The McKibben Building, 1411 Larimer
The McKibben is not officially on our tour. But, it is one of the interconnecting buildings on the north-west side of Larimer Street. The building was built around 1890. The building was restored. At one time the façade was stucco and the ornate cornice was missing.
The 1890 book, The City of Denver & State of Colorado by Andrew Morrison lists the address as a cigar factory. Named, Smith & Butler, it was a dealer in fine cigars, including the “Blandura”, “Silver Queen”, “Ladiso”, “Rosadera”, “City Hall” and “D & R G”. The “City Hall” and “D & R G” were reputed to be the best 5¢ cigar.
The 1911 City Directory lists the James Chiossi Restaurant at this address. By 1920 the building becomes a plumbing company. First, it is the Ben Cook Plumbing Company. Ben Cook’s brother was sports supplier Dave Cook. Ben’s company moved to 1406 Larimer, across the street. The building was then the Flockhart Plumbing, Heating and Electrical Co., listed in the Domestic Engineering journal of 1920. Just before Larimer Square revamped the street it was the Polar Refrigeration Company.
A very early Larimer Square map shows the building as the location of a “mod young” clothing store named PARPHERNALIA. This store didn’t last long and changed to LA BOCA, another clothing store. The building is now split between the San Francisco baggage company TIMBUK2, and the make-up store BLUSH.
I was not able to pin down the origin of the name, McKibben Building. The name is used by Larimer Square associates. The first reference I found was in the 1977 David Eitemiller book, Historic Tours.
The is no listing in the city directories up to 1936 of a McKibben with the apparent means to build and name a building after themselves. Was the name bestowed on the building, honoring a McKibben?
Here is a picture of the McKibben Building from a 1977 book. The front is stucco, windows changed and the cornice is gone.
I never found a Part II of David Eitemiller’s book. I wonder if it was ever written.
The business plan: “Dana and John [Crawford] constantly tried to find the right balance between small, interesting and unique shops run by artisans and crafts people, and the much larger, noisy and higher grossing restaurants and bars.” La Boca and other similar stores was part of this philosophy. Eventually national brands would appear, and disappear. Timbuk2 is a good example of a national company using a unique shopping experience to their advantage. Arts and crafts are slow money, it takes time to make products. This requires patience for stores to develop a following, something that in the early days of the Square the Crawfords couldn’t afford. Consequently stores were changed slightly faster than customer’s buying habits. The merchants changed even when it appeared the shops were doing OK.
Comments, additions or corrections are welcomed.
Source: Dana Crawford, By Mike McPhee