History of LODO

I haven’t posted in a few weeks.  I thought this might keep you occupied while I work on other projects to which I am committed.

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Preservation Conference February 2016

The Adaptive Reuse of Denver’s LODO District

Joe Sokolowski


History of the District

Denver began a mile square, and a mile high.  When William Larimer and his town company jumped the original claim they expanded the town to two miles square.  This two mile square town expanded within a year incorporating Auraria Town and Highlands.  Thus Denver solidified its identity on April 3, 1860.

The center of Denver was first located at Larimer Street, near Cherry Creek.  The first cabin in Denver was built here, others established themselves on Larimer Street.  As Denver grew the city center moved.  It became fashionable to head east on Larimer to 16th Street.  The Tabor Building, then the best office building in town was built by Horace Tabor.  Business moved to the new and fashionable area.  Then 17th Street became desirable because of the banks establishing themselves on that street.  It became the financial district.  Industries that supported the town like grocery, transportation and mining was spread around downtown Denver.  The commercial business that supported the town and state began to concentrate in one area once the railroads were combined into Union Depot.  Now there was nucleus for the commercial district.  Denver’s commercial district took shape.

The commercial district now known as LODO was created when Denver was able to obtain a railroad line from Cheyenne.  As a mining supply town the population was stagnant the first ten years of its existence.  Less than 5,000 people called Denver home from 1858 to 1870.  Twelve years of struggle exploded into growth for 110 years.  A century after Union Depot was built, Denver reported its first drop in population.  That low point is about the beginning of the rebirth of the Commercial District in Denver.

The reason of the growth after 1870 was that Denver gained a railroad line that spurred from Cheyenne.  Less severe elevation over the Rocky Mountains meant the transcontinental railroad route would head through Cheyenne into northern Utah.  Denver was bypassed for topographical reasons.  Considered “too dead to bury” by Thomas Durant, Vice-President of the Union Pacific Railroad.  A group of Denver citizens saw the dilemma of not having a railroad and joined forces to connect Denver to the nearest rail line, Cheyenne.

The railroads researched Colorado’s potential before agreeing to the investment.  They found they had what was needed to sustain the railroad both in natural resources, and freight the railroad could transport.  An 1868 survey map notes in different areas of Colorado Territory: coal, heavy timber, promising farm land, gold, and silver.  What’s more is that the resources are closer to the rail lines than the resources in Wyoming.  This means the railroad is viable, as costs of coal and wood ties are lower than if no resources were not in the area.

There were three possibilities.  A line from Golden to Cheyenne, the Colorado Central.  Secondly the Kanas Pacific was building from Kanas City.  They had land grants but no bond issues to finance the building.  And the third was the Denver Pacific Railway and Telegraph Company.  It would travel from Denver directly north to Cheyenne and meet the Union Pacific Railroad.

Denver’s citizen pooled their finances to raise the needed money to build the railroad.  But the money from interested citizens and a reneged promise from the Union Pacific was not enough.  At first the Union Pacific promised some resources.  They built the roadbed from Denver to Cheyenne.  The rails needed to be laid.   But the Union Pacific did not want to invest more into the venture.  Without Denver’s leading businessmen involved in the project, it would have not happened.  The rails needed to be laid.

The strong leaders of the project were: John Evans, David Moffat, William Byers, Joseph E. Bates, Bella Hughes, Walter Cheesman and Luther Kountze.  These men made up the heart of the Denver financial for the next 30 years.  Their bargaining and efforts paid off with a rail line to Denver.  John Evans was instrumental in getting things rolling, he was an experienced town builder from Illinois.  John Evans brokered a deal, basically forming a partnership between the Kanas Pacific and the Denver Pacific giving the later enough resources to finish the line between Denver and Cheyenne while working on the Kanas line east.

John Evans, an Ohio native, obtained a degree in medicine from Cincinnati College in 1838.  He lived in Indiana, then Chicago, and founded Evanston Illinois.  He moved west to Denver becoming the second territorial governor appointed by Abraham Lincoln, March 31, 1862.  Involved in the inquest of Sand Creek he was asked to resign as territorial governor July 18, 1865.  When the trying to connect Denver and Cheyenne by rail he secured federal land grants and county bonds.  There were others that pushed the rail through.

David Moffat was from Washingtonville, New York.  He moved to New York City, then Des Moines Iowa arriving in Denver in 1860.  He opened a stationary store that made more money selling eastern newspapers than stationary.  His next venture was a dry goods store with D.G. Woolworth. (No relation to F.W. Woolworth.)  In 1867 he became the cashier of the 1st National Bank of Denver, appointed by Jerome Chaffee, by 1880 he was the president of the bank.  Moffat kept up his railroad ventures, in 1881 he was president of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.  He was involved in the Denver & Northwestern & Pacific Railroad that went over 11,660 foot high Rollins Pass.  His name was later given to the tunnel he dreamed of, the third longest tunnel in the United States, the 6.2 mile long Moffat Tunnel.

William Byers also from Ohio and did survey working in Iowa and then Omaha.  While recuperating from a gunshot wound to the shoulder in Nebraska he wrote a HANDBOOK TO THE GOLDFIELDS.  He bought a defunct newspaper in Nebraska, set his print for the lead page of the newspaper before coming to Colorado.  By having part of his newspaper ready to print, he was able to beat his competitor and be Denver’s first newspaper.  The Rocky Mountain News began April 23, 1859.  He penned the term “gobacks” for those who gave up and went back east.  When gold was again discovered gold in Gregory Gulch near Central City some of the gobacks came back to try their hand at gold discovery again.  Byers was instrumental in pushing the first territorial governor, William Gilpin, out of office by publishing scathing editorials about him.  He was replaced by John Evans.  Byers, who sold the Rocky Mountain News in 1878, sought political office, which he never found, after having an affair with Hattie Sancomb.  It was the second time Byers almost found himself on the wrong side of a gun, by Hattie’s hand.

Joseph E. Bates was also from New York State.  He was Denver Councilor in 1868, Mayor in 1872 and 1885.  He started the Denver Brewing Company, and was involved in the Denver Smelting and Refining works.  He was partners with H.N. Chittenden involved in insurance and real estate.  He arrived in Denver in 1860 and died in 1900, at 63 years old.

Bella Hughes was at one time president of the Union Pacific Railroad.  Because of the coal fields near Erie, Colorado, the Denver & Boulder Valley Railroad connected to Denver Pacific Railroad, near present day Brighton, Colorado.  Hughes Station, originally population of 7, was named for Hughes.  Hughes was originally involved in the stage coaches, working for his cousin Ben Holladay, of the stage coach company.

Walter Scott Cheesman was also a New Yorker, born on Long Island 1838.  He too traveled to Denver by way of Chicago, arriving in Denver in 1861.  Cheesman started business as a druggist on Blake Street, selling drinking water at first in one location, and then moving the store to a second location.  Cheesman’s legacy is his development of the city’s water system.  His name is attached to the reservoir south of Denver and a park in Denver where the land was once City Cemetery.

The last of the pioneers responsible for the railroad’s path to Denver was Luther Kountze.  He was one of eleven children of Christian Kountze of Osnaburg, Ohio.  Born in 1841 he worked at his brother’s bank in Omaha, then came to Denver, organizing the Colorado National Bank in 1866.  Kountze left of a while in 1867 to start up the Kountze Brothers Bank at 52 Wall Street in Manhattan.  He permanently moved to Morristown, New Jersey in 1881.  He is credited with saving Denver financially from the great fire in 1863.  His fire proof safe and quick thinking saved both money and financial records, allowing him to immediately start loaning money to those where were burned out of business from the fire.  These pioneers knew what a railroad meant to the town.  The population was stagnant for twelve years, the railroad caused an explosion.

Denver had a railroad.  By August they had two, since the Kanas Pacific arrived then.  That August there was a silver spike ceremony near present day Strasburg that connected the Kanas Pacific with Denver.  The nation was now connected from coast to coast, without the disruption of ferry service across the Missouri and Sacramento Rivers.

By 1879 the railroads depots numbered six in downtown Denver.  They included the Colorado Central Depot on Wawetta between 17th and 18th,  the Denver & Rio Grande on Wynkoop between 19th and 20th, Kanas Pacific at the “foot of 16th”, Boulder Valley also on 16th, Denver Pacific and the Denver South Park & Pacific in Auraria at 6th and Larimer.  Tracks were running north of downtown, through Auraria and east of downtown.  Switching stations or freight was difficult because of the distances involved.  The stations needed to be consolidated.  Ten years after the first train came to Denver, the railroads and the city saw the need to bring the stations together.

Denver Union Depot was began in 1879.  It took two years to complete the William E. Taylor design.  Constructed with limestone and rhyolite it was set back from Wynkoop Street 140 feet.  It stretched 800 feet.  It was the largest building in town and the largest building west of the Mississippi at the time.  The station brought the multiple rail stations together under one roof, it was a union of stations.  The station, built on the edge of downtown, changed the direction of commerce in Denver.  The date on the left cartouche is 1881, the year the station was completed.  The left cartouche did not even exist at that date, it was put there when the station was remodeled a second time.  The station had a long monolith façade.  It was built in the style of the day, an Italianate style with a Romanesque finish.  In the center was a 180 foot wooden clock tower.  Under the clock tower was an arched entrance.  You entered the station through this arch and walked back straight to the trains.  In front there was a park.  A lawn covered the space between the station and Wynkoop.  Later trees matured in this area giving the station a less monolith appearance.

In 1894 a shorted chandelier started a fire in a women’s restroom.   It destroyed most of the roof and the tower.  The building was gutted.  The architects hired to rebuild were VanBrunt and Howe of Kanas City.  They lowered the peak on the roof, removing the clerestory windows.  The tower was rebuilt in stone, a clock facing each direction.  The entrance stayed the same, an arch leading into the center section of the depot.  Union Depot looked like this when in 1908 the city erected the Welcome Arch in the front of the station at 17th and Wynkoop.   The Arch was dubbed Denver’s Front Door.  It was 70 tons of steel, 65 feet high and 86 feet wide.  The first year it was built it said “WELCOME” front and back, greeting those going to the station. The downtown side was changed to “MIZPAH” the following year believing those entering the station through the arch were actually leaving the city.  Mizpah was a Yiddish greeting wishing the Almighty looked after those you were going to be separated from.

Union Depot was busy.  Some days 80 to a 100 trains arrived or departed the station.  In 1914 the entire center section was taken down.  A Beaux-Art style center section was constructed, giving the main hall of the station more room for the crowds that used the station.  The architects Aaron Gove and Thomas F. Walsh added the larger center section.  The exterior of the center hall was constructed of a granite base and a terra-cotta façade.  It was then that the date 1881 appeared on the left side of the station and 1914 for the latest construction was displayed on the right side of the station.  Such a magnificent building in all three of its exterior styles drew Denver’s citizenry.

In 1881 all streets downtown were given their location in relationship to Larimer Street.  It was the main street of Denver.  Larimer Street, named for William Larimer, is listed in the 1881 City Directory as “running NE through the center of the city.”  Holladay, now Market Street, was listed as: “First north of Larimer, from the Platte east to limit.”  Blake was the second street from Larimer, Wazee the third, Wynkoop was forth and Wewatta fifth.  The original thought was to name the streets alternating between pioneer names and Indian names.  Holladay Street was originally called McGaa Street.  McGaa claimed Scottish relations but was living with the Indians.  If the second street was named McGaa did he consider himself as a native?  The next street, Blake was named for Charles H. Blake a Denver merchant.  Wazee was named after McGaa’s Indian wife.  The first sheriff of Denver was Edward W. “Ned” Wynkoop, hence the name of the street.  Wawetta another Indian name is the name of McGaa’s mistress.  Wynkoop being four streets from Larimer was a few blocks from the city center, almost on the outskirts of the town as it was known then.

Combining the railroad stations in town to a central location brought the focus of the city with it.  Before the railroad came to town the Stage coach would arrive at McGaa Street and F Street.  The freighters would use the stables at the Elephant Corral, located at 1444 Wazee, for a time owned by Charles H. Blake.  The railroad pulled the patrons of these businesses away from freighter wagons and stage coaches to trains.  Travel and shipping was easier by train.  When the various stations in town were combined into Union Depot that centralized the crowds.  The public used trains, whether it was passenger traffic or freight.  The wings of Union Depot were used for freight.  The center of town was changing.  Larimer Street was losing its reputation as the center of the city.  Two streets began to become the center of the city, 16th and 17th streets.  At first it was 16th Street because of the block of offices that Horace Tabor built at 16th and Larimer, the Tabor Block.  Later, the banks moved to 17th Street bringing those in the finance and banking.  The new buildings like the Tabor Block and Union Station changed the where the activity was downtown.

In 1867 plans began for a street railway.  In 1871 street car, pulled by horses, made it as far Five Points.  By 1877 the Denver City Railroad had 12 cars being pulled by a pool of 32 horses.  The building at 1635 17th Street was built in 1882 to house wagons, horses and feed.  Thirty miles of track spread in and about downtown and new suburbs.  Starting at Union Depot in 1881, veins of traffic on street cars flowed through the city and back into one point in downtown.  The city railways left downtown like arteries leaving the heart, the veins of rails brought the traffic back downtown.  Larimer Street did not have this concentrated center of activity, it spread for blocks, activity bleed off to adjacent streets.  By 1919 there were street railways on 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th streets.  There were east-west lines running on Larimer and Wazee Streets.  The Wynkoop line was picking up passengers right in front of Union Station.

Union Depot, later called Union Station after the 1914 remodel was the hub of activity.  The railroads brought in two commodities, passengers and freight.  Freight was unloaded to the wings of Union Depot.  The passengers entered the center section of the station.  Having to walk over other tracks on their way to the station.  This was corrected when the tracks were raised and a stair and tunnel system was built to accommodate passengers.  The number of daily trains was estimated at 80 per day.  The Station’s importance was increased during the world wars when troop traffic increased.  After World War II train travel began to decrease.  It was taken over by the private automobile and airline passenger traffic.  In 1952 the neon sign on top of the station was installed to convince those traveling to take the train.  The original designed was to have the sign flash between “Travel by Train” and “Ship by Train.”  There is no evidence the flashing sign was built.  If it had been built, it wouldn’t have stopped the trend, planes and interstate trucking was taking the station’s business.  The railroad wanted to convince those using the interstate highways to stick by the old system, rails.  Passenger air traffic did overtake passenger rail traffic in 1958 in Denver, regardless of the orange signs on Union Station.

The unification of the railroad stations into one large center helped business.  Denver was founded on gold.  Mining is the first form of economic viability.  It is easy to explain that all other forms of economic growth had to do with “mining the miner”, in fact Denver was a supply town.  By supporting the mines with supplies and later technical and logistical support Denver grew as the ores were pulled from the ground.  The growth of the mining industry, followed by the support system such as manufacturing, groceries, and general retail commerce grew the city.  The support system is evident by the types of businesses that took up near Union Depot, the number one reason warehouses sprang up in the Commercial District we now call LODO.

It is easy to see the growth of the commercial district in relationship to the dates on Union Station.  The earlier date on the station, 1881 is a starting point for the area.  The station was built on the then edge of town.  Few existing buildings in the commercial district predate the Depot.  Barney Ford’s establishment on Blake Street is one of the oldest still standing in the district, built in 1863.  The building at 1444 Blake is also from the 1860’s.  The Wazee Exchange building was constructed in 1871.  Then construction took off as Union Depot followed through on its promise and made Denver a modern city.  The construction in the area, like Colorado as a whole, slowed because of economic conditions cause by the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act.  An ounce of silver was worth approximately $1.25, when the government took away their $.50 per ounce subsidy away in favor of the gold standard, the economy lost value, causing a depression.  For some, who were lucky enough to be invested in gold, saw a boom.  Cripple Creek and Victor saw their towns grow as Denver had to contend with unemployment.  In Denver only the Hitchings Building at 1620 Market Street was built in 1893.  Construction slowed down.  The next building in the area was built in 1902.  Rocky Mountain Seed Company and a new building at the Elephant Corral restarted the Commercial District’s rebuilding.  Additional buildings in the area were built up to the start of the Great War in 1914.  The Windsor Dairy is the only existing building built after the start of the war in 1918.  The Merchandise Mart at 1863 Wazee ended new large warehouse construction in the area, it was built in 1932.  The cocoon of time began to wrap the area.  Warehouse space was large, not desirable as a retail district, and forgotten by the city.

The Commercial District was isolated from normal traffic patterns.  On the north were the railyards.  The trolley system encountered this obstacle.  A set of railroad tracks can intersect at a 90 degree angle, but it requires signals and a switch tower to monitor traffic, just like a street intersection.  The trolley system had to also contend with crossing the rivers.  Cherry Creek is much smaller than the Platte.  Cherry Creek’s banks are level.  The cement walls that lined Cherry Creek gave the illusion that it could be controlled.  It is, for the most part.  Small gully washers from upstream are controlled.  Bridges could be built across Cherry Creek in a single span.  But the Platte is bigger.  And the banks of the Platte change elevation from one side of the river to the other.  The solution to the railyard and the rivers was to raise the trolley tracks on bridges that spanned the rails and the rivers.  These bridges are called viaducts.  Viaducts are made with a series of arches in short spans, carrying a railroad or roadway over a valley.  The short spans of a viaduct are not conducive to public use.  The spans, being short, have a large number of supporting columns, making the underside appear cage-like.  In summer it may give a relief from the direct sunlight and heat but in winter it shades snow and ice.  Through the cold months little melting takes place, again discouraging public use.  As the number of street car lines increased, so did the number of viaducts in the commercial area.

The Commercial District was affected by three viaducts.  On the west edge was the Speer Viaduct, also called the 13th Street or 14th Street Viaduct.  It was constructed in 1898 and lasted one hundred years.  The second viaduct in the area was the 15th Street Viaduct.  Remembered because this where the Moffat Road Station is located.  The Third was the 16th Viaduct.  It was built between the years 1881-1889.  These three routes in and out of downtown insured that surface street traffic was under the viaducts, in many cases trapping cars in a maze.  That reduced through traffic.

On the east side of the Commercial District were the slum infested streets of Lawrence, Larimer and Market.  There wasn’t many reasons for retail shoppers to cross this section of the city, the slums lead to the warehouses only occupied in the daylight hours.  Only the train station and the Post Office Annex had evening and night workers.  Unless you were an employee of these large ventures you would not be in the area.  Passenger rail traffic kept decreasing until there was but one train headed east and one west each day.  One train arrived in the morning and 12 hours later the second train arrived.  The long wait between trains left few people hanging around the train station.

On the east end of the Commercial District were more railroad sidings.  A grain elevator blocked Wazee from going north east past 20th.  It was a difficult drive from Cherry Creek east or north east through the neighborhood.  This lack of easy access made the area forgotten to commuters traveling in and out of downtown.  Looking down from the viaducts driving into downtown was looking into an industrial waste land.  The isolation of the area saved it from development.  There was no reason until the railyards north of Union Station were gone that anyone see the potential of new construction.  Like other real estate parcels in Denver proper, Lowry Air Force Base and Stapleton Airport, the public did not see the potential until the land was cleared for redevelopment.  Now, developers are more in tune to unused parcels of real estate and can see the possibilities.

In the area’s heyday the warehouses were indicative of what made Denver the largest city in the region.  The area supported numerous types of businesses and industries.  In 1919 the area supported nine hotels, The Oxford, the Grand Central, the Elk, the American House, the Inter-Ocean, the St. Elmo, the Columbia, the Alamo and the Revere Hotel.  There were grocery warehouses such as C.S. Morey and J.S. Brown.  A sweet tooth could be satisfied at Brecht Candy.  Mining warehouses included the Hendrie & Bolthoff manufacturing company and General Electric.  Agricultural business included the Great Western Sugar Company, Barteldes & Harting Building.  Manufacturing included the Studebaker building, the John Moore Hardware Company, the Denver Machine Shop, the John Deere Plow Company and Colorado Saddlery Building.  Agriculture was represented by the Barteldes & Harting and their seed business and the Great Western Sugar Company.  Dairy products were processed by the Windsor Dairy and Beatrice Creamery.  Produce was sold through Bourk, Donaldson and Taylor. Restaurants in the area included the Wazee Supper Club, and take-outs that catered to the traveler with box lunches.  Transportation included the Elephant Corral that was still trading horses in the 1930’s and the Denver City Railway Building that was converted to the mining business in 1892 and remained in business until the 1972.  Railroad tracks shared the pavement of Wynkoop with trucks and trolley traffic.  The street cars had their rails running up 17th, 16th, 15th and 14th.  There was a large diversity of industry.  Unlike Eastern Cities, Denver did not have concentrated manufacturing like cities such as Detroit, which specialized in cars, or Pittsburgh that is considered a steel capitol.  Small to medium size and independent companies were evident through-out the commercial district.  The warehouses in the district had a common look, but diversified businesses.

Wynkoop was walled by loading docks.  Many buildings up and down the street used the tracks on Wynkoop to bring box cars to their front door.  Union Station had people friendly sidewalks and a park out front until the automobile took it for parking.  Sidewalks to the local hotels were pedestrian friendly.  If you used the trolley cars you could expect to step into the street to catch the trolley.  Belching steam trains, horse drawn wagons, cars, trucks, trolleys, bicycles and pedestrians shared the same cobblestones.  As the years went by the horse, trolleys, bicycles, and trains disappeared from the Warehouse district.  Trucks and some cars was the mode of transportation.  The area building lost their red brick color, and like the underside of the viaduct, black became the increasing common color of the neighborhood.  Dirt and grim took over, other than the light colored Post Office Annex the area turned dark and dingy.

The buildings had a character.  Tall, monolith walls, brick, loading dock level doors, flat roofs and smaller windows were common traits.  The streets farther from Union Station had buildings to a smaller scale.  There is a double alley between Wynkoop and Wazee that had railroad tracks.  Wazee, a block from Union Station, had street cars lines.  The streets after that, Blake and Market did not have these interferences.  The east side of the district also had rail lines coming up to 20th Street.  These were on Wazee running to where the Ball Arch is presently and on Blake next to the Wazee Exchange building.  The area was cut up, it had different surfaces on the ground but looking up, it had continuity in its red brick walls.

Late 19th century and early 20th century building technology is familiar to us.  Our mind’s eye recognizes a building that is brick, four or five stories tall, flat roofed, and having arched windows as a certain time period.  In our subliminal perception sees old in the same sense that we can look at cars from decades past and “feel” its age.  We gain a sense of time by the subtle details.  The details however, may not be explainable.  Looking in either direction on Wynkoop from in front of Union Station you see the canyon the buildings make in each direction.  Slightly unfriendly, the feeling is tall brick walls.  Yes, they make the street a canyon of bricks, but if we investigate each building individually you see the intricacies of each building.  Like the cobblestones, the railroad ties, the rails and each spike to hold it, construction in the past took many small pieces to make a large accomplishment.  The details that are built into a building that is built brick by brick are enjoyed by future generations.  Laying a hand on a foundation stone gives a person a sense that the stone is a stone.  It had to be dug from the ground, shaped, transported and laid level.  They we not poured into place with specification created miles from the construction site.  Architects were not structural engineers.  There was a common sense about an old building that if you were going to build 5 stories up, you needed a foundation this many feet thick and this many feet deep.  Yes, it was overbuilt for the security of the building.  When we stand next to a well preserved 100 year old building there is an indescribable feeling of strength and security.  We have lost that.

During World War II an airplane flew directly in to the 79th floor of the Empire State Building.  The B-25 bomber hit 950 feet above New York and sent debris through the building and down an elevator shaft.  Fireman had to use stairs to climb the building to extinguish the fire.  But, the building was able to sustain the impact.  Sixty-six years later technology to build for height allowed the unthinkable to happen when a deliberate attempt to bring town the World Trade Towers succeeded.  The faith we have in the stability and strength of a building changed, we have a respect for a building built when a laborer or craftsman touches each individual brick or timber.  Fire, for sure is an enemy, but a timber frame building like some in LODO have with withstood fire.  The Crooker Cracker Factory had a fire inside, it was rebuilt.  No building is completely safe but tempting fate is different than the common sense approach that dominated buildings in the Warehouse district.

There numerous buildings to highlight in the Warehouse district.  I will be highlighting three.  The C.S. Morey Mercantile Building, the J.S. Brown Mercantile Building and the Denver City Railway Building.  These buildings represent the two industries that dominated the area, food production, sales and storage, and mining and manufacturing.  The buildings were built within 17 years of each other with the same internal frame style, heavy timber.  Externally they all are red brick.  Their history is told through their purpose.  Their individuality is told through the details of their construction.

  1. S. Brown Mercantile Building is located at 1634 18th Street. It was built in 1899, five years after the Union Depot fire.  The building’s main façade faces north-west to Wynkoop Street as does the railroad loading dock.  The front façade has the main door for offices, facing 18th street.  The rear of the building takes advantage of the double alley between Wynkoop and Wazee.  It was designed by the architects that did the 1914 renovation of Union Station, Gove and Walsh.

Both partners, Aaron Morrill Gove (1867-1924) and Thomas Walsh (1866-1948) worked at one time with architect Robert Roeschlaub who designed Trinity Church and the Central City Opera House among other Colorado jewels.  Gove started his own firm in 1892 and partnered with Walsh in 1894.  They had a large influence in the Warehouse District.  In the LODO Historic District they planned five buildings and 2 more touching the district, Union Station center section (1914) and Littleton Creamery (1903).  The six are the J.S. Brown Mercantile (1899), the Peters Paper Co. Warehouse (1899), the Spice & Commission Warehouse (1901), the Barteldes Seed Warehouse 1906), the Sugar Building and its Addition (1906 & 1912).  Gove and Walsh also designed J.S. Brown’s personal residence at 909 Grant, known as the “School House.”

John Sidney Brown and his brother Junius started the mercantile company that bears his name.  John S. was born in Conneaut, Ohio in 1833.  He joined his brother in Atchison, Kansas in the lumber business.  He came to Colorado in 1860 and was involved in freighting and lumber.  He then partnered with A.B. Daniel in the grocery business at 15th and Blake Streets.  That business was lost in the fire of 1863.  The business continued at 14th and Blake Street and was flooded in 1864.  A.B. Daniels retired in 1868.  J.S. Brown and his brother then started J.S. Brown and Brother Mercantile, changing the name to J.S. Brown Mercantile in 1893.  John also had interests in milling and an elevator company.  He invested in the Denver Tramway Company.  His 10 children were raised at the house built in 1891 on Grant Street, hence its nickname.  It had five stories, and 23 rooms.  Buffalo Bill Cody entertained the Brown children on the porch, telling Western stories.  Now demolished, John Sidney Brown died at the home at 909 Grant on June 10, 1913.  Junius moved on to other successful ventures after being bought out by his brother in 1899.  One of his daughters from his second marriage wed famous Denver architect, J.J. Benedict.

His son, John Sidney Brown Jr. did not bear the depression of 1929 well.  He sold the business to his father’s competitor, C.S. Morey in 1937.  He tried to survive on the proceeds of the sale until November, 1947 when he killed himself at the Adams Hotel, registered under an assumed name.

Gove and Walsh designed the J.S. Brown building in the Renaissance Revival Style.  Gove worked on the Equitable Building, the first Renaissance Revival building in Denver.  The elements in the design are the large arches on the ground floor, columns of brick framing the windows and making up the facades.  There are to courses of sandstone running horizontally below the fifth floor windows and the second floor windows.  The detailed brick is done with corbelling under the cornice and under the fifth floor windows.  Under the cornice the corbelling is done in with spaces, giving the impression from the street level of dentils.  The next row of corbelling is made up of overlaid arches.  Below are the fifth floor recessed windows under an arch.  This detail is called a voussoir.  Under the windows there is a course of sandstone that acts as the sill and supported by more corbelling.  The 4th, 3rd and 2nd floor windows are arched on top.  The entire building exterior is red brick.  The first floor is at loading dock level.  To reach the first floor offices there are about a half of dozen stairs at the main entrance on 18th Street.  The building was designed as a storage warehouse for groceries.  This was its original and intended purpose.

The internal building structure is traditional large timber construction.  The first floor had offices and showrooms.  Upper floors were for warehousing and not decorated.  The idea was to show that the business was a success, both by “dressing up” a warehouse externally and internally.  The J.S Brown’s decision to hire important architects to build his warehouse accomplished his goal.

Contrary to our beliefs about the old west everyone did not have a privately owned horse.  The streets were dirt, and turned to mud when it rained.  Distances in the city were starting to stretch as the city grew, and did more and more after the iron horse arrived from Cheyenne.  Street railways powered by horses began to run on Larimer Street.  When Union station was built, travel in town was easy, ten years later the transportation system had to expand.  The Denver Street railway built a terminal across from Union Station.  It is on 17th Street, facing southwest.  It is in the perfect location to meet passengers debarking trains at Union Depot and looking for transportation through Denver.  It was built in 1882, just a year after Union Depot.  Denver residents had a way to get around, by horse pulled trolleys.

When built in 1882 the Denver City Railway Building had a different façade to 17th Street.  The front had a gabled façade, it now squared.  Originally the front had four arched large double doors for trolleys, an office entrance in the front and off to the right a single large door to accommodate horses to walk to the 2nd floor where they were kept.  The second and third floors had ten windows across the front on each floor.  The third floor had 4 windows spaced under the gabled roof with two center arch windows divided by brick chimneys.  The street out front was dirt with tracks running both left and right out of the building.  The Denver City Railway was doing well.

Technology caught up with the horse.  Denver electrified the street railway system.  For the horse cars this did not happen overnight.  Horses, electrified trolleys, and cable cars all worked at the same time in Denver.  Over lapping technologies may not agree with the common convention, “May the best man win.”  Every new ideal hopes to be solution to society’s problems.  The first electrical system invented by a DU professor by the name of Short didn’t work too well, it shocked pedestrians and horses in wet weather.  The cable system fought ice and snow in their cables systems.  Overhead wire trolleys eventually won out above the others, including the horse.  In 1886 the horses stop pulling their weight.  In 1896 they went into receivership.  In 1899 they merged with the Denver Consolidated Tramway Company.  The building was sold and remodeled.

The Baerresen Brothers architectural firm was hired to remodel the front façade of the City Railway Company.  No more tracks, no more large doors for wagons.  The building now had a square front, three stories high.  Numerous windows were added on the second, third and fourth floors.  Each floor now had 20 south west facing windows.  The fourth floor slightly unique in that the façade was a square set against a triangular gabled roof.  It was just like the large store fronts we are familiar with in old west towns, but it was built much larger, built in rusticated stone.  The outer three windows on each side of the fourth floor do not show into the buildings.  You can see through the windows, they are just there to increase the presence of the building.  The parapet on the roof now said: “SHERIDAN BUILDING 1892.”  A man named Sheridan purchased the building and commissioned the new façade.  The corbelling on the new façade emulated the original corbelling on the sides of the building.  The fourth floor arched windows had corbelling following the arch of the windows, making them appear as if they had eyebrows.  The mining firm of Hendrie and Bolthoff took over the building in 1902.  It was a Colorado based mining equipment company.  They had been located in the building next door where the Grand Central Hotel took up the top floors.  The sale of the building was contested by the Zang and Schlitz breweries for reasons unknown.  Charles started the firm in Central City.  In 1878, Charles’s son Edward Beard Bolthoff started a Denver branch, selling the Central City interests.  Edward partnered with Henry Bolthoff, a loyal employee of his father’s since age 12, who never learned to read or write.  In 1903 Edward bought Baron Walter von Richtofen’s Castle in the Montclair neighborhood.  Hendrie and Bolthoff stayed in the building 70 years, until 1972.

The third building to discuss is the C.S. Morey building.  It is located at 1628 165th Street.  This was an 1884 Gove and Walsh designed building.  C.S. Morey was a large company, they employed 500 people in four states.  In 1902 the company introduced the house brand, Solitaire.  This name went on a number of food products, including coffee, canned goods, and spices.  The company started on Blake, moved to Market and then to Wazee and 19th Street, finally building the large building we see today.  It continued to grow, taking over the adjoining building, the Henry Lee Building.  A corridor bridge was constructed over the double railroad tracks in the alley.

Chester Stephen Morey was born on March 3, 1847 in Wisconsin.  After fighting in the Civil War he tried to continue farming.  Realizing education was a necessity, he went to school in Chicago, giving up the agricultural life.  He found commercial ventures more satisfying and took a job as a sales person in the food trade.  In May of 1872 he came to Colorado and had a successful cattle venture.  Investing and reinvesting he sold land in Leadville in 1878.  He then worked for Sprague Warner Company until he bought them out in 1884, starting the J.S. Morey Mercantile Company.  He was on the Board for the Great Western Sugar Company, Board of Education and the Chairman of the Board for the Red Cross.  His influence was far-reaching, starting Manual Training High School in 1892.  His son, John W. Morey began working for his father in 1901, he was president of the company by 1913.  John continued to run the company until November 3, 1956 when he sold it to Consolidated Foods of Chicago.  John died eight days later, just after selling the business.

The C. S. Morey Building is a large structure on the corner of 16th and Wynkoop.  It is brick, has loading docks and sports a large cornice that carries a parapet wall.  Built after the 16th street viaduct it has a second story entrance to the walkway on the viaduct.  It is called “the door to nowhere.”  The doorway was the main entrance from viaduct, now the main entrance is on the street level.

LODO’s history is in its buildings.  What was built on Wynkoop Street, Wazee Street and Blake Street are the original buildings on these streets.  Virgin prairie ground to city.  On Blake Street and in some locations on Wazee there were wooden structures replaced by brick, but these are second generation buildings.  Denver can see its architectural roots.  This gives the LODO its unique character.

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This entry was posted on August 10, 2018 by in Larimer Street.
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