Archive for the ‘neighborhoods’ Category

In Memoriam: Father Joseph Hirsch

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Father Joe at Riverside

Father Joseph Hirsch (1944-2009) attending to a gravesite in the Orthodox section at Riverside (photo from the Denver Post)

It was with great sadness that we received the news of the death of Father Joseph Hirsch, who was the Dean of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral in Globeville for the past 25 years. Father Joe was a fixture at Riverside, whether conducting a service or tending to the graves in orthodox section of the cemetery.

Father Joe, along with his wife Paulette, has long been a tireless advocate for Riverside, for the congregation, and for the Globeville community.

Both Father Joe and Paulette have supported the efforts of the Friends of Historic Riverside through their advise, their membership in our organization, and by allowing our group to use the community hall at the church for our annual meetings.

Among his other accomplishments, Father Joe was the driving force behind the Orthodox Food Festival and Old Globeville Days, held in Argo Park just across from the church, an event that uses the best food at any festival in Colorado to bring visitors to their neighborhood.

Father Joe was also a regular at community planning meetings, and could be counted on to advocate for a neighborhood that has been too often overlooked in the planning process. Though he was a fierce fighter for causes he believed in, he engaged each person with a unique combination of humanity and kindness.

Our deepest condolences go out to Paulette, the Hirsch family, their friends and the congregation of the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral.

More information on Father Hirsch and his family can be found on the cathedral website, www.transfigcathedral.org

— by Hugh Graham, originally posted on the Friends of Historic Riverside Cemetery website.

Denver’s First African American Architect

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

—By Patrick Stephenson

Although I was born in Denver and have lived in the surrounding area my entire life, I didn’t actually move to within city limits until 1999; the summer I turned thirty-eight. That same summer I met my wife, Donna, and a year or two later we met our friend John Henderson, a tall, slender African American man with a glowing character. We met because Donna and I walk our dogs together on a near daily basis, frequently to City Park, a journey that takes us by John’s storefront if we take the 21st Street route.

If you happen to peer in while passing by you can see his collection of imported African arts and crafts, and on the days he’s there (Friday and Saturday), with a closer inspection you can see John sitting in his frayed office chair reading a magazine, listening to the radio or chatting with one or more of his many friends. He’ll be eighty-eight years old this summer, but has the mind, body and spirit of a much younger man.

Before John opened his store (The African and American Trading Company) at 2217 E. 21st Ave., he was Denver’s first African American architect and the first licensed in Colorado. He worked for many prominent Denver architectural firms, including his first job with Fisher Davis & Sudler in 1959 (working on the Federal Courthouse), and Gio Ponti & Sudler (on the first Denver Art Museum). He worked on the Denver Botanical Gardens and a slew of other architectural gems in Denver.

In 1961 he designed a modern home for himself and his wife Gloria, which is near his store. The home is adorned with full height panels of glass and clean lines, reflecting the style of his favorite ‘master architect’, Mies van der Rohe. At the entry John has created beautiful window weight sculptures, and at Christmas he and Gloria assemble large mobiles of ornaments you can see through the full height corner windows.

John has been retired from architecture since 1981, and lives a much less complicated life at his store selling eclectic African art for two days a week. His store has baskets, carved wooden bowls, phone wire art, jewelry, and tribal dolls. He also sells some American art, and odds and ends such as assorted teas, nuts and maple syrup from Vermont. But he has said that the main reason he has his store is for the opportunity to engage with people who pass by, and those who, like me and Donna, come by routinely just to see him. It’s rather like a barber shop environment, where you can sit and swap stories, or just take in one of his stories from his long and remarkable life.

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B50 Note: Patrick Stephenson is an architect who lives near City Park with his wife Donna and their dogs Waylon and Huck. You can find out more about his work at his website.

Sunday, February 26, 1950

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

—by Mary Lou Egan

The Grant Smelter Smokestack in Globeville

The story and photos occupied several pages of both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. KOA Radio carried the broadcast live and a score of airplanes flew overhead. An estimated 100,000 people gathered near the site while an additional 250,000 watched the event from rooftoops and ridges all over the city. The occasion was the demolition of the Grant Smelter smokestack, a 350-foot remnant of Denver’s glory days of mining and smelting.

The giant chimney had been built in 1892 as part of an expansion of the Omaha and Grant, Denver’s largest smelter. It was the tallest structure in the region and a symbol of a time when smelting was the city’s largest industry.

A year after the completion of the stack, the nation experienced a depression that hit mining and smelting hard. Changes in technology, the depletion of rich ores and labor unrest brought the halcyon days of smelting to an end. The Omaha and Grant Smelter closed in 1903 and was gradually dismantled, until only the enormous smokestack remained. Neighborhood children used the stack as their private playground, riding their bicycles in and out, and daring each other to climb its steep walls. Retired fireman Ed Westerkamp was one of those kids. “We used to play around that old Grant Smelter stack.

There were a couple of ponds there and hills we could ride our bikes up and down.”
Various economic proposals for the giant chimney were made over the years, including its use as an incinerator for the city’s refuse. There were arguments for its preservation as well as for its demolition, but, in the end, issues of safety and economics won the day.

Sunday, February 26, 1950, was the day selected for the demolition. Officials and spectators began arriving at the site at 9 am and listened to speeches as preparations were finalized. The Denver Post eulogized the stack, “From its mighty mouth. . .spewed the smoke from rich ores that flowed through its smelter by the millions of tons.” Mayor Quigg Newton added, “I think we’re all sorry to see the stack go, but it was one of those things that had to be done.”

The crowd remained patient through delay after delay. Finally, at 5:00pm, Fred “Tombstone” Backus, a veteran powder man, turned over the detonator to Thomas Campbell, Manager of Improvements.

A second later a series of five blasts, each two seconds apart, exploded in the base of the 7,000-ton tower. This was the moment when the stack was expected to fall westward into a dump area. Nothing. It took three more blasts and “a million bricks crashed to earth and a blinding cloud of cement and dust enveloped the officials and spectators.” Half of the tower remained standing. Seventeen minutes later, as people were examining the damage, there was a rumble and another section suddenly collapsed. It would take more dynamite on the following day to finish the job.

Grant Smelter Smokestack Falling

Denver was pleased with itself for shedding its frontier image. The city was growing, with a modern interstate highway and sleek new buildings changing the downtown skyline. The city’s newest addition, completed and dedicated in 1952, would be the Denver Coliseum, replacing the smelter stack, a crumbling symbol of Denver’s industrial past.

Denver Coliseum

B50 Note: Mary Lou Egan is a professional graphic designer and watercolor artist who also enjoys history and preservation, and writes and maintains the Globevillestory blog. Photos of stack courtesy of Janet Wagner. Photo of coliseum courtesy of Ian Denny.

Tivoli-Union Brewery: Abandoned, Explored, Restored

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

— by Hugh Graham

During the winter of 1978-1979, as a senior in high school, some friends and I would head downtown on Friday nights for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Odgen Theater. Coming down from the Evergreen and not knowing much about the city, we needed some way to amuse ourselves until 11 or so when we would line up on Colfax for the show. We weren’t much interested in 3.2 bars, and didn’t know where else to go, so we used our imagination and willingness to bend the law a bit to explore parts of the city that were much less crowded then than now.

Looking back on it, the late 1970s were a good time to be an urban explorer in Denver; urban renewal left lots of buildings empty and available. One of the biggest targets for exploring was the Tivoli Brewery. It was huge, dark, and very, very spooky. Although we only snuck in there a couple of times, it left a considerable impression on me; we’d park a few blocks away, squeeze through the fence and into the building (not a difficult thing to do), and then spend as much time as we could wandering through the cavernous spaces.

I remember the iron work, the incredible (and confusing) machinery, thousands on thousands of denver beer bottles, the massive copper vats. One very cold night we spied a plastic glove extending up from an icy vat (it was a glove, wasn’t it?), a vaguely disembodied hand, which led to some extra hoots and hollers in the echoey darkness. There was the turn halle, with its raised stage at one end, perfect for improvisational performances. But more than anything I remember the feeling of being dropped into a place frozen in time — as if the work had simply stopped one day, and everyone dropped what they were doing and walked out the door — we were space travelers on a long abandoned ship.

I didn’t know anything about the history of the Tivoli in those days, and as it turns out it was several years before a plan emerged for what to do with it (a plan that ended up changing more than a few times before the current incarnation as the Auraria Student Union and home to the Denver Film Society). Of course, now I realize that even as we were exploring our “alien landscape”, there were lots people working to secure a renovation plan while others documented and researched the history of this unique feature of the Denver landscape.

The following is a transcript of the “Historic American Engineering Record” conducted by the National Park Service in 1983; the text was transmitted by Dan Clement, and the photos are by William Edmund Barrett. This document was retrieved from “Built in America“, a project of the Library of Congress documenting American buildings and landscapes from 1933 to the present.

——

Tivoli-Union Brewery (Milwaukee Brewing Company)
Date: Circa 1890
Location: 1320-1348 Tenth St. Denver Colorado
Designed By: Unknown
Owned by: Originally: Milwaukee Brewing Company
1901: Merger forms Tivoli-Union Brewing Co,
1965: Carl and Joseph Occhiato
Presently: Associates for the Redevelopment of Tivoli
Significance: The Tivoli Brewing Company is one of the last gravity fed breweries in the United States.
Transmitted by: Dan Clement, 1983

The history of the Tivoli Brewing Company spans more than 100 years and encompasses the development of three different breweries. James Good crossed the prarie in 1859 with the first wagonload of hops for Denver’s initial brewery, the Rocky Mountain Brewing Company. In that same year Good became associated with the brewery’s owner, Mr. Charles Endlich.

Good, known to have been a master brewer in Europe, ran the brewery during the 1860’s. At that time, the brewery was located on the western shore of Cherry Creek in Aurarla, a rival community adjoining Denver. Sometime during the middle of the decade Endlich died and Good became sole owner of the facility. In 1870, he changed the name of the brewery to the Tivoli Brewing Company (named after the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen).

In 1879 another brewery in Aurarla started production. The Milwaukee Brewing Company located at 10th and Larimie was known not only for its beer but also for the construction in 1882 of Vorkwaert’s Turn Hall. The hall was used to stage club shows and operas and proved to be quite popular with the people of Auraria. In 1890 the company constructed a new four story brick structure with tower and basement. This structure survives today as the most visually distinctive building within the complex. A shallow three story connector between the turn hall and the new building was also constructed in 1890, most likely while the new tower building was still under construction.

By 1901, the Tivoli Brewing Company had merged with the Union Brewing Company, owned by William Burghardt (a friend of James Good) and it occupied the site of the Milwaukee Brewing Co. on 10th street. About this time it is believed that the buildings to the south and east of the tower building were constructed.

The Tivoli-Union Brewing Co. continued to operate (barring prohibition) under the ownership of Burghardt, Good and Good’s heirs until 1964. With the death of Mrs. LoRaine Good Kent Vichy (a daughter-in-law of James Good) the ownership of the brewery remained in litigation until the complex was sold to Carl and Joseph Occhiato in 1965. Four years later the brewery ceased operation. After being considered as a possible student center for the new three college Auraria Campus, the brewery is today undergoing renovation for a different purpose. The existing buildings are to be united under a skylight-greenhouse creating a mixture of shops and exhibit spaces that will serve commercial interests within the local economy.

People wishing to learn more about Denver’s early business history are referred to the following:

Letham J. Historical and Descriptive Review of Denver, Her Leading Business Houses and Enterprising Men, Denver 1893.

Smiley, Jerome C. History of Denver, The Times-Sun Publishing Co. Denver, 1901.

Brettell, Richard R. Historic Denver The Architects and The Architecture 1858-1893.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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Wm. Edmund Barrett, Photographer January 1970

  1. CO-1-1 Side view of brewery complex, smokestack looking toward Larimer Street.
  2. CO-1-2 Side view of brewery complex as seen from 10th and Larimer.
  3. CO-1-3 Ninth Street view of brewery showing rear of 1890 tower building and HI-EN Brau stone building, one of the oldest structures remaining.
  4. CO-1-4 Tower and upper front facade of tower building.
  5. CO-1-5 Side view of tower and upper facade.
  6. CO-1-6 Tivoli Beer wall sign, smokestack and adjacent building to tower: WEST DENVER TURN HALLE 1882.
  7. CO-1-7 Tower Building interior. First view of plant behind offices Equipment and double iron steps to 2nd floor. Beer parties were also held here.
  8. CO-1-8 Tower building. Large copper brewing kettle on second floor.
  9. CO-1-9 Tower building. Hot water tap floor shown. Mixing vat at center level. Juices mix and flow and left lower level. Copper kettles are down below view level. Looking toward front of building.
  10. CO-1-10 Copper taps below mixer and above copper kettles.
  11. CO-1-11 Mixing Vat.
  12. CO-1-12 From here grain goes to the top of the tower from rail cars down below. From here grain flows by gravity through different processes ending up as beer in the basement.
  13. CO-1-13 Top of tower. Grain proceeds from here through gravity fashion.
  14. CO-1-14 “Grinder: Seek Brs. Ltd. Dresden. Chas. Zeller Co. New York.” Second machine in grain procession from top of building. This is the floor beneath the top of the tower that the grain drops through.
  15. CO-1-15 Grinder
  16. CO-1-16 Hot water vat and detail…showing roof structure and rear
    of tower building.
  17. CO-1-17 Same floor.as hot water vats looking towards the front of the building. These have to do with grain from upper floor judging from ceiling to floor progression. Note nice iron work.
  18. CO-1-18 Inner back wall of 1890 building above hot water vats.
  19. CO-1-19 Taber pump in C02 plant.
  20. CO-1-20 Vilter Mfg. Company steam engine.
  21. CO-1-21 Same steam engine from other side.
  22. CO-1-22 Repair Shop. Note Schnitzelbanks in center front.
  23. CO-1-23 Beer Cooler. Copper tubing very obsolete.
  24. CO-1-24 Lab Room. Balance scales and other gear.

Mile High Housing Association

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

—by Jennifer Boone

After 25 years of retail I decided to make a midlife change of profession. My husband and I sold our business with lofty notions of re-entering the art world after a long hiatus and of contributing in some new, creative way to our north Denver neighborhood. But with recession knocking at the door, and our resources being sucked dry by our children’s college fees, it became evident that a career decision must be made sooner rather than later. In a moment considerably lacking in creativity, I decided to go to real estate school.

In class, while lecturing about the various forms of real estate ownership, the instructor taught us about housing cooperatives – noting that there never were any co-op’s in the Denver area. ‘Au contraire,’ I thought to myself, as I had personally been born into a Denver housing co-op located, ironically, three blocks or so from the Kaplan Real Estate School.

Amid the independent, western culture of Denver in the late 1940’s Mile High Housing Association began as an idea shared by several University of Denver professors who sought an affordable housing alternative so they might move their growing families out of the tiny Quonset huts and Butler units that then served as DU faculty housing. Among the organizers were Byron Johnson (an economics professor and future Colorado U.S. Representative), Eugene Link (sociology), Lloyd Saltzman (marketing and sales), and my father, Eugene Sternberg, a modernist architect and professor in the new School of Architecture and Planning at DU. My father became the senior architect and project manager for the group.

In 1950, with limited resources (approximately $100 per family), the building committee embarked on a mission to find 10+ acres where my father would design a community of modest homes ranging in size from 800-1500 sq ft. A down payment was made on an alfalfa field located behind Bethesda Sanatorium (now Denver Academy) and ground was broken on the project April, 1950. (At that time the developed portion of Colorado Boulevard virtually ended at Alameda) On this site 32 houses were built at an average cost of $12,000 per unit. Mile High Housing would become the first cooperative of single family homes in the nation to be built under new federal housing legislation for cooperative housing that authorized FHA to insure generous loans at 4% interest for a period of 40 years. According to my father, this legislation made it possible for poorly-paid university professors to afford housing of their own.

Eugene Sternberg was a passionate Czech architect educated at University in Prague and Cambridge University in England. My mother, Barbara Edwards, studied sociology at the London School of Economics. Early in their relationship, in their respective fields, they both served on the re-planning project of Milton, a small village northeast of Cambridge. This collaboration of social concerns and architecture was a springboard for the creative life they would share in America. In a memoir written by my mother and father for the private enjoyment of our family (entitled “Our Lives and Families”), Eugene explained how Mile High Housing encompassed their ideals of socially conscious architecture:

The physical design of Mile High Housing expressed, in concrete terms, my philosophy about housing. I felt strongly that houses were like people, they needed neighbors. I always preferred to design communities rather than single homes. Here I managed to put into practice some contemporary site design. The layout took care of the needs of the people who lived there for safety and intimacy.

Mile High was one of my father’s first opportunities to gain practical experience with building code regulations, material costs and American contractors. The general contractor for the project was a light-hearted fellow with a sense of humor. My Czech father, still very much a foreigner, could not yet comprehend nor appreciate subtle, American sarcasm. When the first fireplace was built Eugene noticed the damper screw had been installed in the middle on the front of the fireplace wall, facing the living room. The drawings called for the screw to be discreetly placed on the side wall, facing the dining room. In our family book my father described the scene:

“Bill, that screw has got to be facing the dining room.” A number of the brick layers stopped working and listened to the discussion. “Gene,” said Bill with a straight face, “I don’t care where you screw. I prefer the living room.” I had no idea what he was talking about. This contractor was questioning my design! “The screw will be according to my specifications,” I shouted. The discussion went on in this vein for some time. The workmen roared with laughter and I just didn’t get it.

In planning the street layout Eugene used a loop design, which discouraged through traffic, unlike the usual grid most American cities were built on. Curved streets also would slow traffic and enhance safety, but he had to fight for approval of the subdivision plan. “Firemen,” said the Fire Chief, “are like horses with blinders on. If you present them with a curve, they will miss the fire.” The Arapahoe County Commissioners also objected to the narrow 20 ft width of the road. They refused to grant a permit for the project until the architect gave them a personal guarantee that if any community members objected to the road width, he would widen it at his own expense. So my father gave them this guarantee in writing.

The circular lane of Mile High surrounded a central two-acre “village green” complete with playground equipment and a small, open air amphitheater for neighborhood gatherings (built with salvaged brick by volunteer DU architectural students). The post-war baby boom ensured that our community was brimming with children. For a child Mile High was a delightful, close-knit, community-rich environment in which to grow up. Holiday celebrations were often shared and many included a children’s parade around our little circle.

Despite the fact that families were quite large family in the 50s and 60s most Americans lived in homes less than 1500 sq ft. My father died in 2005 before the onset of today’s recession and the stark reality that faces us as a result of our collective excesses. Eugene was an idealist and as such he embraced, with fervor, the American freedom to choose ones own destiny and surroundings. He especially enjoyed and revered the western culture of individualism; he had a great admiration for the cowboy, so much so that he donned western shirts and refused to wear a tie for the last 30 years of his life. However, the values of the west often times ran counter to some of his fundamental beliefs about good urban design and the importance of community.

Sternberg had a life-long interest in designing affordable housing, and he contributed to many such housing projects and developments during his career. Sternberg’s modernist style was accompanied by a perfectionist’s eye, and a strong social ethic. He opposed zoning that separated people of different classes or ethnicities, and he spoke outwardly about the way dwindling natural resources would force people to change the way they live and work. (Denver Public Library, Western History Department, Sternberg Biography)

In the 1980s members of the Mile High Housing Cooperative celebrated the paying off of their 40-year mortgage by burning it, an event documented by a Rocky Mountain News article entitled “South Dahlia co-op burns FHA mortgage ahead of schedule.” In 1989 the members dissolved the cooperative model and exchanged their co-op shares for warranty deeds and private ownership. They reincorporated into South Dahlia Lane Community (SDLC). Today the community remains a quiet enclave, tucked away aside the sprawling I-25 corridor.

In a sense my real estate school teacher was correct; housing co-ops never really caught on in the west, although a newer version based on a Scandinavian model and called co-housing is making progress in Colorado. Perhaps in the new economy there will be a renewed interest in housing that is affordable and offers a more modest lifestyle; housing built on a human scale that is sensitive to it’s surroundings and that has evolved beyond the ‘bigger is better’ model of the last several decades. Today’s housing market offers an opportunity for us to restore a balance lost and return to the notion of creating homes and neighborhoods, not primarily for profit, but also for the enjoyment of the occupants and for the communities they create.

B50 Note: Jennifer Boone lives in Denver with her husband Casey; both are Denver natives. Recently she’s been helping research, format and prepare her mother’s manuscript on Anne Evans who was an early contributor to Denver’s cultural institutions: Denver Art Museum, Denver Public Library, Civic Center Park (and its sculptures) and Central City Opera. Pictures were scanned from Empire, the Magazine of the Denver Post; Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire: June 22, 1952.

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