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Doors Open Denver Preview: Historic Sugar Building

Located in the heart of Denver’s Lower Downtown district, the Historic Sugar building remains one of Denver’s great historic buildings. It was built in 1906 for the Great Western Sugar Company, designed by Gove and Walsh, the same architectural firm that designed Union Station. The design purposely served to showcase the company’s power and followed Chicago Architect Louis Sullivan’s style of creating buildings that form follows function. Similarly, at the end of the 1800s, Mayor Speer was pushing the ideals of City Beautiful—a historical city planning movement to make cities more attractive places in which to live and work—and drove business owners to have nice looking buildings constructed for their growing businesses. The architects incorporated these ideals into their design as well.

The finished Sugar Building stood four stories tall, constructed of buff brick and cream-colored terra cotta. These intricately woven geometrical and floral terracotta decorations and its arrangement of windows between vertical piers have been called Sullivanesque (named after the skyscraper ornamentation style of Louis Sullivan). Walsh and Gove used stock neoclassical-style pieces from the Denver terra cotta Company’s catalog to decorate the building’s facade instead of creating each piece from scratch. The completed building in 1906 also housed two Otis Elevators.

Here is an image of the Historic Sugar Building, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


In 1912, another two stories were added as Great Western’s trade in sugar beets was growing to become the country’s largest. Upon completion the Great Western Sugar Company was housed in the building. As time passed, the building was eventually left empty for decades, but was later rehabbed in 1999 to house offices. The interior of the building was completely remodeled in 2000 with new lobby and common area finishes. The original iron cage Otis elevator also was refurbished and is still in use for passenger service. The interiors of the office floors were also remodeled with updated floor plans that offer both open floor plan and traditional office style layouts. The Sugar Factory building still stands in Denver’s historic Warehouse District as a beautiful reminder of the early 1900s architecture, and as a testament to the substantial influence of the Great Western Sugar Company on the economy of Colorado.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.

Where Should We Put Bike Lanes? (Part 3 of 3)

Bike Lanes on Low-Volume Side Streets

The case for concentrating our bike network planning on smaller, side streets is one that is equally as compelling as the case for focusing on large streets. However, that is not to say that we have to simply choose one option or the other.

Take Portland, for example: a city home to one of the most comprehensive bike networks in the country. They have focused much of their energy on public greenways: transforming small, low volume streets parallel to larger thoroughfares into neighborhood bike lanes. These greenways are more than just sharrows; they’ve actually built infrastructure into the streets. But they provide a safer bike route for people who don’t want to blow through at 25 mph. Additionally, this low-stress network connects all types of people on bikes to some of the city’s larger, more robust bike lanes and infrastructure such as the recently unveiled bike/ped/transit-only Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

portland greenways

*Example of one of Portland’s public greenways, courtesy of Bike Portland (source)

Focusing on smaller parallel streets such as Grant or Bannock isn’t just an option apart from Broadway, though. Actual infrastructure (buffered lanes) on these streets can provide necessary support for larger infrastructure projects in the city, such as Broadway. They provide a safer (both perceived and actual) route for the “interested but concerned” potential bike riders in the city as well as vital access for shorter trips.

According the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, 43.1% of vehicle trips in the US were three miles or less. If we were to create a system of “neighborhood greenways” to support larger, more intensively built bike lanes like the ones proposed on Broadway and Brighton, we encourage biking to people who are just running daily errands in their own neighborhoods. That keeps more cars off roads like Broadway and expands access to non-traditional bikers.

The debate over bike network planning on large versus small streets is an important one, with many successful examples of both. But, in the end, they two are not mutually exclusive. We need both types of infrastructure to create a robust and equitable network, which in the end, is everyone’s goal.

Doors Open Denver Preview: Historic Grant Avenue

Originally, Grant Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church was home to the first Methodist congregation in the newly incorporated community of South Denver. An addition was added in 1919, and the church quickly became a vibrant center for community activities. Throughout its history, names such as Speer, Iliff, Byers, and Evans could be found among its supporters.Becoming a Community Center on 2001, Historic Grant Avenue is now the home of nearly 20 nonprofit, arts, cultural, and spiritual groups including: The Denver Pops Orchestra, Colorado Honor Band, The Denver School of Rock, and the original Methodist Congregation. Nearly 1600 people come through the doors of Historic Grant Avenue each week!

Here is an image of the Historic Grant Avenue building, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


On Saturday, April 25, from 12-6pm Historic Grant Avenue will be offering free performances throughout the building by most of its music and arts groups as a way to build public awareness of all that happens here, and plans for the future. Historic tours of the building will be offered at all times, taking approximately 15 minutes.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.

Doors Open Denver Preview: Governor’s Residence at Boettcher Mansion

This mansion, built in 1908, has been home to many important men in Denver’s history including the Cheesman family, the Boettcher family and all of the Governors of Denver since 1960. This three-story mansion was designed by Denver business mogul, Walter Cheesman, as his family’s residence. He originally hired Grove and Walsh to build his home but after his death in 1907, the project had not even been started. Walter Cheesman’s wife and daughter, Alice and Gladys, hired Willis A. Marean and Albert J. Norton, whom impressed them with the Cheesman Pavilion. The total cost of the building was $50,000. The house was completed in 1908, hosting the wedding of Gladys Cheesman to the lifelong friend and childhood sweetheart, John Evans, who was the grandson of Governor John Evans. After Alice Cheesman’s death, the house was bought by the rich and benevolent Boettchers. The family later bequeathed it to the State of Colorado in 1959 as the home to the sitting Governor. The first Governor to live in the house was Governor Stephen McNichols in 1960.

Here is an image of the Governor’s Residence at the Boettcher Mansion, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


Noteworthy are the portico with Ionic colonnade, upper terrace with Italianate balustrade, large windows with a view of Pike’s Peak and resplendent interior. For nearly 100 years this mansion has stood atop a neighborhood once referred to as Quality Hill. Interior features of note: Colorado Yule marble floor in the Palm Room; cross-cut inlaid oak paneling on the walls of the Library; leaded glass windows in the Bar & Palm Room, designed by Claude Boettcher; Waterford crystal chandelier in the Drawing Room; 18th century French chandeliers in the Grand Hallway; 9th century Tang Dynasty Funeral Horses displayed in the Library; 16th-19th century European and Asian artwork and furnishings throughout the first floor. Exterior features to look for include: a limestone gazebo located in the east lawn; tiered gardens with brick walkways leading to the Carriage House at the south end of the property; and the refurbished Carriage House and courtyard adapted to use as an event facility.

In 1979 part of Pennsylvania Street was closed off and turned into a grass-covered connection between the Governor’s Mansion and the Grant-Humphrey’s Mansion, which was donated to the State of Colorado in 1979. The Cheesman-Boettcher Mansion/Governor’s Mansion was landmarked locally in 1968. Furthermore, the mansion was designated a Denver Landmark in 1968 and placed on the National Register in 1969.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.

Doors Open Denver Preview: Forney Museum of Transportation

J.D. Forney became interested in antique and classic cars after his wife and children gave him a 1921 yellow Kissel Tourister, the same model he used to court his wife, Rae. Today, the Forney Museum is one of the country’s finest historical transportation collections museums, comprised of over 600 artifacts including vehicles, buggies, motorcycles, steam locomotives, aircraft, carriages, rail equipment, fire apparatus, public transportation, sleighs, bicycles, toys and diecast models, and vintage apparel. The collection also showcases the world’s largest steam locomotive, Amelia Earhart’s first automobile, and Denver’s only cable car.

The Forney Museum is housed in a repurposed industrial warehouse originally built by Union Pacific in 1951. The concrete and steel structure was subsequently utilized as a food distribution business until the Museum acquired the buildings in 1999. At that time, significant renovations occurred to transform the building into exhibit space, a gift shop, gallery, meeting room, offices and a library. The entire 70,000 square feet structure is now available to the public, and another 70,000 square feet is available for future expansion.

Here is an image of the Forney Museum of Transportation, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


During DOD, the Museum will be featuring a special exhibit of industrial designer Virgil Exner entitled Chrysler Corporation’s Bold Design, 1955-62. Guided tours (by reservation) will be offered both days for a nominal fee.  Please contact the Museum for information.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.