The Homegrown Musical ‘The Last Apple Tree’ Tells The History Of A Forgotten Westminster Farm On Its Grounds

August 9, 2019
Actor Betty Hart looks out at Semper Farm in "The Last Apple Tree." Actor Betty Hart looks out at Semper Farm in "The Last Apple Tree." Courtesy of Amanda Berg-Wilson
Actor Betty Hart looks out at Semper Farm in "The Last Apple Tree."

It’s easy to drive past Semper Farm in Westminster without giving a second thought to the small section of open space.

Sandwiched between housing developments and a shopping center, the farm is home to the Allison Community Gardens. But it’s also home to a single apple tree, with its branches drooping low and sturdy from its old age.

The tree is one of the last remnants of the farm’s original state. Today, it stands as a reminder of what Westminster used to be more than a century ago. 

“It really is this kind of lost history right there in the middle of a whole lot of development,” said Amanda Berg-Wilson, the director of The Catamounts theater group’s latest production “The Last Apple Tree.”  

The show, described as a “site-specific musical,” chronicles the history of Semper Farm through multiple generations of owners. It’s an outdoor theater experience where the audience moves in small groups around the farm watching short vignettes of moments in time. 

The farm was first purchased by Charles and Julia Semper in the late 19th century. Like many people who came west during that time, they wanted land they could call their own. 

“Charles Semper is actually a really interesting guy,” Berg-Wilson said. “He was actually the original type-setter for the Rocky Mountain News and so that’s why he came out here.” 

Semper didn’t plan to make a living off the orchard farm, but wanted to maintain the land as a hobby. He was what folks back then would call a “gentleman farmer.” The farm was also a good way to pass time for the Sempers since they had no children. 

This piece of their life is focused on in The Catamounts’ production: How do you pass on the family name when you don’t have children? 

“I love that they sort of fostered this relationship with the town and with their own land since they couldn’t pass on their legacy, the land became their legacy,” said actor Maggie Tisdale, who plays Julia Semper in the show.   

Mrs. Semper died in 1916 and the farm was sold to two brothers who emigrated from Greece and opened up a candy business in Denver. The Allison brothers also bought the farm as a hobby and a weekend retreat. But eventually, one brother — John Allison — had enough of the city and moved to the farm permanently.

“And then he passed it along to his son Steve who was also a Westminster cop,” Berg-Wilson said. “And Steve passed it along to his daughter Linda who ended up selling parts of it off but then passing it along to the city of Westminster.” 

Today, the farm still belongs to the city and the residents of Westminster. It was actually city officials who approached The Catamounts to put on a production highlighting a part of the town’s history. 

“The Last Apple Tree” also features original music by local country band Bonnie & The Clydes. The production runs August 8-11 at Semper Farm in Westminster.