Civic Center Park and Capitol Hill
This short walking tour includes Civic Center Park, the iconic Pioneer Monument, the state capital, and several historic buildings, markers, and museums in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Denver's Civic Center was established in 1868 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. The Civic Center includes the grounds of Civic Center Park, the Federal Revival Colorado State Capitol Building, the Georgian Revival Denver City and County Building, the Greek Revival McNichols Building (once the Carnegie Library), and the park's historic monuments and statuary [1; 2].
The 1911 Pioneer Monument marks the end of the Smoky Hill Trail, which crossed the great plains from Kansas to Denver and served as the principal route for prospectors seeking their fortunes during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Artist Frederick MacMonnies' original design sparked public controversy because it did not sufficiently celebrate white "civilization" replacing supposed Native savagery. MacMonnies compromised by replacing the Plains Indian warrior at the top of the pillar with a statue of Kit Carson. In 2020, the monument again sparked controversy, this time because it celebrated white cultural dominance.
The Sand Creek Massacre historical marker, located in front of the Civil War monument near the Colorado State Capitol, details one of the most controversial events in Colorado history. In essence, the Sand Creek Massacre was a massive atrocity during the American Indian Wars in 1864 that consisted of the killing and mutilation of between 70 and 163 Native American women, children, and elderly people by a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia. Some civilians immediately denounced the attack, recognizing it as a massacre, while many others thought of the destruction of the peaceful villages of Cheyenne and Arapaho as legitimate targets in a war. The Civil War monument was built in 1909 and funded by the Pioneers’ Association and the State to honor Colorado soldiers who fought in battles in the Civil War. However, as Sand Creek was considered a battle, it was listed on the monument, mischaracterizing the nature of the attack. The monument caused protests and, consequently, greater recognition of the Sand Creek Massacre.
The Colorado State Capitol is home to the Colorado General Assembly. The offices of the state’s governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer are also located in the building. Visitors can stand 5,280 feet, or officially one mile high, above sea level on the building's west steps. The building’s dome offers a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. It’s even against state law to block the view. Free Capitol tours are available and allow the public to see the Allen True water murals, Women’s Gold Tapestry, and Colorado General Assembly Chambers with Rose Onyx wainscoting.
This is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Denver. Construction of the cathedral started in 1902 and was completed nine years later. It is one of only a few cathedrals in the United States to host the Pope. On August 13th and August 14th of 1993, Pope John Paul II presided over mass at the cathedral during festivities affiliated with the city's selection as the host of World Youth Day.
Philanthropist Molly Brown was known as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown" after surviving the sinking of the Titanic. After years of deterioration, her home was scheduled for destruction in 1970. However, a group of concerned citizens formed an organization and led a successful campaign to preserve and restore the home. Today, the home operates as a museum dedicated to preserving Margaret Brown's story and the history of Denver at the turn-of-the-century. Docents guide visitors through a tour that lasts about 45 minutes.
At the western edge of Capitol Hill stands the Alma Temple, an imposing Greek-Revival building fronted by eight Corinthian columnns and topped by four neon letters, KPOF. These are the call letters of The Pillar of Fire Church radio station KPOF 910 AM, which started broadcasting in 1928. The Pillar of Fire International, founded in Denver in 1901 by Alma Bridwell White, began as part of the Holiness Movement, an offshoot of the Methodist Church. The controversial White believed in women’s emancipation but also espoused anti-Catholic, antisemitic and and anti-immigrant views (since disavowed by the church she founded). The temple, designed and constructed by church members between 1923 and 1937, is also used today as a music and performance venue.
The Denver Public Library traces its origins to 1889, when it opened within a room inside Denver High School. Andrew Carnegie funded the library's first building at Civic Center Park, as well as some of its original branch locations. As the city grew, so did the need for a bigger central library. The second building, known to many Denver residents as the “Old Main” library, served the downtown area between 1950 and 1995. That building was replaced with this modern building, completed in 1995 after voters approved a bond project in 1990.
This historic Italianate-style house served as a home for two prominent Denver families. It was built for William N. Byers, the owner of the Rocky Mountain News, in 1883. William G. Evans, the head of the Denver Tramway Corporation and oldest son of former governor John Evans, bought the home in 1889. The house is operated by History Colorado and features an art gallery which showcases works reflecting the history of Denver and the Mountain West.
The Denver Art Museum is an art museum located in Denver, Colorado. Founded in 1893, the museum is one of the largest art museums between the West Coast and Chicago. It is known for its collection of American Indian art, and its other collections of more than 70,00 diverse works from across the centuries and world.
The Clyfford Still Museum is a minimalist showcase for the large-scale paintings & archives of Clyfford Still, who is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th century. Clyfford Still (1904–1980) was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists who developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II. The museum opened in 2011.
The Kirkland Museum features the original studio and works of Vance Kirkland (artist, educator, and collector), 6,000 works by Colorado and regional artists dating from 1820-1990, and an international decorative art collection dating from 1875-1990. Curator Hugh Grant's salon style approach to display makes the museum vibrant and unique. Though the museum is closed from May 2016 through Fall of 2017 for relocation, the original studio will be moved intact to the new Bannock Street facility in Denver's Golden Triangle Museum District .
The largest history museum in the state of Colorado, the center includes dozens of permanent and rotating exhibits as well as lecture series and a research library. Notable exhibits include decade reviews, Colorado history, and local celebrities. The Center is operated by the Colorado Historical Society, which was established in 1879.