Q&A with Kimberly Field

Author of “New Frontiers: A History of Arvada, Colorado 1976-2006”

Posted 1/8/19

How did you get into historical writing? My background is in history and archaeology and I’m involved in historic preservation in Colorado. I’ve always been drawn to dig into what lies beneath, …

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Q&A with Kimberly Field

Author of “New Frontiers: A History of Arvada, Colorado 1976-2006”

Kim Field and Dr. Thomas J. Noel, Colorado’s State Historian, show off Field’s new book on Arvada’s history from 1976 to 2006.
Kim Field and Dr. Thomas J. Noel, Colorado’s State Historian, show off Field’s new book on Arvada’s history from 1976 to 2006.
Courtesy photo
Posted

How did you get into historical writing?

My background is in history and archaeology and I’m involved in historic preservation in Colorado. I’ve always been drawn to dig into what lies beneath, what came before, what made us who we are. I’ve written several books on Colorado history, including “The Denver Mint: 100 Years of Gangsters, Gold, and Ghosts.”

Why was the history of Arvada on your radar?

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, “There’s a lot of there, there.” Arvada is cool. It is a real town with an authentic historic downtown that other communities can only dream of emulating. Great communities don’t just happen. Arvada experienced the postwar boom enjoyed by many small towns in the Denver area. Each grew and prospered in its own unique way. I wanted to know why Arvada was so fortunate to develop and grow as it had.

Arvada offers the best of what we love about living in the Denver metro area, but it has its mysteries. How did the Arvada Center — a world-class arts venue — come to be? How did Olde Town escape the wrecking ball? Who came up with these crazy roads and how do I get back onto Kipling?

How did you connect with the Arvada Historical Society?

The City of Arvada and community leaders actively work to preserve and document Arvada’s history. My book is one of several that the city and the Arvada Historical Society have produced over the years. The AHS and the city know how important history is to strengthening the fabric of community. Other cities should have Arvada’s commitment.

I wrote a centennial history of Arvada’s neighbor Westminster. I was thrilled when the society asked me to write the history of modern Arvada. We spent several months envisioning the book. We wanted a scholarly book documenting life in Arvada in the last half of the 20th century that could be used by researchers in the future. But we also wanted it to be a great read. Readers will find footnotes and photographs in equal measure. Arvada’s history is interesting and entertaining.

What made you want to be part of this project?

History is about people. Because “New Frontiers” covers the last 50 years or so, many of the history makers were eager to participate. I spoke with hundreds of individuals who were involved or associated with events in this book. I let them tell the story in their own words, in their voices. We stirred up some deep memories and emotions — mostly pleasant, but also some that were quite difficult. Everyone was very candid in sharing their recollections.

People told me many times that they wanted an honest history. In fact, Arvada’s longest-serving mayor, Bob Frie, told me not to write from the city’s point of view. We did not gloss over the messy parts. I enjoyed talking with people across the spectrum. They may not see eye to eye, but they were always kind and respectful of others. Arvadans are nice people.

What was the most interesting tidbit you came across?

I was most surprised at how difficult it was to write about Rocky Flats. Longtime City Manager Craig Kocian was right when he told me that I could not underestimate the importance of Rocky Flats to Arvada. I found Rocky Flats to be more complex and nuanced than I ever imagined. Rocky Flats loomed over Arvada both literally and figuratively. Beliefs about Rocky Flats are deeply held and perhaps immovable. It is a fascinating chapter in our nation’s history.

Anything else you want the Arvada community to know?

The people of Arvada, from the city leaders to the business community to colorful individuals, imagined huge, audacious, off-the-charts things for their city. It might seem impossible to build a world-class arts venue in the Denver suburbs, but they did. With the always-controversial urban renewal, Arvada succeeded where other communities failed. It took vision, commitment, hard work and more than a little luck. Arvadans owe a debt of gratitude to those who, over the past 50 years, made this community the gem that it is. A new generation must carry that fearlessness into Arvada’s future.

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