The Mushroom King
Location: West side of the Westin Hotel, north of 104th Avenue and east of Westminster Boulevard.
Artist: Winsor Fireform Fabrication - Tumwater, Wash.
Year Installed: 2010.
How Acquired: Funded by the City of Westminster.
Comments: The history panel is located at the base of one of sixteen custom-designed light towers.
The Mushroom King
Towering above Federal Boulevard at 110th Court is one of Colorado’s most unusual historic advertisements: a giant mushroom can elevated fifty feet above the ground. Located in a suburban neighborhood park, the mammoth can marks the historic location of the Savery Savory Mushroom Farm, one of the Rocky Mountain region’s largest and most successful agricultural producers from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Charles William Savery was born in 1878 in Pennsylvania. He moved to Denver in 1909 and initially went into the mining stock brokerage business. In 1922, Savery and a partner tried their hands at the production of mushrooms in a building under Denver’s 20th Street viaduct.
Desiring to expand his small operation, Savery purchased an 80-acre Adams County farm near the town of Westminster. One key to successfully growing mushrooms was the location of a reliable water source, and Savery found an artesian aquifer with high-quality water under the farm. Groundwater was pumped into an elevated tank along Federal Boulevard, which Savery had painted to look like one of his mushroom cans. Savery rigged strips of canvas in the darkened growing rooms. Dampened by troughs of water, an electric fan blew air over the material to lower the temperature and create a moist environment.
By 1930, the operation had expanded to the size of a company town with 32 mushroom buildings along with a water tower, general store, schoolhouse, boarding house, baseball field, tennis court, and more than twenty residences for employees. At least eighty men, women and children lived there, most of them Mexican immigrants. Both adults and children worked in the mushroom-growing operation, canning plant, and crop fields. The mushrooms were grown year-round in “caves”, long insulated buildings that each held eight tiers of growing beds. Because the product had to be grown in the dark, laborers worked the damp corridors with carbide lamps as if in the depths of a mine.
In 1928 Savery began to use the name Great Western Mushroom Company and by 1935 the firm had opened branch plants in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Mushrooms were shipped all over the United States, some fresh and others in cans declaring their contents as “Savery Savory Mushrooms.” The three facilities were soon producing 10,000 pounds of mushrooms daily. Excellent sales continued into the 1940s and the Adams County farm grew to include 39 mushroom buildings. By the middle of the decade, it was grossing revenues of more than $1,200 each day.
In 1953, the company ceased operations, ending the thirty-year reign of Colorado’s Mushroom King. Today, all that remains of his empire is the landmark mushroom can water tower perched above Federal Boulevard, which was restored in 2006 by the City of Westminster.