Denver Architecture Tour
Starting at Denver's Cathedral Basilica and winding throughout the Central Business District, this tour includes over a dozen historic and architecturally-significant structures.
The Ogden Theatre is a music venue and former movie theater in Denver, Colorado. It is the longest running theatre in the entire state. Located on the lively Colfax Avenue in the neighborhood of Capitol Hill, it has hosted everyone from Harry Houdini to Prince. The twin towers and terracotta roof make it stand out as an architectural staple.
The Denver Turnverein was founded in Denver in 1865 and the organization has used this location since 1922. The oldest member organization of the national American Turners in Colorado, the Denver Turnverein preserves the cultural traditions of the Turner movement that was established by German immigrants and emphasized social activities, physical fitness, and healthy minds. Starring in the mid 19th century, the Turners worked to promote physical education, and their efforts led to a significant emphasis on health and fitness in American schools. Today the Turnverein serves as a dancehall. Ballroom, Tango, Salsa, Country, Lindy, and West Coast Swing groups all use the floor.
Temple Emanuel at Pearl St, was built in 1898 and designed by John J. Humphreys, who applied the Moorish and Turkish revival style to the structure. The building features a raised entrance and Turkish style towers with pointed minarets. This was the third home for the oldest Jewish congregation in Denver. In 1953 the congregation needed a larger space that was closer to the homed of their members, and selected a space in Glendale. Since that time, the building has been home to several congregations and is now home to the Denver Community Church.
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.
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.
An exterior of red Colorado sandstone and elegant Richardsonian Romanesque design make the Central Presbyterian Church at 1660 Sherman Street one of the more eye-catching structures on Capitol Hill. The church’s tower, with its high, narrow lantern openings rising several stories above the street, recalls a time when church spires still competed with office towers as dominant features of the downtown skyline. Constructed in 1891-1892 and designed by prolific local architect Frank E. Edbrooke, the church’s exterior is an excellent example of the Romanesque Revival style pioneered by New York architect H.H. Richardson. The church’s spacious interior incorporates design elements, such as curved pews, inspired by the theater in which the congregation met while the church was under construction.
This 1907 building, is one of the best examples of Moorish-inspired architecture in Colorado. It was built by the Baerresen Brothers. They are known for the Tivoli Opera House and the old Saint Josephs Hospital. It was built for the Ancient Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The building utilizes Middle Eastern architectural styles. Due to the high level of craftsmanship, it is one of the only buildings in Denver that has interior and exterior easements. Donald Trump once tried to purchase this building, to erect a skyscraper.
The building was completed in 1921. It was originally home to the Cathedral High School and Convent. This is a work of stunning Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture. It has been home to a school, a convent for nuns in the 1970s, and most recently, an urban mission. The school operated until the 1970s. The building later served as a residence for Sisters traveling to Denver. In the 1980s, it was converted into a samaritan house to help the homeless. In 1989, Mother Teresa visited Denver. She announced that the building would be the location of her Sisters of Charity mission for the AIDS epidemic. The building was nearly demolished in 2011. Plans are now in place to convert it into a hotel.
Standing on the northeastern corner of Broadway and 18th Avenue, at the eastern edge of Denver’s central business district, Trinity United Methodist Church is one of Denver’s most historic and distinctive religious structures. Now surrounded by parking lots and skyscrapers, this elegant Gothic Revival structure houses a congregation that traces its origins to the earliest days of settlement in Colorado. The church was founded in May 1859 as the Auraria and Denver City Methodist Episcopal Mission in the Pikes Peak Region of the Kansas Territory. The church at 18th and Broadway, which replaced an earlier structure at 14th and Lawrence Streets, was constructed between 1887 and 1888. Designed by Denver architect Robert S. Roeschlaub and clad in rusticated Castle Rock rhyolite, the church forms a beautiful example of what its Victorian builders called “Modern Gothic”.
Originally built in 1880 as the co-educational Brinker Collegiate Institute, the Navarre building has been home to many establishments since its construction. Throughout the late 19th century and most of the 20th century, the building accommodated a hotel, renowned for its illicit activity, and multiple restaurants. There was once a tunnel that connected the Navarre to the esteemed Brown Palace Hotel across the street: well-to-do members of the community would stop by the Brown and secretly make their way over to the Navarre building to indulge in the activities it offered. Today, the Navarre functions as the American Museum of Western Art – Anschutz Collection, in which visitors can view many great works of art.
When the Brown Palace Hotel opened in 1892, it was one of the first atrium-style hotels. The Brown Palace is the second-oldest extant hotel in Denver and some confuse the hotel with the Flatiron building due to the similar design. The hotel bar was the site of a 1911 murder where Frank Henwood shot and killed Sylvester Louis "Tony" von Phul and an innocent bystander. During the 1950s, this hotel and many other establishments in Denver refused to serve African Americans in violation of the state's civil rights law. White and Black residents of the city such as Grace Jordan challenged the hotel's informal color line by taking a seat in the hotel's restaurant. Although they were not served initially, the possibility of a lawsuit or bad press convinced the hotel's managers to end their practice of drawing the color line.
The beautiful Art Deco style Paramount Theatre, located on Glenarm Place adjoining the Sixteenth Street Mall, is a survivor of the golden age of motion picture “wonder theaters”, when simply going to the movies meant stepping into a world of glamour. Now converted to a live performance venue, the Paramount Theatre nevertheless retains its vintage style. The richly detailed “zigzag”-style terracotta exterior survives, and the gilded decorations and fanciful murals that adorn the interior have been restored. The theatre also contains a rare Wurlitzer pipe organ, which provided early film audiences not only with music but with sound effects such as train whistles and galloping horses.
The Equitable Building, located at the southeast corner of Seventeenth and Stout Street in the central business district, was one of the structures that helped earn Seventeenth Street the nickname “Wall Street of the West”. A luxurious example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture adapted to the needs and technology of the 1890s, this nine-story office building was the tallest building in Denver from 1892 to 1911, when the Daniels & Fisher tower overtook it. The building has been home to many law offices over the years, including that of Mary Lathrop, who practiced law in Colorado from 1897 until her death in 1951. In 1918, Mary Lathrop became one of the first two women admitted to the American Bar Association.
Constructed in 1890 by the renowned Bostonian firm, Andrews, Jaques and Rantou (who also designed the nearby Equitable Building), the Boston Building is an elegant building that exhibits a fusion of Renaissance Revival and Richardsonian Romanesque architectural styles. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is part of the Downtown Denver Historic District.
An imposing Neoclassical structure clad in white Colorado Yule marble, the Byron White U. S. Courthouse occupies a full city block at 18th and Stout Streets. Originally housing the U.S. Postal Service as well as federal courts and agencies, the courthouse now anchors the Denver Federal District. The building was restored in between 1992-1994 and renamed after Colorado-born US Supreme Court Justice (and University of Colorado football legend) Byron White. In 1996-1997, the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building and Courthouse across the street became the scene of Timothy McVeigh’s trial for the Oklahoma City bombing. The white marble U.S. Customs House at 721 19th Street and the new Alfred A. Arraj U.S. Courthouse at 901 19th Street complete the district.
Also known as the Sheridan Heritage Building, the Denver City Railway Company Building of Lower Downtown was constructed in 1883. Located directly opposite Union Station, the building served as the headquarters and terminus of the city’s first public mass transit system, operated by the Railway Company from 1883 to 1892.
The Daniels and Fisher (D&F) Tower is a distinctive Denver, Colorado landmark. Built as part of the Daniels & Fisher department store in 1910, it was the tallest between the Mississippi and California at the time of construction, at a height of 325 feet.
Architect Emmett Anthony designed this Late Victorian-Commercial Style building, which was completed in 1899 by the city's first lodge of the Odd Fellows, an international fraternal organization that had millions of members in the United States at the turn of the century. The members of the lodge dubbed this building "Union Lodge" to emphasize that their founding members had all been loyal to the Union during the Civil War.
Erected in 1910, the 10-story Denver Gas & Electric Building (also known as the Public Service Company Building) once served as a single vast advertisement for the wonders of electricity, thanks to the 13,000 lightbulbs embedded in its white terra cotta façade. The bulbs went dark for a time after World War II but were rewired in the 1990s, and the building once again lights up Denver’s central business district each night. Designed by local firm of Frank E. Edbrooke & Company, the building is an example of the early skyscraper style pioneered by Louis J. Sullivan of Chicago. The geometric patterns created by the bulbs, along with dramatic details such as the arched tenth-floor windows, ensure that the building is a striking sight by daylight as well.
The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Building stands at 931 14th St, across the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver’s central business district. The ten-story Art Deco building was the tallest in Denver until the 1950s. It opened in 1929, shortly before the catastrophic stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression. The building’s style was described as Modern American Perpendicular Gothic, a modernist reinterpretation of English Gothic forms. Its exterior lobbies feature mural cycles by Denver artist Alan True, whose work appears in the state capitol building and elsewhere in Denver.
America's largest non-profit theatre organization and the largest performing arts complex under one roof, the Denver Performing Arts Complex is owned by the City and County of Denver's Arts and Venues division and managed by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA). The complex has four resident companies: the Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Opera Colorado, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts repertory company [1; 2]. The ten-theatre complex consists of 12 acres on four blocks, all connected by The Galleria, an 80-foot-high glass roof. Its three largest theatres are the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Boettcher Concert Hall, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, but the complex is also home to a cabaret at Garner Galleria Theatre, the Conservatory Theatre, the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex (comprising the Stage, Space, Ricketson, and Jones Theatres), and the Seawell Grand Ballroom .
Home to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Boettcher became the first symphony hall in the round built in the United States when it opened in 1978. The "in the round" design places the audience on each side of central stage instead of the traditional design where the audience sits facing one side of the stage. This design allows eighty percent of the theater's 2400 seats to be located within sixty-five feat of the stage. Each of these seats were custom-designed to deflect sound similar to the theater's walls. Like the seats, the walls are are canted at a slight angle to help disperse sound and eliminate flutter echoes. The hall is named in honor of Claude K. Boettcher, a leading supporter of the arts in Colorado.
Constructed in 1873 through the efforts of George Kettle, this indoor space connected two existing buildings and used the neighboring structures as side-wall support. Kettle constructed only front and rear walls for the arcade itself. In the 1980s, the building was decorated with a mural featuring key figures from Denver’s early history, including William Larimer, Chief Little Raven, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, con man Soapy Smith and Denver Mayor Robert Speer.