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Known sometimes as the “Cecil Rhodes of the Rockies” or the “Empire Builder”, David Moffat is largely credited for saving the small town of Denver from obscurity. Originally from New York, Moffat established himself as one of Denver’s first successful entrepreneurs through banking. He worked at the First National Bank of Denver as elected cashier from 1867 to 1880, until he was elected president of the bank in 1880.

When the Union Pacific did not include Denver within its east-west rail system in 1867, Moffat collaborated with Walter Cheesman, John Evans and other prominent figures to establish the Denver Pacific Railway. The railway connected Denver with the integral east-west railroads and prevented Denver from disappearing under the shadow of Cheyenne.

Moffat’s next endeavor was water. Due to the growing number of people in Denver, the existing wells were insufficient to satisfy the population. After several failed ventures, he joined with Cheesman in 1889, to begin the Citizens Water Company. Concerned with water quality and prices, the company prevailed over competitors and expanded to become the Denver Union Water Company in 1894. The company eventually became the Denver Water Board when it was bought by the city in 1918.

Moffat built an elaborate mansion at 8th Avenue and Grant Street in 1900. It had Tiffany stained-glass windows, elegant woodworking and ornate decor. When it was demolished in the early 1970s, it became a catalyst for historic preservation in Denver. When you stop by, be sure to notice what stands at the intersection today…


David Moffat, Railroads, water, Walter Cheesman, John Evans, bank

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