LONGMONT — Chivington Drive residents came home from work Monday to find they no longer lived there.
City workers around 9 a.m. took down the controversial street-name signs honoring a controversial Civil War commander and replaced them with new ones bearing the street’s new moniker: Sunrise Drive.
“Sunrise is better than some of the others they wanted,” said longtime resident Jim Randall, who lives at the newly named 2237 Sunrise Drive. “It’s better than having the controversy.”
Residents of the street picked out the name Sunrise earlier this year, after the Longmont City Council decided to strip Chivington from signs.
The decision was intended to end a decades-long controversy over the name, which many city residents felt inappropriately honored Civil War Col. John M. Chivington, considered the leader of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of American Indians.
Protestors such as the group Longmont Citizens for Justice and Democracy and controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, pushed for the change. But now that the new street signs are in place, some of them are angry that the city didn’t give them more notice.
Organizer Glenn Spagnuolo said even though the city promised to inform him and others well in advance of when the signs would go up, he received a call only 20 minutes before work began.
The city settled on the new name about a month ago.
“We believed the Native American community wanted to have a ceremony or say some words,” Spagnuolo said. The short notice “was very disrespectful to the Native American community. Make no mistake, we’re very proud about what happened. It’s an upsetting way to end a very positive process. We just want a positive closure to this.”
Some of the street’s residents felt the change was political correctness run amok, and said they attached no significance to Chivington.
Still, facing a forced name change, residents came up with three options: Sunrise, Clara Barton Drive and Evergreen Drive.
Susan Hanes didn’t want the name changed, but suggested the eventual winner, Sunrise.
Standing on the doorstep of what is now 2313 Sunrise Drive, Hanes said she had expected the city to notify residents via letter when the name was going to be changed.
“Oh, you’re kidding,” Hanes said when told the new signs were already up. “I drove home and didn’t even notice. I’ll have to go get my glasses.”
Hanes said she came up with the name after watching the sun rise on the Front Range and after figuring that her neighbors would probably want to avoid another name honoring a person.
“The beautiful sunrise colors on the mountain tops made me think of Sunrise,” said Hanes, one of the street’s original residents. “I was looking for something that most folks could identify.”
Jon Clarke, the city’s neighborhood resources coordinator, said all three finalists were vetted by police and fire officials to ensure the name could be easily understood by 911 dispatchers.
“They told us that Barton was a little too close to Martin (Street),” Clarke said.
The review process is supposed to prevent similar naming, as exists with Ken Pratt Boulevard and Pratt Street. No elected officials approved the name-change, which is the same as when any new street is named.
The city will provide up to $75 for each of the street’s 45 homes to cover the cost of getting new checks, address labels and drivers licenses. Residents who run home-based businesses are eligible for an additional $75.
The city is giving residents 90 days to seek reimbursement for changing documents,
The money will come from funds originally set aside to erect a marker explaining Chivington’s role in the massacre. The city council on Dec. 28 decided to change the name, instead of erecting an explanatory plaque. There was a dispute over the plaque’s wording, and the council decided it would be easier to change the name.
Officials are considering whether to sell the removed Chivington signs to residents willing to pay about $100. Street signs are usually repainted and reused.
Spagnuolo said his group wants to buy the signs, give two to descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre survivors, one to the Chivington family and one to the street’s residents. Other people think at least one of the signs should be displayed in the city’s museum.
While some residents of the street said they remain upset — “The things I want to say, you can’t print,” said one man — most appear resigned to the new signs.
“I don’t mind the change,” said Jill Gobin of 2236 Sunrise Drive as she prepared to hold a garage sale. “History is history. You can’t change that, but the name is nice and I can live with it.”
The U.S. Postal Service will continue delivering mail regardless of which street name is used, said Longmont Postmaster Cathy Minter.
Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.