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 Photographs and text are provided courtesy of the artist (©1884-1992).

Pope visits Harkness Heights – enterprising locals see opportunity

—by Rich Moore

Left to right Stephanie Haver (42nd & Julian), Brigid & Lucy Moore (42nd & Irving).
Left to right Stephanie Haver (42nd & Julian), Brigid & Lucy Moore (42nd & Irving)

This photo was taken outside of the Mt. St. Vincent home at 41st & Lowell, on the day the Pope came to visit in August of ’93. The girls were selling Kool-Aid, and a Secret Service agent came by and bought some. She was obviously Secret Service; who else wears long pants and a dark blazer when it’s 90+ outside? She was real sweet to the girls. Other agents were on the rooftop of the home.

I’m guessing there were over 1000 people gathered. We were on Lowell at 42nd, others were on the street along 41st. At one point, all the crowd along Lowell roared with delight as a man in white came out through a side door. Turns out the guy was a kitchen worker emptying a trash bin. He was pleased with the warm reception and waved back.

The Pope did come out the door at some point along 41st, but we never saw him.

B50 Note: Mount St. Vincent’s Children’s Home (originally the Saint Vincent’s Orphan Asylum) was established by Bishop J.P. Machebeuf and the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1882. Located at 4159 Lowell, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1902. The historical photo was taken by L.C. McClure, circa 1905. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library Western History Collection,

remembering city spirit, part 2

—by Mona Lucero

every summer, city spirit would host fashion shows from the years 1994 to 1996 (not sure what years they were exactly). denver fashion designers always looked forward to showing their designs. there were as an amazing variety of fashion being shown. the designers themselves and the models came from many different points of view and walks of life.

in one show, you might see uzi designs (they sold their designs and other fetish-wear on colfax and pennsylvania, garden girl dresses (a retro-look if memory serves me right), ladybug clothing (fashion-forward), nur jewelry (the models would wear african-inspired headwraps), sugar twist kids (club kids who made everything they were wearing including their very high platform shoes which made them tower above everyone else in the show) and my own designs. at the time, i used the fashion shows to force me to come out with new lines on a regular basis as i was beginning my wholesale business. my big designs back then were candy-colored fake fur jackets, hats & bags and mini a-line skirts (some things never change!) and little mini-dresses with contrast vinyl banding at the empire waist.

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i’m sure all the participating designers were working really hard beforehand and when everyone arrived and dressed in the basement of city spirit, there was a lot of excitement in the air. each “posse” would check out what everyone else was wearing. you could always count on uzi to make a big scene even before the show. they would undress without modesty and make a lot of noise doing it. my models were pretty girly so they would scurry to dress behind the portable doctor’s screens that we used as dressing rooms.

someone from the restaurant would come down, i think i remember the owner, susan wick coming down once, and try to get everyone’s attention and finally announce that the show was about to begin. before you knew it, the room had emptied and the show was on. while waiting to go on, the groups of fashion models would wait behind the restaurant.

once my models told me they were ready to get into a scrap with the sugar twist kids in the alley because they were dissing my fake fur clothes. it was definitely a competitive atmosphere at times but i think everyone enjoyed the competition and vying for the audience’s attention.

once you got through the restaurant, there was a runway on the sidewalk where people were sitting in chairs. a lot were fans of the designers, but there were a lot people walking through on their way to the bars in lodo and they were in a for a big surprise but they seemed to love it. there was a lot of hooting and hollering.

in the second year, the show had gotten so much word of mouth, that it was necessary to open another space next to the restaurant. the music was eclectic and you never knew what was going to play next. most of the modeling was more like dancing. occasionally, a person from the audience would get up and groove on the runway. the craziest moments were always provided by uzi. they would feature models in diapers or with whips and i remember hearing from a few shocked but amused audience members that the uzi people were whipping onlookers.

i learned a lot from doing those shows. i’ll never forget clio ortiz’s work. it was my second fashion show ever and she had about a dozen gorgeous black models, all in “body-conscious” red dresses with black hats. it was a lesson in branding for me and i knew i had a lot to learn and i did! thanks, city spirit, tracy weil and especially susan wick for so generously hosting such fun fashion extravaganzas!

B50 note: Mona Lucero is a fashion designer and proprietor of Mona Lucero Design, located at 2544 15th St, Denver, CO 80211. For more on City Spirit, read part 1 of the story…

Remember City Spirit? I do.

— by Tracy Weil,

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In 1988 I graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango and headed to Denver to try and find a job in the “big city.” Not really ready to start working a regular day job, I happened across an artful place called City Spirit Cafe. I dropped in and fell in love with the vibrant pink walls and playful tile mosaics covering the entire restaurant. I asked if they were hiring wait staff and sure enough they were. This is where I met owners Mickey and Susan.

The cafe was the brain child of local developer Mickey Zeppelin and artist Susan Wick. They opened the award winning cafe & bookstore in 1985 in the up and coming area called LoDo. They also enlisted Michael Fagen to help put together the fabulous Art & Architecture bookstore in the basement of this new venture. City Spirit Cafe served health conscious fare as well as sinful desserts. After 9pm the cafe was the place to be, regularly hosting live musicians like Johnny Long, Lionel Young, Eagle Park Slim & Sympathy F as well as live local djs like DJ Knee.

As an artist I fit right in. This is where I got my start with my first exhibition in the Art Annex next door to the cafe. I waited tables for about 3 years, then started bartending and managing the restaurant. I also booked bands and moved into handling special events and PR for the thriving cafe.

As a community meeting place, City Spirit always hosted interesting things to bring people together; from talks, to seminars, to poetry readings to fashion shows there was always something going on.


One of the most memorable fashion events was “Fashionhomemade,” the 5th annual show and one of the more wilder fashion extravaganzas. The fashion shows were always interesting and this small cafe drew over 1000 people this particular evening.

We took over Blake Street and the back alley, setting up tables for service and a runway right down the middle of the cafe. Le Menu consisted of fresh salads, Brie and roasted garlic, artichokes & the signature salsa and blue corn chips. Other tasty fare included; seafood lasagna & mussels, along with the deluxe tamale plate, Paella and Asian Lo Mein.

Another signature item was the famous and potent City Spirit La La. This “pre-cosmo” was a must have while sitting at the bar, limit of 4. I’ve included the recipe below for those nostalgics that would like to recreate it.

The fashion show started around 9:30pm and included lots of local designer talent including handmade knits and redo clothing by Susan Wick, vintage clothes from Soul Flower & designs made of astro-turf by Alicia Nowicki, Carol Mier sculptural fashions, uncommon & eclectic work by Mona Lucero, and S&M Housewife & tupperwear kink by now NYC designers Uzi (Jose Duran & David Ball). Other designers included Claire Inwood, Heidi Peterson, Shelly Schoeneshoefer, Cleo Ortize Couture, Colorado Institute of Art Students, Cydney Griggs, Chitahka Nsombie, Nur D’afrique, Gayla Coleman, Saohm Hattier & Jerry Whitehead. After the show patrons were invited downstairs to browse and buy all the creative wears in the show and the event ended with dancing at 11pm with music by dj Afro-dytee.

The café was also a great place to meet famous musicians all looking for a heathly place to eat on the road. Over my 10 years at the café I met or crossed paths with Beck, Allison Morissette, Boy George, Lauryn Hill, Digable Planets,The Fugees, Tool, Lenny Kravitz and The Brand New Heavys. The Smashing Pumpkins even made a special unplugged appearance one night after their concert in town.

What a place! City Spirit will always have a special place in my heart; here I learned what community was all about. We’d love to hear your memories of the café please post below.

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City Spirit Café La La: Sold for $4 (limit 4)
1 ½ oz. Absolut Vodka
3 oz. Knudsen’s Cranberry Juice
Splash of Cointreau
Splash of Rose’s Lime Juice or fresh lime juice
Serve chilled in a martini glass with a Twist of Lemon

City Spirit was located at 1434 Blake Street. All the tile-work was torn out but remnants of the space, including parts of the bar, can still be seen at Taxi in RiNo.

Feed The Kids

The Two Significant Guys encourage the feeding of kids while speaking of the importance of family values. They also eat mexican food and report on the implosion of buildings, including the Truckers Terminal and Montgomery Wards. Recorded in Denver in 1991 and 1992 with Hugh Graham and Ray Schelgunov under the direction and camera of Mike Reddick.