Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The WPA in Colorado

During the height of the Great Depression, as banks failed, unemployment soared, and farm prices dropped, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established as one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal projects. The WPA focused on creating and providing jobs rather than handing out direct relief. Most of the WPA jobs were aimed at civic improvements, such as public buildings and roads. Thousands of out-of-work artists and artisans, architects, musicians, writers, historians, and others who had previously been employed in creative or intellectual fields were given temporary work. Parks, trails, bridges, public buildings, artworks, and literary projects produced by the WPA continue to be enjoyed to this day.

Colorado’s division of the WPA issued The WPA Worker: A Monthly Pictorial Journal for Workers and Citizens of Colorado Interested in the Statewide Projects of Works Progress AdministrationIssues from 1936 and 1937 have recently been digitized by our library. Each issue of this amazing periodical highlights WPA projects in all corners of the state. These included many construction projects like public buildings, roads, bridges, stadiums, and parks, but also included such varied activities as

As Coloradans suffered from the effects of the Great Depression, the WPA enhanced life in every part of the state, and often undertook long overdue projects that in many cases would not have been otherwise completed. Many of the projects continue to enhance our lives today.

For more resources on the WPA in Colorado, see the following publications available from our library:

Aguilar’s city hall was constructed by the WPA.


The playground at Lake Junior High in Denver was also a WPA project.


Old infrastructure was replaced across the state.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado State Museum

Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Have you lived in Colorado long enough to remember when the State Museum was located at 14th and Sherman, in what is now the Legislative Services Building?

The State Historical Society was established in 1879 and its earliest museum exhibits were located in the State Capitol. By the early 1900s, however, the Society wanted its own home. Architect Frank Edbrooke — who had completed the designs for the Capitol — was hired to design a new structure, which would be located across the street. Built of native Colorado materials including Yule marble and Cotopaxi granite, the three-story Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1915. The museum was best known for its impressive archaeological collections and early Native American artifacts. Later, in the 1930s, WPA activities resulted in a great deal of historical research as well as the creation of the dioramas that became one of the museum’s most memorable features. In fact, the amazingly detailed WPA diorama depicting 1860 Denver can still be viewed at today’s History Colorado Center.

You can learn about the old museum building in Colorado Capitol Buildings, a 1951 publication highlighting the State Capitol and its associated architecture. In addition, a 1972 museum brochure digitized by our library might bring back memories, with photos and descriptions of the exhibits.

The State Museum continued at 14th and Sherman until 1976, when it moved to a new home at 1300 Broadway. That second building was torn down in 2010 and the current building, at 12th and Broadway, opened in 2012. The old museum building became legislative offices, due to its proximity to the Capitol, and is a part of the Denver Civic Center National Historic Landmark District.

The Colorado State Museum under construction, circa 1915. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.


Colorado State Publications Blog

Herndon Davis, Colorado Artist

You’re probably familiar with the Face on the Barroom Floor, the mysterious portrait of a dark-haired lady on the floor of the Teller House in Central City. But did you know that the same artist who painted this iconic image also used his paintings to document the Colorado he knew, before it vanished forever?

The Face on the Barroom Floor. Herndon Davis, 1936. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Herndon Davis (1901-1962) started his artistic career as a commercial illustrator in several midwestern cities. He moved to Denver in 1936, working for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. While in Central City to paint a series of murals for the Central City Opera House, Davis painted the Face, thought to be an image of his wife, Nita.

Over time, Davis began to notice how much Colorado, and Denver especially, were changing. Gone was the frontier West, which Davis set about to document in paintings of rickety frontier towns and old mine sites. He painted and sketched numerous portraits of notable Coloradans like Kit Carson, John Brisben Walker, and Helen Bonfils. He even painted Colorado dinosaurs.

But Davis is perhaps best appreciated for his paintings of old Denver and metro area buildings, often documenting them before they were lost. Davis painted the remaining homes of early Denver area settlers; fine Capitol Hill mansions; and famous nineteenth-century Denver buildings that had fallen into disrepair. Buildings that were the pride of nineteenth-century Denver are shown surrounded by parked cars, for sale signs, and empty lots. Yet each retains a dignified beauty that Davis was able to capture, even as the structures were about to be lost to the wrecking ball.

The Hallack Mansion, one of Capitol Hill’s largest homes, painted by Davis in 1940 shortly before the building’s demolition. It is now the site of the Cash Register Building at the corner of 17th and Sherman. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
The Tabor Grand Opera House, 16th and Curtis, painted by Davis in 1941 as the building fell into disrepair. Most Denver historians agree that the Tabor was the finest building ever built in Denver. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
This view of the Navarre building, which still stands on Tremont Street, shows the changing landscape of Denver in 1940. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

Davis and his art are featured in Herndon Davis: Painting Colorado History by Craig Leavitt and Thomas J. Noel (University Press of Colorado, 2016), a full-color book which you can check out from our library or on Prospector. Much of Davis’s art is now in the Collection of the Denver Public Library Western History Department, and you can view many more Davis paintings on their website.

Credit: University Press of Colorado.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Building History Research

If you’re the proud owner of a historic property, or if there’s a particular building that speaks to you, you may be interested in finding more about its history. Who lived in your house and what were their stories? Or, what were the previous uses of your commercial or public building? If you’re wondering how to go about researching the history of a historic structure, our library has resources that can help you.

  • Researching the History of Your House is a publication from History Colorado that outlines the steps involved in research, not only for houses but for other buildings as well. This publication includes a handy checklist for places to search and helpful documents to find.
  • Documenting the History of Your Home is a 1992 publication from the Colorado State University Extension. The advice in this publication is still very relevant, but check with your local library or historical society because many of the resources mentioned are now available online, making research easier than ever before.
  • Your building’s architectural style can tell you a lot about its history, including the time period when it was built and for what purpose. See History Colorado’s Field Guide to Colorado’s Historic Architecture and Engineering for information on historic building styles, types, and materials. 
  • Who designed and/or built your house? If your research reveals the name of an architect or builder, check to see if they’re featured in History Colorado’s Architects of Colorado and Builders of Colorado biographical series. 
  • The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is a great tool that you can use to search for historic news stories about your building or its previous owners.

No matter where in Colorado your building is located, be sure to visit your local library. Many libraries have local history and archival collections. The Denver Public Library’s Western History and Geneaology Department, Boulder’s Carnegie Library for Local History, and Pikes Peak Library District’s Regional History and Geneaology are among the state’s best local history collections, but many smaller and rural libraries have excellent local history collections as well.

If your research turns up some fascinating history, or if your building is architecturally significant, consider nominating it to the National Register of Historic Places or as a local landmark (check with your town or municipality for information and eligibility criteria). See this fact sheet from the Colorado State University Extension or visit the Office of Archaeology & Historic Preservation’s website for more information on the National Register.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Denver Landmarks & Historic Districts

Over the last few months you may have read the news articles about the proposed development of Larimer Square, Denver’s first designated historic district. This week, it was back in the news when the National Trust for Historic Preservation added Larimer Square to its annual list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

For the story behind Larimer Square, its buildings, and why it was preserved, check out Dr. Thomas J. Noel’s Denver Landmarks and Historic Districts (University Press of Colorado, 2016). This book takes a look at how, and why, Denver established its Landmark Preservation Commission in 1967 and has since designated over 50 historic districts – beginning with Larimer Square – and over 300 individual landmarks. Each of the districts and landmark structures is examined in the book. In our library you can also check out the first edition of the title, published in 1996 – which, in comparison with the new edition, can show how the program has grown in the last twenty years.

For more information about current issues in historic preservation in our state see Preservation for a Changing Colorado (History Colorado, 2017).

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Yule Marble

Lincoln Memorial.

Did you know that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. are constructed of marble quarried here in Colorado? The stone comes from the Colorado Yule Marble quarry in the Crystal River valley near Marble, between Aspen and Carbondale. Colorado Yule marble, named for nearby Yule Creek, is a special variety of marble found only in Colorado. Yule marble has been used in buildings and monuments across the United States. Here in Denver it’s also been used in many state government buildings, including the building that houses our library.

The Yule Marble quarry. Courtesy Colorado Geological Survey.

The Colorado Yule Marble Company was founded by Channing Meek in 1905, although marble had been discovered in the area as early as the 1870s. The town of Marble was founded in 1881. It was after the turn of the century, however, when marble became especially fashionable. With financial assistance from the Rockefellers, Meek spent $3 million establishing the quarry and building a power plant and a railroad to the quarry site through Marble, where the processing mill was located. During its first few years the operation employed nearly 900 workers, many of them Italian immigrants. “Colorado Marble and Building Stone is the Finest in the World,” proclaimed the 1909-10 report of the state’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in a profile of Yule Marble, which you can read online from our library.

In 1912 an avalanche destroyed the quarry, which is cut into a steep mountainside. It was soon rebuilt and back in operation. That summer, Meek, the founder and superintendent, was killed in a trolley accident in the quarry. The operation continued with new leadership, however, and between 1914 and 1916 supplied stone to Washington, D.C. for the Lincoln Memorial.

Over the next few years, fires, floods, the coming of WWI, and labor troubles tested the company. It was foreclosed and split into two companies and sold; however, in 1924 the two companies merged to form the Consolidated Yule Marble Company. It was sold again in 1928, and in 1930, it was chosen to provide the stone for the Tomb of the Unknowns. “The company was chosen because it had the only quarry capable of cutting a single block of marble large enough for the proposed design,” according to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A building in Los Angeles constructed of Colorado Yule Marble.

By 1941, demand for marble had decreased as cheaper building materials were being introduced and modernist styles favored steel and glass. The quarry was shut down in the fall of that year, just prior to America’s entry into WWII. During and after the war, the quarry site sat mostly vacant until 1990, when it was finally reopened. A series of different owners have operated the site since that time. In 2004, marble was declared the State Rock

If you’re out exploring the Crystal River valley this summer, you can visit the Colorado Yule Marble site. While the quarry itself is closed to tourists, you can still hike near the old Crystal Mill and see scattered marble remnants and rejects. The town of Marble also has a history museum.

Marble remnants can still be seen while hiking around the area. Photo by Alan Levine courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Colorado State Publications Blog

State Government Facilities Planning

What is the State of Colorado’s vision for the future of its buildings?  Although sometimes overlooked, buildings are one of the state government’s most important assets.  Running the government requires offices and a Capitol building.  Colleges and universities couldn’t exist without classrooms, libraries, labs, athletic facilities, and community spaces.  So maintaining these structures – and building and acquiring new ones as our state’s population grows – require significant planning.  The various “campuses” of state buildings – including higher education campuses and the Capitol Complex – have developed Master Plans that include building inventories, maintenance needs, new development, and projected associated costs.  Many of these Master Plans are available from our library:

  • In 2014 a new Capitol Complex Master Plan was released.  The Capitol Complex is the campus of state buildings including the State Capitol and the various satellite state office buildings.  The State of Colorado previously issued master plans for the Capitol Complex in 1966 and 1989.  These plans can be checked out in print from our library or through Prospector.
  • The University of Colorado’s current (2011) master plan for its Boulder campus can be viewed here, and for comparison its previous (2001) plan can be viewed here.
  • Colorado State University’s current (2014) master plan can be viewed here. CSU also issued a separate Parking and Transportation Master Plan.  Older CSU master plans from the 1970s and 1980s are available in print from our library.
  • The Auraria Higher Education Center updates its master plan about every five years. The 2017, 2012, 2007, and 2001 plans are all available online.  See also the campus’s Strategic Implementation Plan (2012) for more facilities planning information. To see the campus’s earliest planning report see the campus Concept Report (1968), which has been digitized by our library.
  • Although a part of the Auraria Campus, the University of Colorado Denver also issued their own master plan in 2017.
  • The Anschutz Medical Campus’s 2012/2013 Facilities Master Plan can be viewed here. For historical purposes a 1998 master plan for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center’s old 9th and Colorado campus is also available.
  • Planning for the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley is divided into several different master plans covering different areas, all available to view here. A previous (1981) plan is also available in print from our library.
  • The current (2012) master plan for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs is available online here.
  • Planning documents for the Colorado Mesa University campus in Grand Junction are available here.
  • Fort Lewis College planning documents can be viewed here.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Byers-Evans House Museum

Nestled between the looming structures of the Denver Art Museum is a hidden treasure, the Byers-Evans House Museum at 1310 Bannock Street.  Built in 1883 for Rocky Mountain News founder William Byers and owned for over 90 years by the Evans family, this lovely Italianate house is now a museum property owned by History Colorado.  Restored to the 1910s-1920s period, the house features original furnishings belonging to the Byers and Evans families, as well as exact-reproduction wallpapers and other elements that truly give you the feeling of stepping back in time.

The Byers-Evans House in the mid-1880s, when it was home to the Byers family.  Denver street names have changed since then, so the home’s original address was 1310 South 14th St.  Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

A tour of the museum is a real treat, but of course a tour can never tell the full story.  If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Byers-Evans House, you can check out from our library The House in the Heart of the City: The Byers and Evans Families of Denver, a special issue of Colorado Heritage magazine from the museum’s opening in 1989.  Also, you can find biographies of Governor John Evans, the family patriarch, and his son William Gray Evans, the house’s owner, in LeRoy Hafen’s 1927 History of Colorado, all five volumes of which have been digitized by our library.  William Evans’ sister Anne contributed greatly to Denver’s art community, which you can read about in History Colorado’s publication The Denver Artists’ Guild.  Finally, short biographies of Anne Evans and of the home’s original owner, William Byers, are available from the Colorado Virtual Library.

A fun fact:  Before moving to 1310 Bannock, William Byers lived in a home on the site of what is now the Colorado State Library’s building at Colfax and Sherman.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Creative Spaces

As housing prices go up and more and more people want to live in the city, the space available to artists has become scarce.  In the mid-twentieth century, however, things were a little bit different.  After WWII, the flight to the suburbs left many inner-city apartments, warehouses, hotels, and other structures cheaply available, and artists, musicians, and writers were able to move in to these spaces.

Brinton Terrace in 1919. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library.

One such place was Denver’s Brinton Terrace.  Located just off of 17th and Lincoln behind Trinity Methodist Church, Brinton Terrace was an upscale Victorian rowhouse structure constructed in 1882.  Designed by well-known Denver architects Varian & Sterner, the building originally contained six spacious, three-story apartments.
In 1947, Edgar McMechen wrote an article in Colorado Magazine profiling Brinton Terrace, which many people called “Denver’s Greenwich Village.”  Significantly, McMechen notes that Brinton Terrace actually became an art center early in the century.  In 1906, artist Margaret Van Waganen rented space in the building, and she encouraged her friends to come and join her.  Soon the terrace was home to the architecture studio of Biscoe & Hewitt, as well as the Boutwell brothers’ art gallery and studio.  This space also hosted the Denver Arts & Crafts Club, reflecting the popular style of the time.  Several other artists followed, and then in 1909 a piano school was opened in the building, attracting a number of musicians to the site.  One of the best-known musicians to reside in the building was the well-known British organist Dr. John Gower.  Gower’s wife had an interest in poetry and started a poets’ club, thereby adding a literary element to the scene.
At the time McMechen wrote his article, several photography studios were also located in Brinton Terrace.  Famed female conductor Antonia Brico resided in the building; as did Allen Tupper True, whose murals adorn the Colorado State Capitol and Brown Palace Hotel.  Finally, in 1939, the Rocky Mountain Radio Council opened a recording studio at Brinton.
McMechen concluded that Brinton Terrace had, for half a century, been one of the most significant centers of Denver’s cultural scene.  “The association of creative minds, operating freely in that congenial atmosphere, has produced results…of undoubted significance in the development of cultural ideals.”  You can read more about Brinton Terrace and its many notables in the 2015 book The Denver Artists’ Guild, available for checkout from our library.
Unfortunately, Brinton Terrace’s story does not have a happy ending.  Just a decade after McMechen wrote his article, the terrace was demolished to make way for a parking lot.  Now, in 2018, as artists’ spaces are encouraged as a driver of economic development, we can only imagine what Brinton Terrace would contribute to today’s creative culture.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Renovations at the Capitol

If you work or live near the State Capitol you have probably seen all of the scaffolding and construction work that has been going on this summer and fall.  According to Legislative Council, the exterior work includes roof work, gutter replacement, and the recreation — using old plans and drawings — of historic chimneys that were removed some time ago.  Inside, there is a great deal of work going on as well, including renovations of some of the committee rooms and the basement.  Historic mouldings and archways are being uncovered as part of the project.  For details on the work that is going on through 2018, see the Legislative Council’s LegiSource blog post, which includes some great pictures of the renovations.
The current renovations follow the highly-praised restorations of the House and Senate Chambers over the last several years.  Work on the chambers included removal of 1950s acoustic tiles, recreation of historic wall stencilings, and restoration of the huge chandeliers as well as the stained glass windows and skylights.  See the Capitol Building’s historic structure assessment here.
To learn more about preservation and restoration of the Capitol, see the webpage for the General Assembly’s Capitol Building Advisory Committee as well as the Office of the State Architect’s Capitol Complex Master Plan.  For the history of the State Capitol Building, check out the following books from our library:

  • Art of the House: Paintings in the House of Representatives, State Capitol, Denver, Colorado (1990)
  • The Colorado Capitol Building (1960)
  • Colorado Capitol Buildings (1951)
  • Colorado State Capitol (1983, 1992)
  • The Colorado State Capitol: History, Politics, Preservation (2005)
  • Visitor’s Guide to Colorado’s Capitol (1990, 1991, 1994, 2004, and 2005 editions)

The Colorado House Chambers following restoration. Photo by Tony Eitzel courtesy of Colorado General Assembly.


Colorado State Publications Blog

The Buildings of Auraria

The Auraria Higher Education Center (or Auraria Campus, as it is often known) is quite unique among Colorado’s college campuses.  This inner-city campus is home to not one, but three separate higher education institutions: the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Denver.  Auraria is also unique for its history, as more than a century before the campus was built, Auraria was a separate town that competed with Denver.  Eventually, it became a middle-class Denver neighborhood that was home to many diverse ethnic groups.  Today, a few of the buildings from the old Auraria neighborhood remain to tell the story of the people who made Auraria their home.

The Auraria Campus is a prime place to experience the evolution of Denver’s architectural styles, because the historic buildings that have been preserved coexist with forty years of evolving campus architecture.  Among the repurposed historic buildings on campus are several churches, the old Tivoli Brewery, and the 9th Street Park, one street of old Auraria homes and businesses that was preserved to commemorate the pre-campus neighborhood.

You can learn more about Auraria’s architecture in the following resources, available from our library (publications without hyperlinks can be checked out in print):

The Auraria Neighborhood:

The Auraria Campus:

Old and new coexist on the Auraria Campus.  Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Colorado State Publications Blog

The Architecture of Jacques Benedict

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Victorian architectural styles gave way to newer styles including Beaux Arts and Mediterranean-influenced architecture.  One of the most significant architects in Colorado to embrace these architectural styles was Jules Jacques Benoit Benedict.  Although today he is most remembered for his Denver residential designs (many examples can be found in the Denver Country Club and around Cheesman Park), Benedict’s influence extends well beyond his Denver estates.

Jacques Benedict grew up in Chicago and, undoubtedly influenced by the great architects of that city, began practicing there in 1899 before embarking on additional study in Paris, where he attended the famed Ecole de Beaux Arts — considered to be the finest architectural school in the world.  After returning to the US he practiced in New York for a time, but saw more opportunity in the West so relocated to Denver in 1909.  This was during the height of the City Beautiful Movement in Denver, and among some of Benedict’s first projects in this city were libraries (such as the Woodbury Branch Library in North Denver), schools (such as Park Hill Elementary), and park amenities (such as the Washington Park boating pavilion).   He also designed buildings in Boulder, Evergreen, Genesee, Golden, Idaho Springs, Littleton, and Sedalia.  One of his only commercial structures was the elegant Central Bank Building at 15th and Arapahoe in downtown Denver, which was torn down in 1990 amidst much controversy; even Denver’s Mayor Peña fought to save it from demolition.

Yet some of Benedict’s most intriguing buildings are the ones that were never built.  Can you imagine Denver’s City and County Building as a highrise?  Benedict did.  In 1926, when the City announced plans for a new municipal building in Civic Center, Benedict submitted a design for a 35-story Gothic Revival skyscraper clearly influenced by Chicago’s famous Tribune Tower.  Although the Denver Post rooted for Benedict’s design, Mayor Stapleton and city officials preferred the Neoclassical-style building envisioned by Civic Center Park designer Edward Bennett in 1917.  Stapleton hired a team of forty leading architects to carry out the design, and the new City and County Building was completed in 1932.

Another of Benedict’s unbuilt buildings is perhaps better known, because hikers pass its cornerstone every day on their way up Mount Falcon in Jefferson County.  Benedict was hired by visionary John Brisben Walker as architect for a proposed Summer White House for the President.  For a time, Coloradans rallied behind the idea of a Presidential mansion on Mount Falcon; schoolchildren even collected pennies toward funding the construction.  Benedict and Walker fought for the idea for ten years, but it was eventually abandoned, and today only Benedict’s cornerstone remains as a reminder.  You can find out more about Benedict’s architectural visions in “Architect J. J. B. Benedict And His Magnificent Unbuilt Buildings,” by Dan W. Corson, in the Summer 1997 issue of Colorado Heritage.  This issue is available for checkout from our library.  Additionally, History Colorado has a list of Benedict’s buildings in their Architects of Colorado database.

The Denver Post was an enthusiastic supporter of both Benedict’s Summer White House (left) and proposed City and County Building (right).

Colorado State Publications Blog

Denver's Most Haunted House

The Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion, a turreted sandstone castle at 11th and Pennsylvania in Capitol Hill, is often considered to be the most haunted house in Denver. Built in 1891 for Thomas Croke, a state legislator and landowner who has been called the metro Denver area’s “father of irrigation,” Croke sold the house after only living there six months.  It is likely that he moved out during his grief over the death of his wife, but storytellers like to say that ghosts pushed him out.  He traded the mansion to Thomas Patterson in exchange for some land near Standley Lake.
Patterson is one of Colorado history’s most notable characters. He represented Colorado in the United States Senate and owned and edited the Rocky Mountain News. He is also considered by some historians to have inadvertently been responsible for Rutherford B. Hayes’s presidency.  When Patterson died in 1916, his daughter Margaret and her husband, Richard Campbell, lived in the mansion until building their own in the 1920s.
Over the years the old mansion was used for apartments, offices, and other uses. Most of the ghost stories were started in the 1970s when the house was used as office space.  The most famous story is about two guard dogs who jumped out of the 3rd story turret, said to be pushed out by demons.  Other tales include stories of crying babies and a body buried in the basement.
The ghost stories of the Croke-Patterson-Campbell mansion can be found in numerous places on the internet and have become the mansion’s claim to fame. I always felt, however, that the house’s true history outshined the ghost stories, so for the Spring 2005 issue of Colorado Heritage I told the story of the house’s history — and debunked a few ghost stories along the way. The magazine is available from our library, as are several Colorado Magazine articles that tell the story of Thomas Patterson’s colorful political career (Winter 1974, Spring 1976, Winter 1977). A full biography, Colorado Crusader for Change, is also available for checkout from our library. Written by Patterson’s granddaughter, Sybil Downing, it was published by the University Press of Colorado.
Happy Halloween!

Colorado State Publications Blog

Georgetown's Hotel de Paris

If you’re headed to the mountains this summer and are looking for some interesting history, stop in Georgetown — right off I-70 — and tour the Hotel de Paris.  The hotel’s founder, Louis Dupuy, was born in France and arrived in Denver in 1869.  He opened the hotel in 1875, and from that year until 1890 he made numerous expansions to the original building, which had started out as a bakery.  It soon became one of the most popular and elegant hotels in the Rocky Mountains.  Dupuy passed away in 1900, and new owners kept the establishment running as a boarding house until 1939.  In 1954 the Society of Colonial Dames purchased the hotel and turned it into a museum.  In 1978 it was returned to a more accurate representation of the Dupuy era, and since then has been giving visitors a look back into life in a late-nineteenth-century mining town.  Hotel de Paris is also Colorado’s only National Trust for Historic Preservation site.  The museum’s collection includes several thousand objects original to the hotel.

To commemorate the hotel’s rich history and its purchase by the Colonial Dames, the Colorado Historical Society in 1954 published a book on Hotel de Paris.  Hotel de Paris and Louis Dupuy in Georgetown, Colorado:  A Fragment of Old France Widely Known Everywhere in the West provides a quick history for visitors, useful either before or after a visit to the hotel.  You can find resources on other Georgetown attractions, such as the Georgetown Loop Railroad and the Hamill House, by searching our library’s web catalog.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Engineering Marvels

From bridges to dams to tunnels and beyond, Colorado has some fine examples of structural engineering.  Awe-inspiring bridges such as the Georgetown Loop, the Royal Gorge, and my personal favorite, the Red Cliff Arch Bridge, conquer the mountainous terrain to allow trains, pedestrians, and motor vehicles to cross wide canyons — get a spectacular view in the process.  Man-made dams such as Chatfield, Dillon, and Blue Mesa serve many purposes, including flood control, recreation, and water supply to towns and cities.  The Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels, the Moffat tunnel, and the Glenwood Canyon project challenged mother nature by creating passages through what had previously been impassable mountains. Each of these places — and hundreds of others across Colorado — have fascinating histories and stories to be told.  You can find these histories, along with technical information, on these feats of engineering by searching our library’s resources.  Some highlights from our collection include:

Publications not available online can be borrowed from our library or through Prospector or interlibrary loan.  For more resources, search our library’s web catalog.

Royal Gorge Bridge. Photo courtesy Colorado Tourism Office.

A side note, speaking of floods and canyons — this Sunday, July 31, marks the 40th anniversary of the Big Thompson Flood.  See my blog entry from the 35th anniversary for resources on this topic.

Colorado State Publications Blog

The Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion

The Colorado governor’s mansion, officially named the Governor’s Residence at the Boettcher Mansion, is the “White House” of Colorado.  It is the official residence for Colorado governors as well as the site of many official state functions.  (Where it differs from the White House, however, is that the governor does not have his office there — his office is in the State Capitol).
The 1907-08 mansion is a showplace filled with furnishings and artifacts relating to Colorado and to the Boettcher family, who offered the mansion to the State in 1959.  That year, the Legislature split on whether to accept the mansion, and the gift was initially rejected and would have been torn down if Governor Stephen L.R. McNichols hadn’t stepped in at the last minute to accept the gift from the Boettcher Foundation.  The McNichols family moved into the mansion in 1961.
You can read about the history of the mansion (and see some wonderful photographs) in the book Queen of the Hill:  The Private Life of the Colorado Governor’s Mansion, available for checkout from our library.  I also posted some basic history on the mansion in a 2007 posting; since then, the official website of the mansion has changed.  The new site contains a virtual tour of the home along with information on event scheduling and a link to the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund site, which contains more information about the mansion and how Coloradans can get involved.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Capitol Buildings

For those interested in Denver’s architecture, one of the treasures of our library collection is a 1940s publication entitled Colorado Capitol BuildingsThis booklet, prepared by the Colorado Writers’ and Art Programs of the Works Progress Administration, is undated but contains a dedication to the armed forces by Governor Ralph Carr, who served between 1939 and 1943.  The booklet presents a “historical sketch of the Colorado Capitol and associated group of buildings.”  When the Capitol was first completed, it was considered large enough to hold all state offices indefinitely.  However, after only a few decades of growth it was apparent that additional space would be needed for State offices and functions.

The first to leave the Capitol was the State Museum, for which a new Neoclassical structure was built between 1912 and 1915 at the corner of 14th and Sherman.  The museum had previously been housed in the basement of the Capitol.  The new structure was designed by Frank Edbrooke, the same architect who finished work on the Capitol.  (It had been begun by Elijah Myers).  Today this building is the Legislative Services Building and houses the Joint Budget Committee and the State Auditor’s Office.

The second building, at Colfax and Sherman, replaced a large home that had belonged to William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News.  The new building, completed in 1921, was the first building constructed to house state offices; it was therefore named the State Office Building.  Over the years, a number of state agencies have been housed in this building; today it is home to the Colorado Department of Education and, as a part of that Department, the State Publications Library.
Also Neoclassical in style, the building features an impressive atrium of checkered marble, brass fixtures, and a colorful stained glass skylight.  The building underwent a significant renovation in the 1980s; plans for the renovation can be viewed in our library.

By the 1930s, Neoclassical government buildings were declining in popularity, so the next building constructed to house state offices, the Capitol Annex, is of modern design, simplified but with suggestions of Art Deco.  The smooth exterior is composed of Colorado Yule marble.  This building is located at 14th and Sherman across the street from the old State Museum building. 

Each of these three buildings are described in the 1951 booklet, along with photographs.  Of course, a number of other buildings have been constructed since that time for state government use.  The State Museum (now History Colorado) is on its second building since moving out of the 1912 structure; several office buildings were constructed along Sherman Street both north and south of the Capitol; and other offices are located around city and the metro area, outside of what is now known as the Capitol Complex. 

The little booklet is a gem in that it not only gives a history of the Capitol and its first three annexes, but it also tells the story of some of the earlier buildings used to house state government before the construction of the present Capitol, and how it came to be there.  A promotional publication, it also includes a page on Colorado tourism as well as a listing of the state symbols and emblems.  Colorado Capitol Buildings is available both digitally and in print from our library.  For additional information about the Capitol and surrounding structures, search our web catalog using search terms “capitol building” or “capitol complex.” 

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado in the 1893 World's Fair

In 1892-93 Chicago was transformed into the “White City” for the dazzling World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair.  Presented on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World, the Fair was dedicated in October 1892 and ran from May through October of 1893.  It covered over 600 acres of downtown Chicago.  200 temporary buildings were erected for the Fair, featuring the work of some of the finest architects and designers of the era:  Daniel Burham, Louis Sullivan, Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, and many others.  There was even a Women’s Building, showcasing female artists, designed by a female architect, Sophia Hayden.  The many buildings showcased the arts as well as innovations and industry in America from transportation to mining to electricity.  Other attractions included exhibits of international culture, and amusements including the world’s original Ferris Wheel.  In addition, many new products and food brands were introduced that would still be recognized today.
Among the exhibits at the Fair, each state had a “pavilion” with which to brag about themselves.  In 1891, the Colorado General Assembly created a Colorado Board of World’s Fair Managers.  Members included Governor John L. Routt and a number of leading (and wealthy) Colorado men and women, along with several subject-matter experts such as the Secretary of the State Bureau of Horticulture, Dr. Alexander Shaw.  Colorado apples were judged highly at the horticultural exhibits, according to the bureau’s 1893 report.  Among the other features of the Colorado pavilion was an educational exhibit, the planning for which is described in detail on pages 579-627 in the 1892 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, available from our library.  Other Colorado attractions included a re-creation of Mesa Verde and an exhibit of stuffed wildlife.  The largest part of the Colorado pavilion, however, was a major exhibition on mining, being such a large part of the state’s industry and economy.  Just weeks after the close of the exhibition, however, Colorado’s economy was devastated by the effects of the Crash of 1893.  Colorado’s exhibits were very much Western-themed.  At this time, there was heightened interest in the West, and Frederick Jackson Turner presented his famous “Frontier Thesis,” proclaiming the closing of the frontier, at the Fair.
The World’s Columbian Exposition with its neoclassical architecture also hugely influenced the City Beautiful movement, which became popular in Colorado, especially under Mayor Speer’s administration in the early 1900s.  For example, the Fair’s influence on the architecture of Civic Center Park, though built several decades after the exhibition, is evident.  The Exposition attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors over its six-month run, attracting visitors from all over the world and becoming a significant memory for many people.  It also highly influenced American culture and commerce for decades to come.

The Grand Court of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The architecture was temporary. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Colorado State Publications Blog

Campus Architecture

The Summer 2014 issue of Mines magazine features a story on the campus’s historic architecture, “Building History:  Campus Structures Reveal Mines’ Past.”  Campus structures include buildings by famous Colorado architects Robert Roeschlaub and Temple Hoyne Buell.  The article features some excellent photographs of the buildings around campus, from the 1870s to the present day. 

A history of the campus architecture can also be found for the University of Colorado.  William R. Deno’s Body and Soul:  Architectural Style at the University of Colorado can be checked out from our library.  Check our library’s web catalog for more resources on Colorado historic architecture and college and university histories. 

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Historic Highway Bridges

Not all of Colorado’s highway bridges are plain steel and concrete.  Many road or highway bridges, both historic and more recent, are highly artistic or advanced works of architecture and engineering.  Many of Colorado’s historic bridges have been included on the National Register of Historic Places.  For a listing of these, as well as links to their nomination forms, see this webpage from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).  Click here for more information on CDOT’s Historic Bridge Program.

CDOT has produced several interesting videos and publications about Colorado’s most notable bridges, available from our library, including:

  • Colorado Statewide Historic Bridge Inventory (2011, CDOT) 
  • Red Cliff Arch Bridge Rehabilitation Project (DVD; 2006, CDOT)
  • Three Bridges, Twelve Days:  US 6 Clear Creek Canyon Bridge Rehabilitation (DVD, 2005, CDOT)
  • Driving Tours of Historic Bridges in Fremont County and Near I-70, West of Denver, Colorado (2004, CDOT and State Historical Fund)
  • Spanning Generations:  The Historic Bridges of Colorado (2004, CDOT and State Historical Fund)
  • The Historic Castlewood Canyon Bridge (DVD, 2003, CDOT)
  • Glenwood Canyon:  Mastering Engineering and Environment in the Colorado Rockies (videocassette/DVD, 1996, CDOT)
  • Historic Bridges of Colorado (1986, Colorado Dept. of Highways)

    The Red Cliff bridge, along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, was constructed in 1939 and recently restored.  Photo courtesy CDOT.

      Colorado State Publications Blog

      State Capitol Dome

      The Capitol Dome is again being revealed as the scaffolding has been slowly removed over the past several months.  So what was this project all about, and what will be the final result?  The Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration, who is overseeing the restoration, has issued this Fact Sheet, which includes a brief description of the project and information on the color of the cast iron, which may look a little bluish for now, but will eventually patina to match the rest of the building.

      The Colorado State Capitol Dome undergoing restoration. 
      Photo courtesy Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration.

      The dome is also being re-gilded.  According to The Colorado State Capitol:  Pride of Our People (1992; available for checkout from our library), the dome has been re-gilded several times, including in 1949, 1980, and again in 1991 following hail damage that caused the gold leaf to flake.  The dome was first gilded in 1908 at a cost of $14,680.  Prior to that date, it had been covered in copper.  For the current restoration, gold from the mining areas of Cripple Creek and Victor was donated for the project and first went to Italy to be formed into gold leaf (see this blog post from the Share in the Care Campaign, which raised money for the dome restoration).

      The gold dome.  Photo courtesy Colorado Legislative Council.

      Today visitors can tour the Capitol dome, which is no longer in danger of injuring tourists, as it was prior to the renovation.  Visitors can view Mr. Brown’s Attic, an exhibit on the history and construction of the Capitol.  Click here for information about the free tour.  A virtual tour can also be accessed for those unable to visit in person.