What’s In A Name? Circus Showman P.T. Barnum’s Connection To Denver

Listen Now
Denver View From Barnum
The view of Denver from Barnum neighborhood's water park.

The history of Denver’s Barnum neighborhood has been riddled with rumor and speculation. But for anyone who’s been to the circus, the name P.T. Barnum is iconic.

A new Golden Globe-winning film, “The Greatest Showman,” starring Hugh Jackman, is putting the circus owner back in the spotlight. But the film’s success raises another question: Why is the Denver neighborhood named after Barnum even though he never lived here? Barnum Neighborhood

Well the answer is actually pretty simple: he invested in developing the neighborhood.

"He put the money into the area through his son-in-law William T. Buchtel,” Denver historian Phil Goodstein explained. “But other than the name Barnum, it's a remnant of him as the investor but it never really took off according to Barnum's or Buchtel's dreams."

Goodstein said after Buchtel married Barnum’s daughter, Helen, they moved to Colorado because the climate was good for Buchtel’s tuberculosis. Buchtel developed the neighborhood hoping it would become prestigious but it remained working class for a long time.

And the rumor that Barnum used to winter his animals in that area? Goodstein said that’s “total nonsense.”

Barnum did bring the circus to town a handful of times in the late 1800s. The legendary showman died in 1891.