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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado’s Most Endangered Places

Every February, Colorado Preservation Inc. (CPI) releases their annual list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places. The program brings awareness to historic buildings, landscapes, or archaeological sites around Colorado that are in danger of demolition, neglect, modification, or development. This year’s endangered places, highlighting the history of southern Colorado, are:

  • Adobe Potato Cellars of the San Luis Valley (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Rio Grande, and Saguache Counties)
  • Hose Company No. 3 Fire Museum (Pueblo County)
  • Iglesia De San Antonio-Tiffany Catholic Church (La Plata County)
  • McIntire Ranch and Mansion (Conejos County)
  • R&R Market (Costilla County)

The Culebra River Villages of Costilla County, Colorado, a Colorado Historical Society publication available from our library, mentions the history of the adobe potato cellars:

An important consideration involved storage. When Anglo growers first marketed potatoes they stored surpluses above ground in circular wire-frames encased with hay or in straw-covered trenches. However, the Rio Culebra farmers preferred to store potatoes in a large, underground cellars, or soterranos. Because Hispano[s] used earth, not sod, for walls, their structures maintain an even temperature that kept potatoes from freezing. Hispano subterranean structures were so efficient and cheap to fabricate that Anglo farmers throughout the San Luis Valley adopted double-wall adobe construction for their above-ground storage facilities.

Adobe potato cellars in Rio Grande County, Colorado, circa 1939. Courtesy Library of Congress.

A second Historical Society publication offers information about Conejos County’s McIntire Ranch. An Archaeological Inventory in the Pike’s Stockade Area, Conejos County, Colorado discusses the ranch site‘s historical and archaeological resources, including what remains of the large adobe ranch house. The ranch belonged to Albert McIntire, governor of Colorado from 1895 to 1897. You can read about adobe construction in Adobe as a Building Material for the Plains and Adobe Brick for Farm Buildings, two early-twentieth-century publications from the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station.

To learn more about historic preservation and its impact on Colorado communities, see Preservation for a Changing Colorado, a 2017 publication of CPI and History Colorado. Search our library’s online catalog for more Colorado history resources.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Downtown Streets

Safety, walkability, transportation, and aesthetic design are all important components of planning a downtown commercial area, whether in a large city or a small town. Downtowns and “Main Streets” can, if well planned, boost tourism and enhance quality of life for residents. Therefore the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Colorado Department of Transportation teamed up to produce the guidebook Colorado Downtown Streets: A Tool for Communities, Planners, and Engineers, which you can view online from our library. The agency partners provide the following summary:

Great streets are more than infrastructure: they are the fundamental building blocks of successful communities. [Colorado Downtown Streets is] designed to help local leaders, community members, and technical professionals work together to transform their streets into safe, accessible, and vibrant places.

Use this guidebook to learn how well-planned streets can promote health, increase tax revenue and property values, attract tourists, and contribute to the life of the community by giving the city or town its own identity. Design considerations, such as bike lanes, traffic flow patterns, on-street parking, landscaping, lighting, and signage, are provided along with examples from towns and cities around the state. Tips for planning, implementing and funding are also provided, as are tools for enhancing “placemaking” and revitalizing historic areas.

To supplement the guidebook, a webinar and several companion videos were created, which you can view here. The guide was published as a component of the Colorado Main Street Program, which you can learn more about on the Department of Local Affairs’ website. You can also find more resources from state agencies about city planning and transportation by searching our library’s online catalog.

 

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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.
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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.

 

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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.
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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.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Is Your House on Shaky Ground?

Ground subsidence problems are very real in Colorado. Whether from naturally occurring elements in the soil or from the effects of Colorado’s mining history, the ground in certain parts of Colorado is susceptible to settling, collapsing, expanding, heaving, or swelling, all of which can have potentially hazardous effects on structures. So how do you know if your area is affected by subsidence and swelling soils? And if it is, what should you do?
When the Ground Lets You Down, a title in the Colorado Geological Survey’s popular Rock Talk series, provides an excellent introduction to these types of hazards. The geological processes are illustrated in simple diagrams and information is provided about insurance, emergency situations, and where to go for help.
Another helpful publication, produced especially for homeowners, is A Guide to Swelling Soils for Colorado Homebuyers and Homeowners. This helpful guidebook can be checked out from our library or through Prospector. 
Additional helpful resources available from our library include:

Also, search the term “geologic hazards” in our library’s online catalog for additional resources.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Postcards from Southwestern Colorado

Bird’s-eye view of Durango, circa 1907-1914.

In today’s world of social media and instant communication, the postcard has become a lost art. But the basic idea is the same – the desire to share pictures and updates with friends and family while you’re apart. A century ago, postcards were a popular and cheap way to send a quick greeting. The United States first passed a law in 1861 allowing the sending of cards through the mail, and America’s first postcard was copyrighted that year.

Postcards really gained popularity after 1907, when US laws began to allow the “split-back” postcard – the familiar postcard style with the address on the right and the message on the left. Prior to that time, messages were not allowed on the same side of the card as the address, meaning most postcards were simply a picture on the front and the address on the back. Postcard styles evolved over time, but their popularity began to decline around the 1990s.

During the heydey of postcards, senders all over the country could choose from a variety of pictures of notable local buildings, parks, scenery, or streetscapes. Some picture postcards used actual photographs, while others featured illustrations done from photos. Postcards have become amazing historical resources for two reasons: one, if they contain messages, we’re provided with a glimpse of everyday life in the past, and two, the postcard images are a unique view of scenes of the past – especially the illustrated color images from before the days of color photography. They highlight the places that the city, town, or area believed to be important, the buildings they were proud of, the natural wonders that excited viewers. It’s little wonder that postcards are a popular collector’s item today.

If you’re studying the history of Southwestern Colorado, postcards are a great way to to peek into the region’s past. The Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College has digitized a large collection of postcards from places like Durango, Mesa Verde, Silverton, Telluride, Ouray, and other locales, along with a number of postcards from the area’s narrow gauge railroads. Postcards also featured significant local events, like the 1916 Durango blizzard.

Beaumont Hotel, Ouray, circa 1907-1914.

In 1925 – during an era when postcards were especially popular due to the growth of automobile tourism – the State Board of Immigration published Colorado: The San Juan District, which is available online from our library. This illustrated booklet makes an excellent companion piece to the postcards because it provides context for the places and people of the southwestern Colorado counties. Geography, climate, industry, history, natural resources, education, transportation, businesses, and tourist attractions are described for each of the seven counties in the region, accompanied by photographs. Search our library’s online catalog for more resources on the history of southwest Colorado.

 
Front and back views of a postcard printed in 1906 and mailed in 1907,
just before “split-back” postcards became legal.

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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).

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

CSU's National Western Center

Last week was the groundbreaking for the new National Western Center, a major project to revitalize the National Western Stock Show complex into a “year-round educational and entertainment hub.”  The project includes both the construction of several new buildings as well as the preservation and restoration of several of the complex’s historic structures, most notably the 1909 Stadium Arena.

One of the major partners in the project is Colorado State University, which will have three new facilities at the complex: the CSU Water Resources Center; a facility for equine sports medicine; and the “CSU Center,” which will provide classroom, laboratory, and art spaces as well as a “K-12 Food Systems Exploration Center.”  For details on the CSU buildings see their program plan.  You can also find out more about the project at http://nwc.colostate.edu/ and at the City of Denver’s National Western Center webpage.

A rendering of the site, including the historic Stadium Arena and the new CSU buildings.  Photo courtesy Colorado State University.

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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.

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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).


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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Bent's Fort

If you’re looking for a fun and educational place to take your kids this summer, they will surely enjoy Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.  Here visitors can learn about early frontier life, including trade and commerce as well as cultural intersections, by exploring a reconstruction of the fort originally built in 1833 by George and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain.  At the fort, white settlers and fur traders, Native Americans, and Hispanos from nearby Mexican settlements exchanged goods and culture, and with its location on the Santa Fe Trail, the US Army used the fort as a staging area during the Mexican War in 1846-48.  A combination of disruption from the Army, a terrible cholera epidemic, and the waning of the fur trade led to the closure and abandonment of Bent’s Fort in 1849 — a full ten years before the founding of Denver.  Bent’s Old Fort was reconstructed on its original site in 1976 as part of Colorado’s Centennial-Bicentennial celebration.*

Being such a significant site in Colorado’s early history, Bent’s Fort has been the subject of numerous articles and publications.  Some of the resources available from our library include:

  • The entire Fall 1977 issue of Colorado Magazine explores Bent’s Fort, including articles on life in the fort as well as the story of the reconstruction and accompanying archaeological investigations.  See also “The Excavation of Bent’s Fort, Otero County, Colorado,” Colorado Magazine, v.33, n.3, July 1956.
  • “Bent’s Fort:  Outpost of Manifest Destiny,” by David Lavender, was originally published in 1987 in the Colorado Historical Society’s Essays and Monographs in Colorado History and has recently been reprinted in Western Voices:  125 Years of Colorado Writing, also from the Colorado Historical Society.  Both publications are available for checkout from our library.
  • Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas and Bent’s Old Fort are two books from the Colorado Historical Society which can be checked out in print from our library.
  • The use of Bent’s Fort in the Army during the Mexican War is examined in Edgeley W. Todd’s article “Bent’s Fort in 1846,” Colorado Magazine, v.34, n.3, July 1957.
  • Some letters and articles from a St. Louis newspaper regarding Bent’s Fort in the 1840s were republished in the November 1934 (v.11, n.6) issue of Colorado Magazine.
  • The journal of Elias Willard Smith, a fur trader who visited Bent’s Fort in 1839, has also been reprinted in Colorado Magazine (v. 27, n.3, July 1950.) 
  • The Colorado Historical Society’s 5-volume History of Colorado (1927) has been digitized by our library and contains information on the history of Bent’s Fort.
  • History Colorado (formerly the Colorado Historical Society) also produced an episode of The Colorado Experience on Bent’s Fort.
  • A mini-biography of William Bent is available at the Colorado Virtual Library.

In addition to being a historical site, Bent’s Old Fort is also an important natural ecosystem.  See Biological Survey of Bent’s Old Fort Historic Site; Survey of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site for Breeding Birds and Anurans; and Vegetation Map of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site for information on the area’s plants and animals.

For further resources, search our library’s online catalog.

*Bent’s Old Fort near La Junta is actually the second reconstruction of the adobe fort.  The Fort Restaurant in Morrison, in Jefferson County, is also a replica.  It was originally built in 1963 as a residence.

Photo courtesy National Park Service

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Main Street Revitalization Act

In 2014 the Colorado Legislature passed HB14-1311, the “Colorado Job Creation and Main Street Revitalization Act,” which provided tax credits for Colorado communities to use to boost economic development — including job creation and tourism — while preserving the community’s unique historic commercial structures.  So how has it been doing so far?  According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), which administers the Colorado Main Street Program, the Act led to the creation of “266 full-time jobs, 111 part-time jobs and 98 new businesses throughout the 14 Colorado Main Street communities.”  In addition, “The Colorado Main Street program helped reinvest in physical improvements from public and private sources during 2015. These improvements included 17 façade updates and the rehabilitation of 98 buildings in all of the 14 Colorado Main Street communities.”

Are you interested in getting your town involved in the Main Street initiative?  Check out these resources from DOLA, including the official manual and a downtown planners’ guide. When your community has decided to join, go to the Join Main Street page to sign up.

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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!

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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.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

May is Building Safety Month

Governor Hickenlooper has declared May, 2016 as Colorado Building Safety Month.  This month brings recognition to the work of architects, engineers, and construction workers, as well as fire prevention professionals, to reduce risk of structure fire, collapse, flooding, airborne pollutants, and other potential injury-causing structural defects and problems.

In our library you can read more about what the State of Colorado is doing to make sure our buildings are safe and sound, including safety standards and regulation of the building design and construction professions.  Start by visiting the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control’s Fire and Life Safety webpage, which includes information on building fire suppression systems, the Hotel/Motel Fire Safety Act, permitting and inspection information, and more.  Then be sure to check out these publications available from our library:

Asbestos:

Carbon monoxide:

Case studies:

Electrical/wiring:

Fire prevention:

Flooding:

Government buildings:

Home safety, general:

Lead-based paint:

Licensing and regulation of professions:

Radon:

School facilities:

 Swelling soils/subsidence (earth movements):

 Wood burning stoves:

  • Wood for Home Heating:  How to Install a Wood Burning System Correctly and Safely.  Colorado Office of Energy Conservation, 1981.
  •  Using Coal and Wood Stoves Safely.  Colorado Office of Energy Conservation, 1974.

You can also view our collection of building codes in our Incorporated by Reference collection, which are materials pertaining to specific rules in the Colorado Code of Regulations.

Click to read the Governor’s Proclamation.

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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.