Established in 1882, when Mary and John Elitch, Jr., moved to Denver, Elitch’s first opened as a restaurant. In 1891, an apple orchard, located at West 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street, which John and Mary had purchased to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for their restaurant, became Elitch's Zoological Gardens.

Elitch’s developed as a wonderland of exotic animals, orchards and botanical gardens. Eventually thrill rides and a theatre became part of Elitch’s entertainment venue.

The theatre brought a variety of marching bands, vaudeville and light opera. Mary eventually formed the country's first summer stock company and its stage became host to a who's who of stage and movie legends such as Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Jr., Vincent Price, Gloria Swanson, Ginger Rogers, and Lana Turner. In 1906 Sarah Bernhardt was brought to Denver to play "Camille" and "LaSorcier."

Music was always a big attraction at the gardens. Not only were brass bands popular with visitors, but soon outdoor symphony concerts were drawing large crowds. By then, the garden’s facilities had expanded to include swings, a merry-go-round and a train.

Elitch's was the first theatre in the American West to show Edison's Warograph - animated pictures that were the precursors to movies.

For more than a century, Elitch Gardens Amusement Park was a place where families gathered in the summertime for entertainment and picnics.

After John Elitch’s untimely death in 1891, Mary Elitch at age 34, found herself short on cash and was forced to sell the majority of her garden's stock to a group of Denver investors.

She remained in an administrative capacity with the operation, but by 1894 she once again had regained total control of the gardens.

She continued to manage the gardens over the next 20 years and provided high quality, low cost entertainment for the thousand of visitors, who flocked to Elitch Gardens from around the world.

Mary gained a reputation as an astute businesswoman, during the male-dominated late 19th and early 20th centuries. She became a powerful role model for women of her day and was the only woman in the world who ran an amusement park.

Mary lived in her home at the park until she died in 1936 at the age of 80.

In 1995, Elitch’s became Six Flags Elitch Gardens and was moved to new location near downtown Denver. The memory of what Elitch Gardens was to Denver will live on in the minds of those who experienced its heyday, but the turn of the century ambiance of the Gardens is gone forever.




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