Have you ever wondered why we have a Veterans Museum in Broomfield, Colorado?
You may not know the story of the early years and the profound impact veterans in the 1950s and 60s had on the new growing community.
After maintaining its rural roots for a century, Broomfield experienced a radical transformation beginning in the 1950s with the building of the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. A group of Denver investors purchased what was once the Zang ranch property and formed the Turnpike Land Company. Their aim was to create a “City by the Turnpike,” full of affordable housing that would lure young couples from Denver and Boulder into a new city called Broomfield Heights. The central figure in this endeavor was Balmore (Bal) Swan, who ran the operation from an office in Broomfield and considered the project “his baby.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the investors, along with Ken Ensor, Aksel Nielsen, Bud Knight, Carl Norgren, and several others. They envisioned a modern city arising from the plains, populated by ex-GIs who paid for their new homes with help from the GI Bill. The project did not take off as quickly as originally planned, and by the mid-1960s, the initial investors had sold their holdings. Still, the seed had been planted. It would take a second wave of investors, builders, and entrepreneurs to continue the job these men began, but Broomfield would never be the same.
One of a small group of men who comprised the Turnpike Land Company and built the first neighborhood in Broomfield, Aksel Nielsen is perhaps best known for being a close friend of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a frequent visitor to Colorado. The two often fished together at Nielsen’s ranch near Fraser. As a developer, Nielsen had a reputation for creating neighborhoods that people could afford to live in, including University Hills in Denver and Broomfield Heights.
Many of the founders of the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum were early residents of Broomfield, that bought houses with their GI bills and became active residents. From early doctors to lawyers and businessmen, the veterans of Broomfield started rotaries and the Jaycees. As the years passed, these groups felt it important to not only save the history of the new town but also preserve the stories of some of its older veteran residents. Hence the beginning of a museum to honor those stories.