1920 to 1950
1920s to 1950s
The town of Westminster continued to grow, and soon became the center for some of the largest apple and cherry orchards in the country. People from the entire Denver area came to Westminster in the spring to enjoy the apple trees in blossom, and in the fall to purchase the fruit. During this time, an apple house was built to store the fruit and make apple cider and a special spur of the railroad was added to pick up the produce for delivery across the United States. The Shaffer Orchards were operated until 1950 when they were sold to make room for the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Madison Orchard, encompassing 725 acres of what is now Shaw Heights, was sold in 1922.
With a population of 1,686 in 1950, Westminster was still a quiet rural town northwest of Denver. That all changed when the Colorado State Highway Department began construction of the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, a toll-road that operated between the City of Boulder and the Valley Highway (I-25).
Completed in 1952, the Turnpike bisected Westminster and brought approximately 7,000 people by the City every day. By 1966, the traffic had risen to over 13,500 drivers per day. Due to the high volume of traffic, the toll-road became a freeway in 1967, 15 years ahead of schedule. Today, the highway is one of the busiest in the state, contributing to the growth of Westminster and other cities in the northwest quadrant of the Denver metropolitan area.
Another factor in the rapid growth of Westminster in the 1950's was the need to provide housing for the veterans of World War II. Veterans from all parts of the United States swarmed to Colorado, remembering the beautiful Colorado scenery and climate, and the warmth of the people they had met during their service stints in the state. Residents of Colorado came back home to stay. All wanted a place to live and raise their families, and developers prepared to meet the challenge.
Dow Chemical opened the Rocky Flats plant in 1951, creating more jobs and demand north and west of Denver for homes for the workers and their families. In 1953, over 2,500 people called Westminster home. By 1960 the population reached 13,850. With so many moving into the City, the people of Westminster needed more control over their destiny.
In 1957, still in the midst of the post-war housing boom, Westminster discovered a need for more control over its future. Increased growth had already changed the city to second class status, with local government being guided by state statutes, when Mayor A.V. Wilson turned the subject of the City's growth over to a citizen's committee. The committee recommended that the City should write a City Charter and adopt home rule.
A 21-member charter convention was elected to draft and review the new charter, which was approved by voters in January of 1958.
Home rule gave the Westminster City Council the authority to direct its destiny by allowing them to issue bonds for the financing of utility improvements, and by giving them the financial control to avoid problems while providing needed capital improvements. The City Charter also called for a Council/Manager form of government, vesting the responsibility for managing the City's day-to-day operations in a professional City Manager.
Another important provision of the new Charter called for the non-partisan election of City Council members at-large. The provision has been responsible for providing Westminster with City Councils who are concerned with the overall welfare of the community, rather than with special interest segments.