— by Kelan Smith
In 2008, as I watched an immense hole being dug for the new Four Seasons Hotel at 14th and Lawrence, evidence of former structures and their foundations were slowly revealed to absolutely no acknowledgment. I had heard of some of the grand structures that were razed between the 1960’s and 1980’s to leave behind a dead and unimpressive surface parking lot — like most of Denver. Now that the block is rising to new heights, I did some research and found photos of the former proud structures and pieced the block back together again.
I currently work in the Hover Building on Lawrence next to the Teatro Hotel. I am amazed these two structures survived as they watched their siblings across the street fall to the ground one by one. Once on this block stood a surprising variety of structures, including a Methodist church — subsequently revamped into the Salvation Army Barracks — a bank, the Chamber of Commerce, a streetcar station and numerous 2-4 story structures now long gone and forgotten. Close by, on 15th and Arapahoe, once stood the gorgeous “Richardsonian” Mining Exchange Building. All that remains is the statue of the miner on the ground in the shadow of the hideous Brooks Tower.
While Block 074 will still remain somewhat incomplete for the near future, with a small surface parking lot on 15th, the new high-rise will help re-energize 14th Street as an entertainment thoroughfare. I will not go deep on my critique of the Four Seasons value-engineered architectural finishes and some of the brutal elevations, simply because it is better than a barren parking lot.
I am well aware that, whether standing or gone, buildings do not love you back. The admiration and regard is a one way street. But that doesn’t stop me from closing my eyes and imagining myself walking around these lost structures to ponder the cycles of a City.
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B50 Note: Historical images are courtesy of The Denver Public Library Western History Collection. Contemporary images are courtesy of the author.