Sunday, December 9, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Another busy month here at Denver History Tours. Let us reflect on holidays past by enjoying a few pics from Denver's more recent history.

So much detail in this picture of Sixteenth Street just up from Glenarm Place. This picture is circa 1969.

If you look closely, you can see the Fontius sign still on the building at the left. This picture is circa 1966. The vintage Fontius sign was recently removed although its ghost image is still visible on the building. It is being renovated. The Cottrell's sign is still in place today on the building on the right, but the fashionable men's clothing store is long gone.

Decorating Denver's City and County Building for Christmas has always been in fashion. This photo dates from 1940.

Thanks for reading this year. Have a great winter season. I'll be back in January 2008!

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Barclay

The Barclay circa 1883

Well, what a busy month. Our haunted tours this year were unprecedented. We were very busy. I'm still trying to recover!!! Keep them in mind next year if you like to go ghost hunting in old buildings!! Today, another creepy old building will be showcased....creepy yes, but no longer standing.....

The Barclay Building/Barclay Hotel of yesteryear stood across the street from the Windsor Hotel. Its address was approximately 1755 Larimer. This grand building, circa 1883, is best known for something positive and something negative. It was the last building used by the state legislature before the capitol building was complete enough for legislative functions. The building lost the legislature around 1894. It continued to be used as office space and as a hotel until after the Depression. By 1950, it had become known as the Barclay Apartments. It was a building very familiar to Jack Keroauc and his ilk. During the 1960s, it was known as the worst flop house in the city. Reports of the time (that I remember reading somewhere but cannot find the source) indicate that the building was full of unwed mothers, unattended children, prostitution, drug dealers and users, murders and other forms of vice. It's no wonder that by 1970, the building was enemy number one (along with numerous others). The Denver Urban Renewal Authority included the Barclay in its long list of buildings to be demolished. Its glorious past was no reason to preserve the building. Its neighbor, the Windsor, had been demolished in 1959 and it was still in good condition. The Barclay didn't stand a chance. It is only remembered in pictures today. Check out Block 48 on to see the condition of the area today. The Barclay itself eventually became the site of the Windsor Apartments. Click here for another view which also shows the Volunteers of America/Sunset Towers building in the distance (the site of the old Windsor Hotel).

If you're confused with the names, you're not alone. As with many buildings we knock down during bouts of urban renewal, we tend to forget the building but remember the name instead. So, the Tabor Block and Tabor Grand Opera House were replaced with the Tabor Center (although the old buildings were in two separate locations). The Windsor Hotel in the 1800 Block of Larimer was lost but the Winsdor Apartments were built one block down in the 1700 Block of Larimer (the site of the old Barclay). And to make things even crazier, the Barclay Apartments were built one block down from there at 1625 Larimer. See the pictures below.

circa 1910

circa 1920

circa 1933

circa 1950
This picture shows the growing changes to the Barclay as the building has been converted into apartment use.

circa 1950
This also shows the old Windsor Hotel on the far right of the picture across 18th Street. The Windor, built in 1879, was once Denver's grandest Hotel. It was lost in 1959.

circa 1967
The Barclay name is gone and the "flophouse" is now called the Hotel Clay, although the sign is strangely familiar.

circa 1970
The 1970s are very apparent in this photo. Many windows are missing and the neglect to this building is painfully obvious. Were this building still standing in LoDo today, it would be one of the most stunning structures in the neighborhood and would have been restored and protected.

The Skyline Urban Renewal Project saved the Barclay name although it was used one block away from where the original Barclay stood. This is Barclay Tower at 1625 Larimer. The shorter building is Barclay Plaza, known as Larimer Corporate Plaza today.

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Coors Field!

Hello History and Baseball fans. Requests have come in asking for insight into what buildings used to be where Coors Field now stands. With the Rockies being in the World Series, what could be a more fitting blog?? My area of discussion usually coincides with the boundaries for downtown listed at Coors Field technically sits just across the street from those boundaries in the Ballpark neighborhood, but this seems like a very fitting occasion!

Answers to these questions don't just fall from the sky but require research like all spots featured here on the Denver History Nugget. The land where Coors Field now stands has long been dominated by the railroad. In fact, much of the land where the stadium sits was used for railroad tracks and a large freight depot from the 1880s onward. Denver's first passenger depot was in this area prior to 1881. Nominal evidence suggests that small homes fronted Blake Street between 20th and 23rd Streets but these quickly were replaced after 1885 by more industrial and warehouse uses. These warehouses stored many items and had names such as Colorado Compressed Gas; Wire, Rope and Cable Headquarters, and Paper Warehouse (not the modern business!). Even the familiar Windsor Farm Dairy had some buildings fronting Blake Street and initially used the them as wagon storage for its delivery business.

The picture of the Pinhorn Fire Proof Storage is circa 1920.
This building sat at 2255-2261 Blake.

The biggest change to the street scape came in 1909 when the Denio-Barr Milling and Grain Company opened its feed mill and elevator near the corner of 20th and Blake. This building dominated the area and sat adjacent to the 20th Street Viaduct until approximately 1992 when it was demolished in preparation for Coors Field. Luckily, yours truly shot some pictures of the area back in the day, and so I am now sharing these modern photos with you as well.

This photo, circa 1930, shows the viaduct, the grain elevator and the location of Duffy's, a moving and storage company.

Circa 1992, the grain elevator remains, but Duffy's is long gone. A former gas station sits at the right of the photo.

These two photos show the old Windsor Farm Dairy buildings which at one time held their wagon storage for deliveries. These buildings are not to be confused with the other Windsor buildings that still remain just down Blake near 19th. The top picture also shows the old grain elevator. The bottom view is near where the corner gates at 20th and Blake are at Coors Field today.

All demolished! Grain elevator, viaduct--GONE. Coors Field gets underway.

As mentioned above, the grain elevator's neighbor for many years was Duffy Moving and Storage as shown in the old picture above. Here are some photos, circa 1905, showing Duffy's horses and wagons.

By the late 1920s, change was brewing as a filling station was constructed at the corner of 20th and Blake. It stood on land owned by the Cowperthwaite family until 1992. Although abandoned, it was a reminder of a bygone era, when the romance of the automobile caught the attention of residents and thus began a long exodus of people from downtown. A portion of it can be seen in the modern picture further above in front of the grain elevator.

Other buildings which stood along Blake during the 1980s include the following:

2125 Blake

2145 Blake (This old building has been retained and can still be found on Blake Street next to Coors Field).

2101 Blake

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cheyenne Place

Apologies to my regular readers for the delay in posting. I've had an unfortunate computer issue that has now hopefully been resolved. Before that meltdown, I had been working on the little known street called Cheyenne Place. Perhaps you haven't heard of it. It is the last street on the named downtown grid as one goes toward the intersection of Colfax and Broadway. In fact, Cheyenne Place intersects both streets at the extreme southeastern tip of the original congresssional grant that made up Denver City. There were more streets past Cheyenne Place, at least on paper, but they never came to fruition. They had names such as Smith, Dudley, Platte and Saint Charles

Today, the Denver Newspaper Agency dominates the area behind Cheyenne Place on blocks 244 and 267. There is no Block Number associated with the small triangular parcel that sits on the south side of Cheyenne Place. There is no business or street address for Cheyenne Place either. The only thing on Cheyenne Place is the familiar Pioneer Monument, installed in 1910. This statue was designed by Frederick MacMonnies. That's Kit Carson who rides a horse at its top. Originally, the plans called for an Indian to be placed atop. Those plans were scrapped due to the controversial subject matter. The Pioneer Monument is the symbolic end of the Smoky Hill Trail, which brought many early settlers to Denver (something equally controversial to the Indians!).

Prior to that time, there was another building on this site. In fact, it was Denver's first "real" fire station. Here are some pictures of that early time. This building was removed around 1909 as the immediate area began to transform into the Civic Center Park area we know today. The Pioneer Monument was one of the first items to be installed.

The last two pictures above show Broadway looking north with the fire station on the left.

This picture was taken just prior to demolition in 1909.

This picture from 1910 shows the newly installed Pioneer Monument on the left center side of the photo. The monument was originally on a circular platform. It has since been sitting on a triangular piece of land.

For well over a century, until the Denver Newspaper Agency put its building there, the land on the north side of Cheyenne Place has been dominated by transporation related uses.

This photograph from 1890 shows the Denver Omnibus and Cab Company north of the fire station. To the right is a partial sign for the Palace Stables.

This photo above from 1950 shows that the stables and stage shop have been replaced by AAA!

And the ultimate in car culture from 1970, the monument is now an afterthought, as it is just a mere neighbhor to the sea of parking behind it. The Arapahoe County Courthouse land is now the Hilton Hotel. This parking lot remained for nearly 25 years until the arrival of the Denver Newspaper Agency. The Pioneer Monument once again appears to "fit in" to its corner on Cheyenne Place, even if its one side facing Broadway is home to one of the city's seedier bus stops.

All historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Street Name Histories

With so much to talk about within the realm of downtown Denver history and Denver history in general, it is difficult to pick just one subject. Careful research is required on such topics in order to present accurate information. One aspect of our downtown history that is more readily accessible and, for the most part, that has remained with us from the very beginning of the city's founding, are the street names. Most of the street names for Denver City that were given back in 1858/1859 are still in place. The city was founded by General William Larimer, and with the help of William McGaa, the streets were laid out and named after other members of the Denver City Town Company. We can think of our streets as honoring the "City Fathers" and also for the Indians they supplanted. The named streets downtown generally follow a pattern of one founder name with an Indian name to follow. The streets we know today as numbered streets, such as 16th Street, were originally labeled as letters of the alphabet. Sixteenth Street, for example, was known originally as "G" Street. More information about these patterns will be periodically discussed here. Today, I will give you a bit of information on one of those early founders of Denver, Edward Wanshear Wynkoop.

Mr. Wynkoop was, among other things, the first sheriff for Arapahoe County. The street that now faces Union Station downtown was named in his honor. He was later on active duty during the Civil War as part of the Colorado contingent of volunteers. He was then posted at Fort Riley, Kansas during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. The leader of that atrocity, Colonel John Chivington, was later investigated by Wynkoop and others. While many condemned Chivington, others condemned Wynkoop and his ilk as Indian sympathizers. Through it all, his name remained on his street, even though he didn't remain in Denver. He died in Santa Fe in 1891.

Many today wonder what the correct pronunciation of the street is. According to Phil Goodstein, in his book Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic (Denver: New Social Publications, 1994), the sheriff pronounced his name as Wine-koop. Today, the pronunciation is all over the board, some saying Wine-koop, others saying Win-koop.

All historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fontius and the Orpheum

Nothing much has inspired me historically speaking the past weeks but the changing of hands of the Fontius block, you know, Block 162, got me thinking again. Westword ran a great article on this very subject (Warner, Joel. "Evan Almighty," Westword, September 13, 2007) and discussed the Steel Building AKA Fontius, as well as the lesser-known Orpheum Theater space which once stood on the parking lot to the rear of Fontius at 1513 Welton.

For years, this block at 16th and Welton has been dominated by the nearly empty Fontius Building. Prior to Fontius moving to the Steel Building (1923), as it is officially known, the store was located in the Symes Building (1906) at 834 16th Street. It sure is interesting to see a different Fontius sign after having the current 1960s version ingrained in our heads for so many years. But the Orpheum space has been off of the radar screen since being closed September 10, 1967. Subsequently demolished, along with the Tabor Grand in 1965, there were only three theaters left downtown by 1970: the Denver on 16th and Glenarm, the Denham at 18th and California, and the Paramount. Today, only one survives!

This picture, circa 1933, shows the Denver Theater, where the Denver Pavilions stands today. If you look closely, you can see a different Fontius shoe sign in the distance at Welton. Notice the Kittredge Building and Paramount Theater on the right and the D & F Tower in the distance.

Finding information on the Orpheum Theater has come from a number of places. (See Forrest, Kenton and William C. Jones. Denver: A Pictorial History, Boulder: Pruett Publishing Co., 1973.) In addition, online sources, if to be believed, indicate that the original Orpheum on Welton Street opened on October 5, 1903. It enjoyed life as a vaudeville show house, a silent movie theater and finally showed regular movies along with its numerous competitors downtown. Its multi-purpose stage hosted many acts, including those of Will Rogers, the Marx Brothers and Al Jolson.

This photo, circa 1910, shows the changing character of this once residential neighborhood. The old homes facing the Orpheum on Welton Street were not long for the world.

These two photos, circa 1920, show the unique architecture of the Orpheum. The top photo shows the future site of the Fontius Building, which was not constructed until 1923. The photo shows its predecessor, which I believe was known as the El Paso Building. The lower photo shows the Denver Dry Goods Company in the background. In addition, the Colonial/Republic Hotel is seen in the far left of the photo. This building is currently being razed.

The interior of the Orpheum was no less grand, as indicated by the photos above.

However, progress was marked by the reaffiliation of the theater around 1930 when it became part of RKO International. A remodel was in the works.

A new and improved Art Deco Orpheum greeted visitors in the top photo, circa 1930 (it is unknown what or who is being "hung" in the photo). The Orpheum was still packing people in for shows featuring Fred Astaire in the lower photo, circa 1950. However, competition from an increasingly suburbanizing public would soon spell doom to the downtown theaters, including the Orpheum. Television and drive-ins also hurt downtown movie business.

Out with the old, in with the new. This picture says it all. The First National Bank of Denver (621 17th Street) rises into the sky as one of Denver's earliest skyscrapers in this photo circa 1957. This building would become familiar to people around the world in the 1980s show Dynasty. It was one of the buildings shown in the opening credits to that show. Off to the side in this picture, the Orpheum awaits its fate, brought down by progress a decade later.

It's miraculous that the rest of Block 162 has remained intact up to this point. But now with the redevlopment of the block underway, only the McClintock and the Steel Building will remain. I think we should at least let the Fontius name remain. The Orpheum, Standish and Republic Hotel names will continue to fade away. However, the Steel/Fontius building will be made shiny again. Hopefully, the Fontius name will stick around and not soon be forgotten.

All historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection. Some of the hyperlinks above direct you to to view present day photos and maps of Downtown Denver.