The urban/suburban development of the community known as Lakewood was begun in 1889 by Charles Welch and W.A.H. Loveland, who platted a 13-block area along Colfax Avenue west of Denver in eastern Jefferson County. Loveland, the former president of the Colorado Central Railroad, retired to the new community of Lakewood after many years of living in Golden.
Until 1969, the area known as Lakewood had no municipal government, relying instead on several water districts, several fire districts, and the government of Jefferson County. Lakewood was a community with policing provided by the Jefferson County Sheriff, several volunteer staffed fire districts, and some neighborhoods without street lights and sidewalks. However, the community had already existed for about 80 years.
The City of Lakewood was incorporated in 1969 as Jefferson City. Soon after, an election was held and the city's name was changed to Lakewood. This was due to an overwhelming dislike of "Jefferson City" and the perceived notion it would be confused with existing communities in Colorado and Missouri. At the time of incorporation the city population was already over 90,000.
Lakewood never had a traditional downtown area. West Colfax Avenue served the metropolitan area as U.S. Route 40 and the main route joining Denver with the Rocky Mountains. As such, Colfax from Harlan west to Kipling and beyond had mostly commercial establishment. In addition to the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society (JCRS) for TB patients, the small frame Methodist Church, and telephone exchange, there emerged by the 1950s grocery and drug stores, gas stations, restaurants & taverns, several motels, branch banks, a movie theater, roller rink, bowling alley, and used car lots. Several multi-business "shopping centers" developed followed by much larger centers at JCRS and Westland. The Villa Italia Mall on West Alameda Avenue, twenty blocks south of Colfax, reflected the southward expansion of Lakewood settlement and housed a larger concentration of retail space. As the mall went into decline, the Lakewood City Council developed a plan to demolish the Villa Italia Mall and replace it with a new development called Belmar.
In 2011, Lakewood was named an All-America City for the first time.