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Archive of posts filed under the Historic Preservation category.

Downtown Reinvestment: Colorado State Capitol Update #3

A couple of months ago, we reported that the white scrim was starting to come off of the Colorado State Capitol dome and it would take around six weeks before we would start to see the gold dome completely uncovered. The time has finally arrived and the gold dome has never looked so good!

The dome doesn’t look real compared to the shape it was in before. Even with an overcast backdrop, the new gold looks very sharp!  Here are four pictures of the dome from today

 

 

The Colorado State Capitol building is getting a once in a lifetime restoration; we should feel very lucky we are able to see this! The project will be fully complete by late summer.


Downtown Reinvestment: Colorado State Capitol Update #2

Back in July, we headed over to the Colorado State Capitol to check on the restoration progress. Since then, a huge milestone has been reached. In my previous update, I reported we wouldn’t be able to see the dome until Winter 2014; that statement wasn’t entirely correct. Just in time to start the new year, the white scrim and scaffolding has started to come down off of the capitol dome!

Over the next six weeks, the scaffolding will be removed from the dome portion of the Colorado State Capitol while the other restorations continue. The gold was not the only part of the restoration; the observation deck and drum below the dome was also in serious need of structural repair. The deck was closed in 2006 when a fasteners holding a cast iron detail failed causing part of the structure to fall. Luckily all of this will be fixed. Here are some pictures of the Colorado State Capitol as of this afternoon.

A total of 65 ounces of gold have been reapplied to the dome which will last for many decades to come. The restoration project is both ahead of schedule and under budget with completion anticipated for late summer 2014.


Perspectives on Downtown Denver’s Growth

While downtown Denver is experiencing new population growth at the dawn of the 21st century, a humbling perspective is brought to the forefront when we look at how the city handled growth toward the latter half of the 19th century. Over the past several months, I have been looking into this issue and was provided access to the archives of Central Presbyterian Church, housed at the imposing edifice at 17th and Sherman. Their historical material helped shed light on the amazing story of Denver’s cyclical growth patterns.

Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman

It turns out that Central’s current building, circa 1892, was the third home for the congregation, which had its roots dating all the way back to the city’s earliest days in 1860. When moving to 17th and Sherman, the congregation sought to escape the growing density of downtown and escape to the suburbs (then located in Capitol Hill). At the dedication of this Frank Edbrooke designed building, built on land purchased from Walter Scott Cheesman for $40,000 by Donald Fletcher (founder of Aurora, whose home stood close by at 16th and Grant), church members reminisced about the remarkable growth of Denver over a short period of 30 years.

With the early congregation’s foundation in the First Presbyterian Church on the north side of 15th Street between Lawrence and Arapahoe, the church initially moved to a permanent structure on the outskirts of downtown in 1876—at 18th and Champa. Within 15 years, they needed to move again, not only because the congregation had outgrown its building but because the city was growing yet again and was well over 100,000 people by 1890—increasing from 4700 people only twenty years earlier. At the new church dedication in 1892, members recalled,

“It seems almost incredible, even to those who have been eye witnesses to this progress, that within thirty years the little hamlet upon the banks of Cherry Creek, containing a few log and frame buildings, should grow in this brief period into a city of perhaps more than 150,000 inhabitants.  The first Presbyterian church building, which was situated upon the corner of the alley on F street (now Fifteenth Street) on the ground now occupied by Clayton’s hat store was completed and opened for regular services in the spring of 1865. At that time it was in the midst of scattered dwellings. There were no store or business buildings above Larimer street on F, and none upon Sixteenth street except the Langrishe theater, a frame building on the corner of Sixteenth and Lawrence, where now stands the building occupied by Skinner Bros. & Wright. The business quarter of the town was on Blake, McGaa (now Market) and Larimer, extending from the creek as far as F street and on F from Larimer to below Wazee. Opposite the new church, where the Evans block now stands, was a lumber yard. On the corner of Lawrence and F, where the building stands, which was recently occupied as the post office, was the Overland stage barn and corral. On the corner adjoining the church stood the brick residence of Wiliam Graham, the pioneer druggist. Opposite on Lawrence was the residence of Mr. D. H. Moffat. Mr. George Tritch lived in a white frame house fronting onArapahoe and fifty feet from the corner of F and Arapahoe. Above this were a few scattered dwellings and beyond were the treeless, barren plains…there was not a growing tree on the town site, except along the margin of the Platte, until the spring of 1865 when a few were transplanted by General Pierce and one or two others that were watered by a small ditch conducting water from a spring on Cherry Creek above the present Broadway bridge.”

When the new 18th and Champa location was chosen, it “was at that time far from business buildings, residences lined Lawrence, Arapahoe, Curtis and Champa streets, and as yet there was little business above Larimer Street. It was believed the location would be quite permanent, business might possibly extend up Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets to Curtis, possibly to Champa, but no one dreamed that during the lifetime of the present generation it would go beyond.”  That building was designed by Robert Roeschlaub and had a seating capacity of 1000, making it the largest gathering place in the city. It was used for concerts, lectures, graduation ceremonies and the like for many years. When the church moved to Sherman Street in 1892, their “old” building was sold to the new 23rd Avenue Presbyterian Church on Ogden, where it was physically relocated (and later burned in a fire).

Central Presbyterian's second location at 18th and Champa

Today, Central Presbyterian Church is one of the few church buildings remaining downtown whose congregation stayed put instead of moving farther out into the suburbs, as many other congregations did after World War II. Its impressive sandstone building stands sentinel over the corner of 17th and Sherman and is one of the few structures remaining from this once residential neighborhood. And while downtown Denver, of which it is now considered a part, is once again growing in population, the church has no plans to vacate its location. This congregation, along with Trinity United Methodist Church, can proudly tie its existence back to the very foundations of the tiny hamlet of Denver over 150 years ago.


Denver Union Station Renovation

Time for a DenverUrbanism exclusive look inside the historic Denver Union Station’s transformation from a sleepy train station into a luxury hotel. RTD has partnered with Union Station Alliance to transform one of Denver’s most historic structures into a 112-room hotel. Union Station Alliance is a partnership of Urban Neighborhoods (of Dana Crawford fame), Sage Hospitality (Oxford Hotel), and Milender White Construction, among many others. Thanks to RTD and JG Johnson Architects, we have an exclusive look.

If you’ve been down near Union Station anytime within the last few months, it’s hard to miss the scaffolding. There is a TON of work going on at 17th and Wynkoop Streets, but with the notable exception of the massive scaffolding collection, a lot of the work remains hidden inside. 

  

The canopy that surrounds much of the LoDo-front of Union Station will be maintained and restored, as evidenced in the pictures below. There will be patio space surrounding the building – nearly 20 feet worth. The canopy will have glass installed to allow some light through, but protect us from the elements. The nice part about the building being reinvented as a hotel is that crews will always be hand to make sure the canopy is clean and looking it’s best.

 

The main train hall room, formerly adorned with long wooden benches and steam heat, is completely filled with scaffolding. Crews are working to restore and refinish the walls to their former glory and will also be installing new light fixtures (replacing the absolutely abhorrent fluorescent lights that were there before) while maintaining the historic elements that graced the hall. The main hall will be a public space serving as a mixing bowl between hotel guests and outside visitors alike. Hotel check in will be on the second floor.

 

  

The hall was notoriously echo-filled and acoustically displeasing.  Crews are working to place noise dampeners along the ceiling to help reduce the echos that used to flow throughout the space. As you can see in the pictures below, the pink is a primer applied to the walls prior to the sound dampening panels, which are a grayish-tan color.

 

Just off the main train hall in what used to be the ticket office, crews are working to transform the space into what could be known as “The Terminal Room,” serving as a bar for hotel and downtown visitors alike. The Terminal Room was the name of a bar that was at Union Station during the railroad’s hay days – the name is a perfect shout-out to the building’s storied past.  The space is fairly skinny but runs the length of the train hall. It should make for a very cool bar and fit right in down in LoDo.

 

For the historic preservation advocates reading this, take comfort in the fact that it seems that Union Station Alliance and RTD have taken every effort to protect the historic elements within the building. From columns and staircase railings to arch detail and crown moldings, historic elements present before the renovation will still adorn the historic structure after completion.

 

  

 

A casualty of modern building and safety codes are staircases such as those inside Denver Union Station that lead to the upper floors. Don’t fret – they’re not being removed or modified in any significant way, but there are other staircases being constructed that meet fire safety standards. To construct a stairwell in an existing structure is difficult, as you could probably imagine. There’s a lot of demolition and reconstruction as they are constructed. 

  

Denver Union Station has very ornate historic staircases leading to the upper floors. Luckily, these staircases aren’t going anywhere. They have been identified as historic elements so they are being preserved. As you can see in the pictures, crews are making every effort to ensure they make it through the renovation with no accidental damage.

 

 

As I mentioned before, the hotel will have 112 rooms, 90 of which will be unique sizes (yes, 90 – that wasn’t a typo). Only 22 of the rooms will have a twin somewhere else in the building. Even the attic of Denver Union Station is being converted in hotel rooms. Not many have been up here before and you can see why in the pictures below. There are awkward roof lines and little ventilation. This will change as a few additional dormers are added to the building as the hotel rooms are constructed. The attic will host some of the larger rooms in the hotel as rooms will be longer to make sure that every room has a window, as required by code. Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do before that happens, but construction is well under way. The large, angled beams will be integrated into the hotel rooms, serving as a nod to the building’s historic past. 

 

 

 

For those who have been in the basement at Denver Union Station may remember a space that looks very different than it does today. What used to be the home of the model railroad exhibit is being transformed into conference space and home to other essential hotel functions. Additionally, Amtrak will have administrative space in the basement. A lot of work has gone into shoring up the foundations down here as well. Crews have been busy installing reinforcing concrete and large steel beams to help support the structure above. A lot of excavation work has occurred as well to help clear the space, even turning up the bones of what Union Station Alliance believe was a horse – and no, they have no idea how that got down there.

  

   

   

Retail is included as part of the Denver Union Station renovations. As announced by Larimer Associates in May, Denver favorites Snooze and The Kitchen will be opening locations at Denver Union Station in addition to a restaurant and market concept by Alex Seidel. These will be located on the ground floors of the north and south wings. Construction of the retail spaces has opened up the wing buildings into very large and inviting spaces. The posts lining the center of the room will remain as well.

 

 

Construction will continue through the fall as rooms are constructed and the Union Station Hotel will open in the summer of 2014!


Adaptive Reuse: Colorado National Bank Hotel Conversion Update #4

It’s time to revisit the Colorado National Bank Hotel conversion as a lot has happened since our last update. This is the adaptive reuse project that is giving the historic Colorado National Bank building a new life and look along 17th Street in central Downtown Denver.

The facade on the additional two floors is more or less complete and the core on the back side has been painted. The addition has a contrasting dark grey color compared to the building’s white facade.

 

This is pretty much what the final product is going to look like. Before you judge the design, color, and overall look of the new addition, keep this in mind: The Colorado National Bank building originally opened in 1915. You can clearly see the resemblance of that era’s architecture on the first two floors. In 1963, an additional three floors were built on top of the original building which look no different than a typical low-rise office building from that time period. Finally, in 2013, we have the additional two floors which reflects our contemporary architecture from the 2010 era. This is a building that reflects architecture and design from three different periods of time. That’s pretty neat!

 

The Colorado National Bank Hotel is expected to be complete by the end of this year and will add an additional 230 much needed hotel rooms to Downtown Denver!