September 19, 2011

Milestones Icon: Bal Swan

Business savvy, connections to prominent politicians and a spirit of generosity helped Bal Swan start Broomfield on its rise from a small farming settlement to a thriving modern community.

Swan, born Jan. 31, 1899 in Wayne, Nebraska, was president of Empire Savings and Loan and one of the businessmen who started Broomfield Heights, the residential development that would become the nucleus of Broomfield.

The community was the brainchild of Swan and the Turnpike Land Co. Together, they decided to turn land that had once been owned by the prominent Zang family into a community of 20,000.

The development, eventually named Broomfield Heights, would be situated along the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, which was completed in 1952. The price tag for the project was $100 million.

Although builders eventually would scale back their plans to a more realistic size, the idea was audacious enough to gain the notice of Time Magazine, which in a 1955 issue wrote about the plan “to build a $100 million model community of 6,000 brick houses, shopping centers, parks, schools and churches outside of town, along the turnpike running between Denver and Boulder.”

Perhaps the real reason Broomfield Heights attracted Time’s attention was the connection of the developers to then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The magazine duly noted Swan and partner Aksel Nielsen were “joint owners of the ranch where Ike trout fishes,” and said the project by “two of President Eisenhower’s fishing companions will be one of the biggest in Colorado’s history.”

Swan’s connection to the Eisenhowers brought Ike back to Broomfield in 1963, when the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library at No. 12 Garden Center was dedicated. Swan and the Turnpike Land Co. donated land to Broomfield for the 3,226-square-foot library, the first permanent library in the community, and asked that it be named for the former first lady.

The Broomfield branch of Swan’s Empire Savings and Loan was the first bank to open in Broomfield since the Great Depression, and it was the first commercial building in Broomfield Heights. The branch’s basement provided the home of the Broomfield Police Department.

Swan’s legacy continues to be felt in Broomfield. He is the namesake of the innovative Bal Swan Children’s Center, the first preschool in the state to enroll students with special needs and typical needs together in the same classrooms. The school was renamed in Swan’s honor in 1972 after he donated land, a school building and furnishings to the school.

The center enrolls about 360 children each year and is one of the most prominent nonprofit organizations in Broomfield.

Swan died May 10, 1975. In 1993, he was posthumously inducted into Boulder County Business Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class.

Business savvy, connections to prominent politicians and a spirit of generosity helped Bal Swan start Broomfield on its rise from a small farming settlement to a thriving modern community.

Swan, born Jan. 31, 1899 in Wayne, Nebraska, was president of Empire Savings and Loan and one of the businessmen who started Broomfield Heights, the residential development that would become the nucleus of Broomfield.

The community was the brainchild of Swan and the Turnpike Land Co. Together, they decided to turn land that had once been owned by the prominent Zang family into a community of 20,000.

The development, eventually named Broomfield Heights, would…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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