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—Courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens

Ghost Town

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Today, the Denver Botanic Gardens’ extensive collection of flowers, trees, and grasses is a beautiful and lively space that sees more than 70,000 visitors each month. But between 1865 and 1950, the 24-acre plot hosted a less sprightly population: thousands of bodies buried in the Catholic Mount Calvary Cemetery (pictured, right). The poorly irrigated area wasn’t exactly prime real estate early in Denver’s development, but toward the end of the 19th century, as wealthy Denverites began to build mansions up and down the slopes of what is now Capitol Hill, the city agreed to replace the cemetery with more attractive neighborhood elements, such as a new garden and park. Doing so meant hiring workers to extract the bodies from Mount Calvary, a grisly endeavor that didn’t begin until 1950. Fortunately, the transfer of Calvary’s bodies to Mount Olivet went more smoothly than the disassembly of neighboring City Cemetery (modern-day Cheesman Park) several decades earlier, when the man hired to remove the bodies for $1.90 per coffin increased his rate of return by putting parts of bodies into multiple coffins. Gives new meaning to paying an arm and a leg for something, doesn’t it?

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