Day 469 - Denver
The most outstanding name among Swedes in Denver related to health care in the early twentieth century was Dr. Charles A. Bundsen (1872-1956), originally from Holma, a village near Lysekil, Bohuslän. As a young man, Bundsen went to sea, eventually landing in Canada and the United States. After serving with the Medical Corps in Manila during the Spanish-American War, Bundsen attended medical school in Denver. One night, as the story goes, Bundsen dreamed of founding a sanatorium where Swedish people could be treated for tuberculosis. (Colorado’s high altitude, low humidity, and considerable sunshine were regarded as ideal for treating tuberculosis.) A plan for establishing such an institution was presented to a group of Denver businessmen, who in 1905 agreed to its incorporation as the Swedish Consumptive Sanatorium (changed in 1909 to Swedish National Sanatorium), with Bundsen to be its chairman. The Swedish Ladies Consumptive Aid Society was formed in 1905 to promote the idea of a sanatorium, and in 1906 a committee was authorized to purchase five acres of land in nearby Englewood. The first building was begun the following year, and twenty-five patient cottages and an administration building soon went up. Five Swedish denominations and five fraternal organizations joined forces in supporting the project.
In 1921 the board decided to expand the facilities further and adopted the “mayflower” program. Considerable funds for the fight against tuberculosis had been raised in Sweden since 1907 through the sale of artificial majblomman, and after a visit to Sweden in 1921 by Bundsen and John Osterberg, a Rhode Island businessman, the mayflower idea was brought to the United States, with proceeds going exclusively to the Swedish National Sanatorium. In 1923 and 1924, three additional buildings were completed, as well as an iron fence with donor plaques. In 1927 Sweden’s Prince Wilhelm visited the sanatorium, which greatly encouraged further expansion. In the mid-1940s, Bundsen resigned as medical director, and in 1952 a new wing of the Mayflower Building, known as the Bundsen Addition, was completed. Today, two other hospitals have joined forces with the sanatorium, and the complex is known as the Swedish Medical Center, one of Denver’s largest hospitals.
Near the main rotunda in the Colorado State Capitol (at Broadway and E. Colfax Avenue), in a niche to the right of the main stairway, is a bronze bust of Edwin Carl Johnson (1884-1970), a Colorado governor (1933-1937, 1955-1957) and U.S. senator (1937-1955) of Swedish ancestry. (George A. Carlson, Colorado governor, 1915-1920, was also of Swedish background.) Johnson was born on a farm near Scandia, Kansas, and later moved to Colorado to improve his health. Initially a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Johnson became a critic and was considered a party maverick.
The red-brick Goosetown Tavern (at 3242 E. Colfax Avenue) with unique architectural details was originally located near Golden Gate Canyon State Park west of Denver and was moved to its present location. Proprietress Mary Wikstrom, the daughter of Swedish immigrants Lars and Martha Wikstrom who homesteaded in 1873 at the junction of Betty and Dry Creeks, married Nels Dahlberg, a prominent figure in Golden’s Swedish community who purchased the Goosetown Tavern. When Nels died, Mary and her son ran the tavern.
The congregation of the Augustana Lutheran Church (at 500 Alameda Avenue, www.augustanadenver.org) was organized in 1878, and two years later, Dr. Johannes Telleen took charge. From a group of eleven, the congregation has grown to become one of the largest Lutheran churches in the United States with over 2,000 baptized members. In 1881 the first service was conducted in a sanctuary on Broadway Welton, and Nineteenth Streets. Telleen remained with the congregation until 1884, sewing also as Swedish vice-consul in Denver. He then went to the West Coast and established congregations in California. In 1889 a new sanctuary was built at Twenty-third and Court Place. Augustana grew rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s. During the pastorate of Dr. Paul H. A. Noren in the 1950s, five and one-half acres were purchased and the present strikingly modern sanctuary constructed.
In the patio is the first building’s cornerstone. An Archives Room contains memorabilia. The impressive church is on high ground with good views of parts of Denver and the Rockies, including Mount Evans and Pikes Peak.
The 1910 red-brick Bethany Swedish Evangelical Church building (at 1625 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Gilpin Street) with its prominent corner bell tower is an example of Gothic Revival architecture. Adjacent to the church is the 1913 brick parsonage, a craftsman-style bungalow. Since 1957 it has been the Denver Gospel Church.
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