Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Daniels and Fisher Tower

We are just a few years away from the centennial of one of Denver's most iconic buildings. The Daniels and Fisher Tower at 16th and Arapahoe Streets opened to the public in early 1912 but began construction in 1910. Modeled after the Campanile in Venice, Italy, the building was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River upon completion. It was designed by the architecture firm of Sterner and Williamson. The hour hand is eight feet long and the minute hand is 6 feet long--designed by the Seth Thomas Clock Company. Its construction marked a new era not only in Denver's retail scene but in its architecture. Daniels and Fisher was the department store of choice in Denver until it merged with the May Company in 1957. The building was soon abandoned for new digs in the newly created May D&F Department Store located at Zeckendorf Plaza at 16th and Court Place.

The Daniels and Fisher Department Store had its roots in the very beginnings of Denver; the tower epitomizes the quick growth of Denver, having been constructed just shortly after the city celebrated its 50th birthday. William B. Daniels started his store in 1864 on Larimer Street. He was later joined by William Fisher in 1872 to form Daniels and Fisher. Daniels son, William Cooke Daniels, took over the helm in 1891.

The tower's beauty was under-appreciated as the decade of the 1960's began and with the Skyline Urban Renewal Project in full swing, the old department store's days were numbered. Miraculously, the tower was saved but the rest of the department store was gone by 1971. The red brick scar on one side of the tower shows where it used to be attached to the rest of the department store. The year 1971 was a big year in preservation awareness in Denver as the battle lines were drawn. Some successes included the continued preservation of Larimer Square and saving the Molly Brown House. But other battles were lost, including the loss of the Moffat Mansion at the northeast corner of 8th and Grant.

The comic below shows the complacency of most of Denver during this time and how close we came to losing the D & F Tower as well. Even though this comic was drawn in 1965, it was not enough to provoke the city into changing course on preservation. We might have been able to have had a few more preservation success stories such as saving the Tabor Grand Opera House, knocked down in 1965, but the planets did not align. Perhaps if the successful State Historic Fund had been present in those years, more money would have been available to shore up and preserve other structures long forgotten and since demolished but certainly worthy of being left for posterity!

The top photo is from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection. The editorial cartoon was created by Pat Oliphant of the Denver Post.

Post Script: For regular readers, I apologize for delays in posting. If I had eight hands, it would be better! However, the past months have been extremely busy and therefore, successful, in the walking and bus tour business, especially as related to Haunted Denver!!!


Anonymous said...

Yay! Glad to see you're still active. I just discovered you a few weeks ago.

Rom Ferienwohnung said...

I was in the tower when I was last in the city on business from England. I know the building well.