Sunday, January 31, 2010

16th and Wazee

The first floor of the Henry Lee Building at 16th and Wazee is better known as Dixon's Restaurant in the modern day. But while doing research on Wazee Street, I stumbled across some old pictures showing the evolution of this building over time.

There is a Lower Downtown Walking Tour plaque stating that the building's origins date back to 1870 which would make it one of the oldest buildings in all of downtown Denver. However, Babs Gibson, in her book The Lower Downtown Historic District, gives the date of construction as 1886. Both sources agree that in 1907, the building was joined with the adjacent Chester S. Morey Mercantile Building via an elevated corridor that is still in use in 2010 (see below). Mr. Morey needed more space for his growing grocery business. Henry Lee's name remains associated with this building however since he had it constructed to house his farming implement business.

This picture shows the Henry Lee Building on the left, circa 1935. Also apparent is the 16th Street Viaduct rising past the main Morey Mercantile Building (where the Tattered Cover Bookstore is located today). The corridor is also visible as is the old elevated doorway into the Morey Building. Now you know why there is an elevated door at the Tattered Cover. It was not part of the original building but was installed after the viaduct was built!

In 1954, the Morey Mercantile Company went to considerable expense to reface the Wazee Street facade of its building. They replaced it with a modern metal covering. Research indicates that the building was in need of reinforcement on that side and it is assumed that the company felt 'modern' was the way to go. I am almost certain that their changes removed the window frames and brick work and completely replaced it with metal. So there is no chance just to remove the metal to reveal the old building underneath.

Even during this renovation, the Morey Company was under growing competition from the likes of Lloyd King's King Soopers and from Safeway. By 1956, Morey Mercantile was no more. Luckily, if that word can be used in this case, the Morey Mercantile Company left the 16th Street facade alone. Although it was painted white, the picture above shows the modern facade with the old. Today, the building's 16th Street facade has been restored to its original brick color. And the only other hint of the building's association with the Morey company is the decals in the windows of Dixon's advertising Morey's Solitaire grocery line. Click here to see part of the building today!

For more information on Block 16, home of the Henry Lee Building, click here to be taken to

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


Jeff Smith said...

Shawn, Thank you so much for the continued history of Denver.

Ann said...

Thanks for your blog! It has been very helpful for us for social studies this year. :)