 1973, the Arvada City Council asked Lindstrom to chair a committee to develop the concept of a cultural center.

The Cultural Center Committee wanted much more than a place to meet and talk about history. They wanted a place where artists could come together and share a living history with the community, a center that would enrich cultural life. The Committee, with assistance from architect Harold Carver, developed a plan which was adopted by the City Council-a center which would house a museum, art galleries, and a theater.

The Arvada City Council set the date of May 21, 1974 for a bond election on two questions: $3.4 million dollars for Parks and Open Space, and $3.6 million dollars to construct a cultural center. When the votes were tallied on election night both the parks bond and the cultural center bond issues had passed.

The Center and the Museum opened in 1976. Today, the Arvada Center is one of the metro Denver area's largest cultural attractions, offering a wide variety of arts experiences - professional theater productions for both adults and children, concerts, dance performances, critically acclaimed gallery exhibitions, a history museum, classes in the arts and humanities, banquet /conference facilities and more.