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Fungi Fortune: The Story of Westminster's Historic Mushroom Tower

Fungi Fortune: The Story of Westminster's Historic Mushroom Tower


Towering 50 feet over Federal Boulevard south of 112th Avenue stands a historic landmark that may spark a little curiosity among Westminster residents and prompt the question, “Why is there a big can of mushrooms in Westminster?”

The Savery Savory Mushroom Farm water tower is the last remaining structure from the enterprise of one of Westminster’s most storied entrepreneurs, Charles William Savery, who built and operated a successful mushroom farm in the city from 1923 to 1953.

“Water towers have not been landmarked in this state very often, so it’s special that this one was notable enough to be preserved,” said Linda Graybeal, president of the Westminster Historical Society. “The fact that Savery had the insight to paint it like a can of mushrooms for advertising purposes was huge.”

To understand the story of the water tower is to understand the story of Colorado’s “Mushroom Magnate,” Charles Savery.

Savery was born in 1878 in Chester County, Pennsylvania. While little is known about his childhood, he and his wife eventually moved out west after the failure of his lumberyard operation in Philadelphia.

Once settled in Denver, Savery successfully dabbled in mining investments and eventually purchased an 80-acre farm located over seven miles north of Denver in unincorporated Adams County. While he could have retired with his profits from the mining industry, the retirement lifestyle didn’t suit Savery, so he embarked on a new enterprise.

By the 1920s, mushrooms had become a popular delicacy in America. Originally introduced to the United States from France in 1902, mushrooms quickly became a staple in fine dining. Savery was no stranger to savory fungi, as his boyhood home of Chester County, produced about 80 percent of the nation’s mushrooms. Savery even had a cousin in the business, from whom he picked up a few tips.

In 1922, Savery and a business partner started growing mushrooms discreetly in a building underneath Denver’s 20th Street viaduct. It didn’t take long before Denver Police shut down the operation due to “unpleasant odors” from the copious amounts of manure used to fertilize the crop.

The ever-determined entrepreneur decided to expand his underground mushroom business by establishing a proper farm on his property near the town of Westminster. He was initially told by horticulture experts that he was doomed to fail because Colorado’s dry, sunny climate was inhospitable for mushrooms. After three years of hardship, Savery took his son Robert back east for eight weeks to figure out a way to prove the experts wrong.

“He did not know what the word ‘no’ meant,” Graybeal said. “He said, ‘Fooey on you guys, I’m going to study and make this work.’” Savery returned to Colorado with fresh ideas that would lead to his fungi fortune. He designed and built long grow houses, complete with a rudimentary air conditioning and humidifying system that used damp strips of canvas and electric fans to circulate cold, moist air throughout the darkened room.

As the mushroom crops grew, so did the farm. Savery eventually constructed 32 mushroom growing buildings known as “caves,” 15 residences for employees, 25 adobe structures for paid laborers, a schoolhouse, a general store, a four-acre baseball field, tennis courts, and a water tower to supply the entire operation.

“His vision was an entire community around this,” Graybeal said. “I know some descendants of the people that worked there, and they all speak favorably of it. Even though children most likely worked on the farm, he was big on education. He really looked after his people.”

By 1930, Savery had taken an 80-acre farm in present day Westminster and turned it into a company town that supplied the entire region with food products in high demand. As the one and only mushroom facility between Kansas City and the Pacific Coast, the Savery farm was wildly successful. Savery’s Great Western Mushroom Company eventually established facilities operated by Charles’ sons in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and by the mid-1930s, the iconic green and yellow cans of Savery Savory Mushrooms were being shipped all over the western United States.

“The water tower was really key. Not only was it necessary for the growing operation, but it supplied the whole community that had been built,” Graybeal said.

Although the mushroom company experienced decades of booming success, a series of fires in the 1940s unfortunately decimated the property. An aging Charles Savery eventually retired from the business in 1953 and moved to Longmont after the death of his wife.

The Savery Savory Mushroom Company stopped operations after Charles retired, and the buildings began to fall into disrepair. Over time, most of the structures were either torn down or collapsed. Today all that remains of the enterprise is the water tower, which marks an important site in Westminster’s history.

“Those that were stubborn and tenacious and had a dream that they were willing to sacrifice for ̶ the true definition of an entrepreneur ̶ they made our community what it is today,” Graybeal said.

The water tower was placed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties in 2005, and the City of Westminster commissioned a historically accurate restoration of the tower including fresh paint showing the advertising for Savery Savory Mushrooms in 2006. The water tower is owned and maintained by the City of Westminster, and the park on which it stands is open to the public. To learn more about historic landmarks in Westminster, visit

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