Photographing Denver 1984–1992

—by Kim Allen

Back in the 80’s and 90’s I photographed some of Denver’s architecture. This period was the transition of some of Denver’s past architectural heritage and merging of contemporary designs. I had to document some of these buildings before they were gone; it was a tremendous experience. Buildings have a little bit of us in them, and we in them, we need each other. Let us go out and revisit some of these links of our lives in a brief little journey.

1.) Wynkoop’s founding members. On a bright fall day, certainly deserted in lower downtown, some dreams and a wonderful building were fermenting to add to an emerging civic pride in Denver. I had an appointment with the “crew” at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. and walked into a bustling construction project. Sawdust on the floor, I could envision the sight and smell of beer and its enthusiasts. The large sign, “Wynkoop Brewing Company,” was a perfect backdrop for some of the founding members as they proudly stood below. Amid the grime and abandoned streets and buildings, the group and dog excitedly were captured on film. It is one of my favorite photographs. 1988

2.) Auditorim Arena/Temple Buell Theatre. It was a Sunday morning, back in the day a great time to jump over a fence and look onto memories. I had danced in elementary school on that floor, seen concerts and basketball games. On the corner of 13th and Champa, we picked up our baseball uniforms as members of ” The Oldtimers League ” as youths. I looked onto the floor and the balcony seats dismanting, a huge mechanical crane now at the “freethrow line.” The seats wrapped around me. High up, the long windows welcomed beautiful rays of sunshine casting down. It was exciting and sad at the same time to view this scene. 1992

3.) Manuel Martinez Mural. Sanchez Park, 13th and Federal Blvd. This image repesented the Spanish heritage of Denver. I would think of the Indians as well, the Platte River just beyond, and nearby Cherry Creek. The mural, an homage to nature, contrast with downtown, different worlds, never to meet. 1986

4.) Elitch Theatre. The theatre was inviting and charming, intimate and glowing. All the wood, the chairs and beams grace a gentle atmosphere. Hosting many high quality plays, the amusement park was relocating, and the theatre would not be able to make the move. A special place, soulful and peaceful. 1992

5.) 16th St. Viaduct looking S.E. over Platte St. and into lower downtown. A long and strong viaduct piercing the valley from the Highlands to downtown. Above the ground 25 feet, the blacktop road and steel handrails connect the neighborhoods. Central St. to the west, and Wazee St. to the east, and spanning Platte St. Remember those stairs up from the ground at various points, leading to the bus stops? 1984

6.) Mammoth Gardens grand re-opening. The Fernandez family owed the gardens, revitalized it and had a wonderful party to open it again. Over the years roller skating and even some rock and roll concerts in the late 60’s had been at the gardens. Tonight belonged to the Fernandez family and the great Tito Puente Band to entertain the dancing, and seated crowd, at large round tables. It was impressive, happy and exciting. 1992

7.) The Acme and Volker buildings were some of the first restorations into lofts in lower downtown. Two beautiful sleeping warehouses between the Speer Viaducts, cars racing by in each direction, soon welcomed sunshine and life would return to the buildings. This would be the start of revitalization of LoDo and help energize the entire city, our pride was back. I will mention the names of the people that gave us a great vision to complete these wonderful buildings and still continue on with the vibrant projects. Dana Crawford, Larry Nelson, Joe Simmons, Mickey Zeppelin and Charlie Woolley. 1985

8.) 16th St. looking north on Wazee St. where some of the revitalization was beginning, with Stuart Buchanan fine antiques and Oxford Hotel on the left and Rockmount Ranch Wear and the Terminal Bar on the right. Firemens Gain Elevator at the end of Wazee St. in the middle of image. It was a great (still) area, the neighborhood had numerous projects, the Edrooke, the Wynkoop, Acme and Volker. The Oxford Hotel and Cruise Room . . . and the Terminal Bar. 1988

B50 Note: Kim Allen is a photographer who extensively chronicled the changes that occurred in downtown Denver in the 1980s and 1990s. For more information on Denver during this era, visit Kim’s website at denverphotoarchives.com. Photographs and text are provided courtesy of the artist (©1884-1992).

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6 Responses to “Photographing Denver 1984–1992”

  1. hadley Says:

    Kim has a blog, and a lot more photos, on his site:

    http://denverphotoarchives.com/blog/2009/april.html

    I love these photos, and aside from the portraits there are no people. In the 80’s downtown was ours, and parking was plenitful. of course there weren’t that many places to go:)

  2. df Says:

    I love these pictures and especially the wynkoop photo. Loved seeing Russ standing there.. I have some b&w photos like this too that I should dig out. Really miss the old Denver, and how you could just pull up to the front of the Wynkoop, park and grab a beer.

  3. tom@modmidmod.com Says:

    I am so glad that someone had the foresight to photograph the viaducts! Who would have thought that they would be so missed, but they were so fascinating!

  4. Victoria Says:

    It’s weird to remember how empty downtown COULD be. And I guess it’s just perverse, but I miss the viaducts. I remember walking under the 15th St. viaduct a lot when I was at Metro in the early 80s.

  5. hadley Says:

    Can we identify all the folks in front of the Wyncoop?

  6. Mark Dolce Says:

    Kim Allen made an amazing effort by action in his documentation of Denver in the period before the re-building of the city. His work is a valuable record as a photographic record as we as a testement to an individual accomplishment. His work needs to be placed in banks, hotels, restaurants and any other business establishment that ‘claims’ any historic value.

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