Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wynken, Blynken and Nod

While I normally write about subjects in or near downtown Denver, I couldn't help but be struck by finding Denver's wonderful Wynken, Blynken and Nod statue in Pennsylvania!! While I was on vacation this summer in the northeast, I stumbled upon the unmistakable statue we know so Wellsboro, PA!

So, how did this happen? I found it an interesting connection of two seemingly unrelated places.

Creation of the Original Wynken, Blynken and Nod statue

Mabel Landrum Torrey was born in a sod house in Colorado. She taught school in Sterling where her father was a judge. She left to attend the Art of Institute of Chicago and majored in sculpture. Her original Wynken, Blynken and Nod sculpture received praise from art critics when it was on exhibit in Chicago. Mrs. Torrey presented Denver Mayor Robert Speer with her original piece of work. He was reportedly so delighted with it that he commissioned her to sculpt one in marble. In 1918, it was placed in the children’s fountain of Washington Park. The statue was later restored and moved to a different area of the park near Exposition and Franklin next to Eugene Field’s house. He was the creator of over 500 poems and stories for children, including Wynken, Blynken and Nod. When his modest home was threatened with demolition along West Colfax, Molly Brown had it preserved by moving it to the park.

How the Statue Also Appears in Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Cameron married Fred Bailey on June 16th, 1892. Both were natives of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. They spent their married life in Denver, where Mr. Bailey became a state senator, a major stockholder in Cripple Creek gold mines as well as the Brown Palace Hotel. Following the death of his wife, Mr. Bailey honored her with a bronze statue/replica of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, placed on the Green in Wellsboro, where it has remained since its dedication on Friday, Sept. 23rd, 1938. Mabel Landrum Torrey was in attendance during the dedication.

So goes the story of how Denver’s iconic Wynken, Blynken and Nod statue is also found in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Denver's City Park and Whittier Neighborhoods

Well, at long last, my super long days of research and work have culminated in a book on these two areas of Denver. I have made reference in some of my other blogs to the fact that I've been busy researching and writing. I've also been scanning our city for pictures. Some of you have suggested I write a book. Well, I've finally found a way to make that dream a reality. I have worked with the Arcadia Publishing Company to produce this book. I hope you'll stop by the Tattered Cover or Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy. I know you'll enjoy it. I found some AMAZING pictures and I'm pretty excited about it.

A presentation and book signing will be held on the following occasions. More may be in the works too:

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. at the LoDo Tattered Cover (1628 16th) and on Friday, February 26, 2010 at 12:15 p.m. at the Colorado History Museum (1300 Broadway).

A book signing only will occur on Saturday, December 5 between 10 and 2 at the Colorado History Museum as part of the museum's open house festival.

Thanks again for reading and for all your questions!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The History of the Naming of Market Street

I have been working on a HUGE project all year of which I will make an announcement shortly. But it also relates to my being away from this blog. Too many obligations and too few Shawns.

Last time however, I said I would follow up with the street histories of Lower Downtown Denver. But since the history of Market Street is the most complex, I'll write that below and follow up with the rest of the streets soon. Enjoy!

Following Larimer Street, we come to Market Street.

Market and Walnut: This street has the most interesting history of any downtown. Originally known as McGaa Street, it was changed in 1866 to Holladay Street. In 1858, William McGaa had been entrusted by Charles Nichols to safeguard the town claim for Saint Charles while he went back to eastern Kansas territory to officially file the town claim. No sooner had Nichols left, then William Larimer arrived on the scene. McGaa ignored the Saint Charles interests and helped Larimer name the early streets of the city. Because he was living with the Arapahoe Indians, he insisted on naming one street for himself (and others for his wife (s)). Along with Larimer, he is most responsible for the street naming system of downtown Denver. Unfortunately for McGaa, small town politics got in the way of his legacy. When he became known as the town drunk, city fathers voted to remove his name from the street in favor of Benjamin Holladay. He was the savior of Denver in the 1860s for choosing the city as the terminus for the stage coach over rival Auraria. So popular was he that the city felt justified in naming the street in his honor. The oldest building remaining in downtown Denver in fact was the stage headquarters at the southwest corner of 15th and Market (Holladay!). This building dates from 1868-72. Anyhow, by the 1880s, Denver was booming and dear Holladay Street had become the center of the city's red light district. The shocked Holladay family petitioned the city to remove their name from this street and the city complied, renaming it Market. While there were legitimate wholesale markets along the street, the more interesting flesh market was known all throughout the west, remaining a legitimate business until reform moved it underground around 1915. Furthermore, residents who lived wholesome lives north of 23rd Street (Park Avenue) and south of Cherry Creek in Auraria (west Denver) were offended to be associated with such a bawdy street as Market. They petitioned the city between 1899 and 1903 to have their sections renamed Walnut Street, a name that remains in place today. This is one of the only places in Denver where adjacent streets have two different names.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Downtown Streets

In my September 2007 blog, I wrote about the origins of Wynkoop Street. Since that time, I've been meaning to write about the origins of Downtown's other named streets. I find the whole subject rather interesting as the streets and their names and orientation are just about the only thing that still ties us back to the origins of Denver. The built environment of 1858-59 is gone. The street names of old Auraria are gone. Even the numbered streets we use Downtown today were originally letters of the alphabet. Sixteenth Street for example was known as "G" Street. At the time, Auraria and Denver had their own names. By 1873, long after the two towns had joined forces, the city of Denver began enacting a long series of street naming reforms which has resulted in the street naming system we enjoy today. At that time, the city designated First Street as being the first street northeast of the Platte River and Colfax.

Sixteenth Street is therefore 16 blocks from where Colfax intersects the Platte River. In 1873, Auraria's streets were also renamed to match the other named streets of Denver proper. Even though Auraria's streets were laid out parallel to Cherry Creek, they line up pretty well with Denver's streets. Denver's main streets were named after early founders of the city and those who had signed on as members of the Denver City Town Company. They can be thought of as friends of William Larimer, Denver's founder. They tell a story of how our city was founded, which was basically by jumping an already "filed" claim for the city of Saint Charles. Larimer's group arrived in November of 1858 after another claim was on its way to being filed in Kansas to make it official. Larimer would have none of that and essentially jumped the claim and named the city after the territorial governor of Kansas at that time: James W. Denver. William Larimer built his cabin at the southeast corner of what is today 15th and Larimer. He of course named the main street in Denver after himself. Adjacent streets took on other names, including Indian names and tribes. At the time, no one could have imagined that the city would grow into the metropolis it is today. We are lucky Larimer chose to give the town some unique names other than the more common streets named after trees such as Elm, Maple and Pine.

But what are these other names and for whom are they named? Well, here are a few to get us started (beginning at Colfax and Broadway):

Cheyenne Place: Cheyenne Indians

Cleveland Place: changed to honor Grover Cleveland in 1889; it was originally named for J. T. Parkinson who had been the very surveyor who had laid out the streets of early Denver and Auraria.

Court Place: named to honor the location of the stunning Arapahoe County Courthouse; originally known as Wapoola or Wasoola Street (a name of unknown origin).

Tremont Place: orignally known as Clancy Street until 1874; possibly renamed Fremont Place to honor explorer John Fremont; Tremont stuck however with the possibility that it also honored an early Auraria hotel known as the Tremont which welcomed and housed such notables as second territorial governor John Evans.

Glenarm Place: named by early Denverite William McGaa for his supposed ancestral home in Scotland

Welton Street: N.W. Welton, an early founder of Denver City with William Larimer

California Street: honoring the '49ers of an earlier gold rush, hoping to bring the same luck to the new '59ers

Stout Street: Elisha P. Stout was the first president of the Denver Town Company as well as a town founder with William Larimer.

Champa Street: No one is sure of the origins of this street name; some have surmised that it is one of William McGaa's many Indian wives; others feel it is a corruption of the Sioux word "chapa" which means 'beaver' or that it is a corruption of a Ute word "yampa", thought to mean 'bear'. Still others relate the word back to the Chama Indians of New Mexico.

Curtis Street: Samuel S. Curtis was a founder of Denver City with William Larimer.

Arapahoe Street: named for the Arapahoe Indians who inhabited Denver and Boulder upon the arrival of settlers

Lawrence Street: Charles A. Lawrence was a founder of Denver City with William Larimer

Larimer Street: William Larimer was Denver's official founder who came up with the idea to name Denver after the territorial governor of Kansas.

Tune in next time to learn about the streets of Lower Downtown.

Information compiled in this blog can be further explored by reading Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations and Logic by Philip Goldstein

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Indian Memories at Colorado National Bank

Painted by Denver muralist Allen True, whose works also grace the walls of the Denver and Cheyenne capitols, the expanded Colorado National Bank interior opened to the public in December 1926. Mr. True worked on the series of fourteen murals for over three years. Reflecting the changing attitudes toward the American Indians in the 1920s, Mr. True sought to portray the Plains Indians "before his contact with the white race--days when he roamed the beautiful untouched reaches of our West in deep but unconscious sympathy with the loveliness of primeval nature--days when his dignity and cruelty, his joy of living, stoic endurance and primitive integrity, as well as beauty and superstition and religious belief, made the cycle of his life an epic which has never been properly sensed or understood by the white race."

This mural is entitled "Happy Hunting Ground".

" old leather-dry squaw sits by the edge of a waterfall, leaning eagerly and intently forward, for there in the iridescent spray she fancies that shes sees her own girlhood beckoning to her. She imagines herself young again and splashing through the water with other laughing, dancing maidens. In the morning air a mist hangs over the water and from the mist, and the shadows of the quaking aspens, appear the figures of still other girls and young mothers smiling contentedly at the happy dancers in the water."

"The once mighty chief of a warlike tribe besats the rhythm of his war chant whle the witer snows whirl past him...."

"An old buck sits in front of his chip fire and dreams..."

This series is entitled "Youth".

All of these photos were taken by Roger Whitacre and appear in the book Growing Through History with Colorado: The Colorado National Banks by Tom Noel. The quotes are from the artist himself.

As I have not heard any differently, these murals remain in the now shuttered Colorado National Bank building (most recently known as US Bank) at 17th and Champa. These treasures must be saved and it is hoped that they will again grace the walls of this building in one of its future uses. Some of Allen True's other paintings and murals appear in Civic Center Park and at the Brown Palace Hotel. He graduated from Manual High School in 1899.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colorado National Bank

The Colorado National Bank building sits forlornly, yet proudly, at the southwest corner of 17th and Champa. The building is empty and its fate remains unknown. The photo above shows what the site looked like prior to the construction of the bank in 1915. The original home on the site belonged to Joseph P. Cofield and was erected in 1873.

Colorado National Bank was one of the last locally owned banks in Colorado, having been founded in 1866. When US Bank took over this venerable institution after 1998, the prominent building downtown was to become just another piece of excess bank real estate lining 17th Street. Unfortunately, the Champa side of the bank has been a notorious drug-dealing location since US Bank closed the building earlier this decade. And although the building is included in the Downtown Denver Historic District, no new tenant has been found to take over the building.

The third home of Colorado National Bank was opened in 1915. Designed by prominent Denver arcitects William and Arthur Fisher, the bank with the neoclassical columns was coined "the bank that looks like a bank." In 1925, Merrill and Burnham Hoyt added a seamless addition.

The 1960s were a difficult time downtown as urban renewal began to take hold of the central portions of downtown. The Skyline Urban Renewal Project eventually erased much of old Denver. Colorado National Bank determined to remain downtown however and added a modern addition to their building in 1963. In the process, they demolished the Frank Edbrooke designed Ernest and Cranmer building (1890, also above) at 17th and Curtis, the old May Department Store at 16th and Champa and other smaller structures. In their place was put a "six window drive-in banking facility and spacious parking lots." The suburbs and truly come downtown!

(photo by Ted Trainor )

The site was not empty for long however. By 1972, the Colorado National Bank tower was under construction. The 26-story tower was designed by Minoru Yamasaki who was the architect of New York City's World Trade Center. Denver's tower exhibits the idea of Formalism in modern architecture. Its vertical orientation and use of a blue-smoky glass, gives this building a dominance at the corner of 17th and Curtis. It is considered one of Yamasaki's masterpieces and is a real stand-out at the national level of Formalism in architecture.

(FYI, Formalism is a type of modern architecture that can be distinguished from the better known International Style. While International Style was very prominent in American architecture after World War II and stresses a horizonality in a building's form, Formalism, which was especially popular during the 1960s and 1970s, stresses the vertical form, among other things. )

Tune in next time to learn about the interior wonders of the Colorado National Bank building.

Information and photographs shown above have come from the following title, Growing Through History With Colorado: The Colorado National Banks by Tom Noel.

For additional information on Block 108, home of the Colorado National Bank buildings, click here to be taken to

Sunday, March 29, 2009

More D & F

Back in November, I blogged about the upcoming Centennial of the Daniels and Fisher Tower. You can link back to that blog here. While doing other research however on another project, I came across this fun advertisement from the December 10th, 1910 edition of Denver Municipal Facts. The caption for the above advertisement reads, "The New Store and Tower of the Daniels and Fisher Stores Company at Sixteenth and Arapahoe Streets as It Will Appear When Completed." I especially like the drawing of so many transportation choices in 1910: walking, bicycle, horse, horse and carriage, street car....and that new thing called an automobile.

Hopefully you'll be able to read the type script when you click on the picture. I couldn't get it any larger without sacrificing some of the image itself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Glorious Day for Denver: June 24, 1872

I recently had the honor to speak at the Denver 150 Symposium, "Denver Indside and Out". Numerous subjects were discussed concerning early Denver and its growth over the past 150 years. I spoke about the struggle to build the city's first school building which was eventually known as the Arapahoe School. The picture above shows the cornerstone laying ceremony from June 24, 1872 when most of the whole town turned out for a huge celebration. The picture gives me chills when I imagine all of those people, horses and carriages gathering to celebrate the establishment of our modern school system in Denver. The fights and struggles over how the building would be funded contributed greatly to its delay in actually being built (arguments that sound just like the FasTracks discussion in Denver today). But the party atmosphere shown above was captured in this passage from the Rocky Mountain News, June 25, 1872:

…the procession probably contained not less than two thousand persons while the number of spectators who thronged the streets could not have been less than six thousand. Windows, sidewalks and every available spot on the line of the march, especially through F [15th] Street, were occupied… immense throng of spectators filled the space about the school building. A crowd of men and women roosted themselves upon the observatory of Tritch’s elegant mansion, where beneath the blazing sun, they endeavored…to be jolly, but were really very miserable.

What's this town you say? Well, lo and behold, the first Denver skyline. Public School One, later known as Arapahoe School (but almost called Anderson School) sits as the tallest building in Denver. For many years, visitors to Denver travelled to 17th and Arapahoe to go to the school's cupola for stunning views of the city down below. This picture above is taken from near 15th and the Platte River, not far from where the REI store is today. The school was officially ready for use on April 2, 1873. When it opened for primary grades, it was the largest school in Colorado Territory.

The beautiful Arapahoe School, designed by Chicago architect G.P. Randal, eventually contained the first high school classes in Denver and Colorado, starting in 1874. The Class of 1877 was the first to graduate from the school and included Irving Hale who went on to be a Brigadier General during the Spanish-American War. If you've heard of Hale Parkway in east Denver, it is named in his honor. This pictures shows the Henry Rietze House on the left and the Thomas M. Field House on the right.

This photo, circa 1879, shows the German Methodist Episcopal Church, looking from the corner of 18th and Arapahoe. The high school eventually left Arapahoe School when the new Denver High School was opened at 1932 Stout in 1882. This school became known as East High School.

The top photo is taken from the observation deck of the school. It shows a view looking east with a bit of the First Baptist Church under construction at 18th and Curtis. It is especially interesting to see the large home across the road complete with a fountain! The second photo is looking northwest toward Boulder. The Ezra A. Newton residence is on the left. The school was a big tourist attraction. When US Vice President Henry Wilson visited Denver in 1875, he stopped by and made an address to the high school students.

But of course, in Denver, nothing seems to last. The explosive growth experienced by the city after the arrival of the railroad in 1870 endangered the lovely old school building. By 1890, it was in the middle of a business district and people were clamoring for its closure and removal to a more suburban location. The district complied and sold the land and building. The Club Building, designed by Frank Edbrooke of Brown Palace fame, was built in front of the school. The old school acted as a back annex for the lovely Club Building. Above is a photo circa 1910.

This photo is circa 1893 and shows a tiny sliver of the Arapahoe School on the right behind the Club Building.

Even the Club Building could not survive the onslaught of the automobile. It, like numerous buildings in downtown Denver, was demolished in 1955 to make way for an expansion of the Federal Reserve Building (which was soon to be demolished too) and also for a parking lot! The photo above was taken from the alley and is the last known image of the Arapahoe School. Construction workers are lowering a wheelbarrow. The Denver Post reported that "no one even noticed or cared" that the old school was coming down. That is not true, but...that is a whole other story. Today, portions of Skyline Park takes up the space where the Arapahoe School once stood.

For additional information on Block 077, home of the Skyline Park and the old Arapahoe School, click here to be taken to

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

Sunday, February 1, 2009

17th and California

One of my hobbies includes looking for old pictures, papers and other ephemera associated with old Denver. A couple of years ago, I purchased a souvenir book called Denver by Pen and Picture. It dates from 1898 and has some wonderful pictures of buildings long gone from our memory and others more recently lost. The picture above actually has a couple of buildings that are still around.

The large prominent white building in the center of the picture is none other than the Equitable Building (1892) which still stands at the southeast corner of 17th and Stout. If you haven't been in the vestibule and inner lobbies of this building, you owe it to yourself to step inside and explore.

Across from the Equitable Building on the northeast corner of 17th and Stout stands a four story building known as the Albany Hotel (1885). This structure stuck around until 1977! What forces were in place to take this building down...I don't know. More research. I was only in kindergarten then. I do know it probably has something to do with the skyscraper in place today, the Johns Manville Plaza building. I just wonder if there was any move to save the Albany.

On the far left, along California Street at 16th, stands a dark brick building which still stands today, although you will not recognize it in this picture. The Hayden, Dickinson and Feldhauser Building (1891) underwent an Art Deco transformation in 1937 and was renamed the Colorado Building.

Frank Edbrooke's California Building (1892) stands at the southwest corner of 17th and California. I'm guessing it came down just prior to its replacement--the 1962 Formalist wonder known as Western Federal Savings. This was one of Denver's early skyscrapers and it still stands, although some of its Formalist elements have been removed. This linked picture from also shows the Equitable Building at the rear.

Appropriately, in the photo above, on the southeast corner of 17th and California, stands the Nevada Building. It is visible also at the photo at the top of this blog. It was replaced eventually by the Security Building, circa 1920.

Most intriguing I find are the homes, both large and small on the northwest corner of 17th and California, along with the carriages. The corner home is large and prominent and definitely a symbol for the past by 1898, as its days were numbered. Homes are also visible along Welton Street in the foreground. It is no surprise that Trinity Methodist Church would locate itself at 18th and Broadway in 1888 to take advantage of all of the people who lived nearby. This was a short-lived residential area however. The growing city along with the coming of the automobile forever changed the residential character of the downtown we know today. Incidentally, I haven't yet figured out who lived in the large home at this corner. I do know that by 1912, the house, if still standing or not, had a new neighbor across the street (on the northeast corner) in the form of the International Trust Company Building. It was torn down in 1974 and remains a plaza today.

This blog covers a number of blocks and buildings at the intersection of 17th and California. Click here to go to to learn more about the modern city present today at this location.

The top photo, as I stated, is from my private collection. The second photo is from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.

SPECIAL NOTE: I am currently looking for personal pictures from City Park, Whittier and the Capitol Hill areas of Denver for another research project I'm involved in. My time period of interest is prior to 1950. If you know of any personal collections of such items, please email me directly at