Bromwell’s rich history dates back to the wooden frame school built in 1867. The school was then named for the town of Harman, and was a part of Arapahoe County. The 320 acre town site was named after its founder, Edwin P. Harman, and his wife Lou. Harman School was the center of social and political activity. Church meetings and the Town Board met there until 1891, when the Town Hall was built at 4th and St. Paul. The original school stood where Bromwell’s main playground is now. It was a two-story building, heated entirely by a coal furnace which ultimately caused the school to burn down in 1883. By 1885 it was replaced by a Colorado sandstone structure which experienced several improvements and enlargements over the next ten years.
In 1895, the town of Harman was annexed into the city of Denver. Harman’s residents were eager for the lower tax revenues and other amenities enjoyed by Denver’s citizens. Simultaneously, the town enjoyed a building-boom with the development of a business district in the area of Third and Detroit. That same year, the Harman Kindergarten Mothers’ Association was organized. The Association helped furnish equipment for the school’s kindergarten and bought many necessities such as paper, curtains, dishes, and tablecloths. Members of the Harman Kindergarten Mother’s Association paid ten cents admission charge and dues were one cent per week. Each mother was assessed one cake, or its equivalent, once during the school-year. The jurisdiction of Harman School changed from Arapahoe County to Denver County when Denver was incorporated as a County in 1901. With a new administration came the demise of the Mother’s Association. They were informed that their help was no longer required; however, the group decided to continue as a social and civic club. The club was renamed the Columbine Mothers’ Club, and today maintains one of the longest histories of charitable work of any organization in the Denver area.
In 1906, the Denver School Board changed Harman School’s name to Bromwell Elementary in honor of Judge Henry P.H. Bromwell, a poet and politician who had come to Colorado from Illinois in the 1870’s. He had been a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, a framer of the constitution of the State of Colorado, and an early champion of women’s suffrage.
The school building was damaged by another fire in 1911, but again was repaired and rebuilt. The old building could not, however, forever adapt to dictates of progress and the needs of a growing population. Eventually it was decided that a new school should be built and that the old building should be torn down.
The transition from the old building was overseen by James Manley, Bromwell’s principal from 1973 until 1984. Manley succumbed to cancer in 1984. He will always be remembered fondly by neighborhood residents and the members of the school community. These groups petitioned the city government to name the park to the north of the school in his honor. In 1996 their petition was approved, and the park was dedicated in a ceremony attended by members of Manley’s family and by students and teachers. It was the first park in Denver to be named after an educator.
The Bromwell neighborhood, while very much a part of modern age, enjoys a heritage that can be traced back to the earliest days of Denver history. Parents, teachers, and students alike are enriched by this history as we learn together and as we face the future.