Penguin Building, 7265-7269 Lowell Boulevard
The Penguin Building was built in 1951 by Raymond and Mary Lou Nielsen to house
their pharmacy. The business was
named the Penguin Pharmacy
because, according to Mary Lou,
the Penguin was their “love bird.”
During World War II, Raymond
was working in Hudson’s Drug
Store in Golden and Mary Lou
was working as a chief price
clerk for the Ration Board.
Mary Lou was in Hudson’s and
saw men’s cologne bottles in the
shape of penguins. As a prank,
she turned the heads on the bottles
backward three days in a row.
A grouchy pharmacist (Raymond)
caught her on the third day and
“yelled” at her. He then inquired
further about her identity and started dating her.
The Nielsens moved to Westminster in 1947 as newlyweds. Raymond had just been
discharged from the Army where he was awarded the Silver Star and worked as a medic
in Okinawa and in the South Pacific. He received “mustering-out” pay and Mary Lou
received a severance payment from her job, which they used to buy 3965 West 73rd
Avenue, christening it the Penguin Pharmacy. Raymond was a pharmacist and they
operated their drug store from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.
The Nielsens added onto the rear of this building and lived there. Raymond was also the
unofficial town “physician”. Both people and animals were brought to him for medical
care. He recruited two Denver doctors (Drs. Chambers and Ashman) to come to
Westminster two days a week to see patients. The Nielsens added on to the west side to
create a doctor’s office. Dr. Chambers eventually bought Roy Barnes’ ranch north of
Westminster (current Shaw Heights area).
Ray Nielsen played a central role in starting ambulance service for Westminster. A calf
was donated for the purpose of raising money to buy an ambulance. The Nielsens kept
the calf in their backyard on 73rd Avenue, fattened it, and auctioned it off. The cash was
used to buy an ambulance for the town. Ray, Carl Jacobsen and Lola Eggman were
among the charter members of the District 50 ambulance service. Ambulance driving
and first aid were carried out by volunteers. The ambulance took patients to St. Anthony’s
Central Hospital in Denver.
The Penguin Pharmacy opened in the new Penguin Building on Lowell Boulevard on
October 13, 1951. Mary Lou’s sister Norma, also a Westminster resident and business
owner, was one of the “soda jerks” who served up refreshments to the teen crowd that
gathered at the soda fountain. The 1600 square foot pharmacy was open from 8am to
10pm and, according to the Westminster Journal ads, it featured nationally advertised
brands, such as Russell Stover’s candies, American Greeting cards, a complete gift line,
film, cameras and film developing, a cosmetic bar, school supplies, and money orders,
and Public Service gas bills could be paid there. The building suffered a fire in 1957 that
started in a second-floor law office and caused considerable smoke damage.
At that time, it joined a growing commercial district between 72nd and 73rd on Lowell
Boulevard that included the Westminster Hardware Store, the Harris Park Creamery, the
Post Office, Drs. Reynolds and Platt’s offices, the Westminster Variety Store, and
Rheba's Beauty Bar. The Post Office remained in the north half of the building until it
moved to its current Meade Street location in 1960. The second floor of the Penguin
Building housed law and dental offices and the Republican Party headquarters. The rear
two apartments have always been residential. After the post office moved out, the
Penguin Building was used as a dance studio, a pottery studio, a pool hall, and new and
used store, a restaurant and is currently a martial arts studio. The first floor has raised
wood floors suitable for dance and martial arts, large windows and 14-foot ceilings. The
second floor ceilings are 10 to 12-feet high.