Under the Viaducts

The viaducts were designed to carry automobile traffic over the railroads, Platte River and flood plain. Ten viaducts spanned the Platte Valley from 6th Avenue to the Brighton Street Viaduct.. Eventually the viaducts deteriorated and were replaced with ground level roadways that created access to the development we see today. I see the future potential of Denver with my mind, but the wonderful memories of the old viaducts stay in my heart.

Let’s go back to the viaducts from 1983-1993. The viaducts were beautiful, full of magnificent curves and straight lines of strength! The viaducts’ roadways offered expansive views of the city or the mountains. A closer view gazed down the Platte Valley or at a nearby historic structure.

For me, however, my favorite place was on the ground, sharing time with the steel and concrete viaducts. Only the 15th Street Viaduct had road travel directly beneath it at ground level. This road serviced the huge Post Office Terminal, Wazee Supper Club and My Brothers Bar. The old Monarch Mills building at Delgany Street was demolished and replaced with the superb new MCA building and the old Moffatt Train Station, which still stands a couple of blocks to the west.

Walking under the viaducts was generally quiet; some of my neighbors were rabbits and birds. The sight and sound of trains sometimes interrupted my peaceful wandering to remind me of the railroads’ heritage in the valley. The viaducts themselves arose from the dirt with powerful, unswerving lines and beautiful curves and arches. They were surrounded at each end by buildings and asphalt that replaced the dirt. The supporting beams or columns of the viaducts provided natural frames for structures or scenes near them.

From the top of the viaduct, strong shadows cast down to the surface, suggesting a place where grand mysteries lived. I will miss some of those meditative journeys; most people were not able to experience the viaduct world. If in this text and photos you get a small look and a little sense of the past, then I have done my job.

— Kim Allen
Images ©1986-1991, denverphotoarchive.com

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7 Responses to “Under the Viaducts”

  1. Renna Shesso Says:

    Oh, man, these photos are nostalgia-provoking! I loved the viaducts and had many curious adventures under and near them (often related to the Wazee and Brothers.
    Thanks for posting them.

  2. Jeanne Allen Says:

    Wow, your photos really bring me back to my childhood. I can feel your sense of peace as you wandered around these Denver landmarks.
    Thanks for this little trip back in time!

  3. JW Says:

    These pictures make it look like it was a hundred years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday.. Paris on the platte when the viaduct ran right by it with the stairs going up… The Wazee and Rock Island in the grimey shadow of those things. Thanks for the memories.

  4. Victoria Says:

    Am I a freak because I miss the viaducts?

    I am vaguely amused at the development that’s happened in the 15th Street/trainyard corridor from downtown to Confluence Park. This area was always called “the Bottoms” by my parents, and was not a suitable place for anything but bakeries, meat packing (rats the size of opossums) and casket manufacturers because…it was in the floodplain! (Platte River, c.a. 1965)

    I don’t know that this has changed. I hope so…for the sake of all those condos and that amusement park that’s for sale over there..

  5. Joel Bader Says:

    Did one of these viaducts get mentioned in James Michener’s novel Centennial? In the last part, he referred to a local joke about a viaduct in Denver which was the “longest bridge in the world”–it separated the Jewish (Israeli) and Mexican communities.

    NOTE: It was quite a while since I read Centennial so my recollections may not be clear. If that is the case or if I am offending anyone, please let me know. Thanks for allowing me to post this message.

  6. Clint Says:

    Thanks for posting these photos and history! I was at My Brother’s Bar this afternoon and saw a picture of the Wazee Supper Club taken in 1991 and was blown away by the viaduct. I moved to Denver in 1995 and never saw signs of those viaducts. I had no clue until today!

  7. Kim Allen Says:

    A welcome to Clint for his #6 post, moving to Denver in 1995. Wish I had taken that photo,
    it is a great photo of the pre demo of the 15th St. Viaduct at Wazee St. looking west.
    My Brothers Bar and the Wazee Supper Club were related in many ways… Neal Cassady was part of that “family”… his writing of Lower Downtown and Five Points neighborhoods will be appreciated for future generations.

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