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 DenverInfill.com


Bygningsentreprise said...

Every time I saw this kind of blog I will be happy at the same time I'll be sad. It's I'm happy because I saw again an old memories of the past a historic building then I'm sad because its gone now or it becomes remodeled now and the former looks was gone.

Jay said...

Shawn, I just got something in the mail about a hearing for converting the CNB building to condos and creating the "Historic CNB Building Property and Sales Tax Increment Area." What do you think?

Shawn Snow said...

I think this would be a terrible idea. The plan for this building was to convert it into a hotel. If this plan has fallen through, I haven't heard about that yet. The problem with condos is that it would cut off access to the very public Allen True murals on American Indian life that are still within that building. I supported the hotel because people would still be able to see those murals.

Anonymous said...

As of July 2012, it is still to open as a hotel.