Synchronize with the table of contents  INTRODUCTION



Mrs. Wright (DeBoer's daughter) donated the bulk of the DeBoer collection in 1974 and additional papers in 1982. Leo Osborn and Solange Gignac donated items in 1981, Mrs. Falkenberg donated a garden plan in 1982, and Frank Shafroth donated documents relating to Cherry Hills Farm in 1983. Tom Anderson donated DeBoer's brass rolodex to The Denver Public Library on October 4, 2003.


The collection is open for research.


The S.R. DeBoer Papers are the physical property of The Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


[Identification of item], S.R. DeBoer Papers, WH1082, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library


Number of Boxes: 17

Oversize: 6 boxes, 1 oversize folio, 58 oversize flat folders

PhotoBoxes: 3 PhotoBoxes




Ann Brown



Ann Brown




Ellen Zazzarino


Saco Rienk DeBoer (1883-1974) was born in Ureterp, Province of Friesland, The Netherlands. He studied engineering, passed the Junior Engineer (surveyor) exam, and went on to study landscape architecture at The Royal Imperial School of Horticulture in Germany. In 1907, DeBoer opened his own landscaping firm in Ureterp, but by the summer of 1908, he was ill with tuberculosis. His doctors and family recommended that he travel to the United States.

DeBoer traveled to Maxwell City, New Mexico to recover. Afterwards, he moved to Denver, Colorado, and found work with the Denver Reservoir and Irrigation Company. Promoted to draftsman, DeBoer's office was on the top floor of the Ideal Building in Denver. In 1910, Anna Sophie Elizabeth Koster came to Denver from the Netherlands to join him. They married and eventually had two children, Elizabeth and Richard.

The irrigation company transferred DeBoer to Canon City. Shortly afterwards, the company went broke. The DeBoers moved back to Denver. The only job that DeBoer could find was grafting roses for George Brown who operated a nursery on Cherry Creek at Colorado Boulevard.

Later in 1910, the City of Denver Parks and Recreation Department hired DeBoer as a teamster at the city nursery located on 9th and York Street. There, he learned Colorado horticulture. His superintendent, Frederick Steinhauer, asked DeBoer if he could design a park. DeBoer took him seriously and drew up a plan for the "Sunken Gardens Park" to be located on a dump along Cherry Creek. Steinhauer, uncertain if the plan had merit, showed it to Mayor Speer. Speer was impressed and immediately hired DeBoer.

Mayor Speer, George Kessler, Reinhard Schuetze (civil engineer and Denver's first landscape architect), and Frederick Olmsted were designing Denver parks at the time. The special talent that DeBoer brought to the team was his knowledge of trees and horticulture. After the death in 1910 of Reinhard Schuetze, DeBoer became his successor as landscape architect for Denver.

During Speer's terms as mayor (from 1910 to 1918), DeBoer planted trees along many Denver streets and developed the initial landscape plans for Washington Park, Cheesman Park, City Park, the grounds of the State Capitol Building and Civic Center, and other Denver locations. In the early years, he labored on all the horticultural work himself, transplanting mature trees and blooming shrubs.

In 1918, Speer died. In 1919, DeBoer quit his position with the city to open a partnership with Walter Pesman. Their partnership lasted until 1924, when the two architects separated and DeBoer set up his own private practice. In 1920, the City of Denver Parks and Recreation Department hired DeBoer as a consultant, a position that he filled from 1920 to 1958. Consulting gave DeBoer time to work on other projects. He started with designing residential landscape plans. After World War I, he began to design landscapes for subdivisions including Greenwood Village, Bonnie Brae, and Glen Creighton. In these areas, DeBoer included curving and diagonal streets to get away from what he considered Denver's "monotonous block system."

In 1923, the election of Benjamin Stapleton as Mayor of Denver continued the development of parks in the city. DeBoer directed the planting of cottonwood trees, hedges, and beds of flowers along Speer Boulevard. He designed Alamo Placita (Little Place of the Cottonwoods) Park north of the Boulevard at Ogden Street, and Arlington Park (now called "Hungarian Freedom Park") south of the Boulevard. Outside Denver's city limits, Stapleton purchased additional land for parks including the beach on Sloan Lake and Red Rocks Park. DeBoer was enthusiastic about the mountain parks and helped plan their development.

In 1925, Mayor Stapleton, at DeBoer's urging, appointed Denver's first zoning commission. DeBoer's goal was to protect residential neighborhoods from what he called "shabby looking" businesses. After New York and Los Angeles, Denver was the third American city to try zoning. In 1929, DeBoer helped develop the first major plan for the entire city, Denver Plan No. 1.

Other cities hired DeBoer on a private basis. In 1926, Grand Junction, Colorado contracted for his services. The Grand Junction city plan received wide attention, which led to contracts with cities throughout Colorado and the West.

Even after the start of the Great Depression, DeBoer continued to develop Denver's parks. He used Civilian Conservation Corps men to clean Cherry Creek after a flood. In 1935, after Stapleton returned to the Mayor's office, DeBoer used Works Progress Administration men to build Red Rocks Theater and to extend Alameda Parkway from Denver to Red Rocks.

As the depression worsened, DeBoer's private practice dwindled, so he found work as a consultant for the National Resources Planning Board. Frederick Delano, the uncle of Franklin Roosevelt, was responsible for DeBoer's appointment to the State Planning Board of Utah, a division of the National Resources Planning Board. The Utah Planning Board directed him to make a state plan for Utah. Later, the National Resources Planning Board added the state of New Mexico to DeBoer's planning program. Still later, the state of Wyoming was added to DeBoer's program. In 1943, Congress cut off the appropriations for the National Resources Planning Board, and the program ended. By then, DeBoer had collected a large amount of material about these Western states and was responsible for planning and designing the parks and grounds of the major cities and state institutions.

DeBoer continued planning work in Western states throughout his life. Among other Colorado towns and cities, he developed city plans for Estes Park, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins, and Greeley. He designed parks and grounds for institutions and businesses located in Nebraska, New Mexico, Idaho, Texas, Utah and other states.

Working with Mrs. John Evans, DeBoer formed the Colorado Forestry and Horticulture Association in 1944. This organization planned the original Denver Botanical Gardens (as it was then called), which began in 1951 as a part of City Park. Later, because of problems with the park administration and the persistent trampling and theft of expensive, unique plants, Denver Botanic Gardens (as it was now called) was moved to an old cemetery site on York Street. DeBoer drafted the first landscape plan.

Though he retired from his city consulting position in 1958, DeBoer remained in Denver and continued to be active on both private and public projects until his death in 1974.


The collection encompasses the professional life of Saco Reink DeBoer, ranging from 1909 to 1975. DeBoer's papers document his involvement in the planning and development of Denver, Colorado, as well as other cities and states, primarily in the Western United States.

DeBoer's plans for Denver are the bulk of this collection. He designed parks and parkways, planned subdivisions, and produced reports and studies on traffic, population, housing, and park and recreation needs. His papers contain planting diagrams for parks, small city lots, and elaborate private gardens. For example, DeBoer's plans for Washington Park include an exact replica of Martha Washington's flowering garden in Mount Vernon. Numerous plans for hiking trails and bridle paths throughout the Denver metropolitan area with charts of seasonal blooming patterns for the vegetation along these paths, comprise a portion of the papers.

The collection contains landscape plans for the area around the original Stapleton airport, for the grounds of corporations, and for the gardens of many residences in and around Denver. Projects include plans for the grounds of schools and institutions, such as hospitals and penitentiaries. The detailed planting diagrams for the grounds of what is now Porter Hospital provide illustrations of this work.

DeBoer's ideas were not always implemented. The collection contains drawings of a proposed "City Market" in downtown Denver with railroad terminals and several fresh meat and produce market buildings. These plans are detailed and comprehensive, going so far as to plot new railroad tracks and terminals, but the market was never constructed.

Reports and correspondence document how DeBoer introduced the concept of zoning to the West. DeBoer wrote many of the early Denver Planning Office publications. Multiple editions of city plans, zoning ordinances, and building codes for Denver, as well as designs for mass transit systems, including the tramway system and, later, the bus system, comprise a portion of the manuscripts and publications papers.

The records contain DeBoer's planning studies for a number of other states and towns throughout the West as well. The papers include plans for towns in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska and Minnesota. There are reports for state planning agencies (especially the states of Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico), institutions, school districts, cities, private individuals and corporations such as the Stanley Corporation in Estes Park.

DeBoer tried his hand at fiction in his spare time. His writings consist of stories with imaginary characters in real places solving landscape problems, coping with city planning issues, and dealing with the need for zoning. A few stories in Series 2 are included with his other writings and publications, since the ideas expressed in them are professional in nature, similar to other types of his writings.

The office files contain background information that DeBoer gathered in the course of business. In the geographical files are reports, studies, articles, clippings, tourist brochures and maps relating to the states and towns in which he worked. The topical files also include materials on an array of general subjects such as climate, highways, pedestrian traffic and zoning.

Copies, both manuscript and published, of DeBoer's writings are included, as well as unpublished fiction, notes, drafts, manuscripts, reports, narrative portions of city plans and published works. Of special interest are the many spiral notebooks in which he formulated his ideas and drafted his reports, articles, and correspondence. Also the spiral notebooks contain observations and opinions of what he experienced in his travels. The collection contains rough drafts, manuscripts and notes of DeBoer's books: Shopping Districts; the unpublished The American City; and Around the Seasons in Denver Parks and Gardens. Also, a series of "garden folders" that DeBoer sent to private clients offering insight into domestic planting forms a portion of the collection.


One box of photographs and one oversize box of photographs was transferred to the Western History photograph collection. It contains DeBoer's horticultural photo scrapbooks, volumes 1-7. Volume 8 of these scrapbooks was previously transferred and the photographs are available online in the photo database.

SERIES 1 PLANS AND DRAWINGS 1911-1972 OVFF 1-53, 55-58 :

This series consists of drawings of parks, parkways, and residential gardens; planting layouts; city plans and development plans; and studies of traffic, mass transit, and population. Numerous project plans were created or copied in multiple formats such as color pencil, pen, blueline, blackline and either reduced or enlarged. Some are drawn in color pencil, some are reduced or expanded in size, and others are in blueprint form. Perspectives for buildings and their grounds are included. The charts and graphs are hand-drawn and detailed. Horticultural lists include precise information such as blooming seasons for trees and the height and color of flowers and shrubs. Some of the parks drawings are detailed with the precise location of individual trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Arrangement is alphabetical, then chronological, under each of the following geographical subdivisions:

  • Denver
  • Denver Metropolitan Area
  • Other Colorado Towns and Cities
  • General Colorado
  • General Topics
  • Europe


The series contains drafts and published versions of DeBoer's reports, articles and books. It includes notes, drafts, studies, and published reports, articles, and books. The narrative portions of city plans, diaries (in Dutch), sketchbooks, travel notes, fiction (based upon his planning work), and book manuscripts comprise a portion of this series. Spiral-bound notebooks contain DeBoer's thoughts and ideas.

Arrangement is alphabetical, then chronological, under each of the following subdivisions:

  • Denver
  • Denver Metropolitan Area
  • Other Colorado Towns and Cities
  • General Colorado
  • General Topics
  • Europe


This series includes office files of background material collected in the course of business, such as clippings, pamphlets, maps, studies, reports and other publications.

Arrangement is alphabetical, then chronological, under each of the following subdivisions:

  • Denver
  • Denver Metropolitan Area
  • Other Colorado Towns and Cities
  • General Colorado
  • General Topics
  • Europe


This series contains ledger pages, notes and drafts of business correspondence. It includes copies of letters sent and originals of letters received from cities, governmental officials, and organizations.

Arrangement is chronological under each of the subdivisions of ledgers and correspondence.

SERIES 5 PERSONAL 1914-1975 BOX 15-16 :

This series consists of articles, awards, licenses, memberships and memorabilia. Memorabilia is comprised of passports, postcards, and early receipts. It also contains memorials and letters of sympathy written to DeBoer's daughter after his death.

Arrangement is chronological under each of the following subdivisions:

  • Awards, Certificates, Licenses
  • Correspondence
  • Scrapbooks


This series comprises DeBoer's brass Rolodex with names, addresses and phone numbers.


This series consists of oversize materials relating to DeBoer's major projects including reports for which DeBoer created handmade covers and a poster.


Images of DeBoer's work comprise this series. Black-and-white photographs with a few color photographs fill three scrapbooks sorted into categories by DeBoer including residential, institutions and city parks. A PhotoBox contains other photographs some of which were mounted for a 1983 Denver Public Library display.



  • DeBoer, S. R. -- Archives.
  • City planners -- Colorado -- Denver.
  • City planning -- Colorado -- Denver.
  • Landscape architects -- Colorado -- Denver.
  • Landscape architecture -- Colorado -- Denver.