Posts Tagged ‘lower downtown’

Photographing Denver 1984–1992

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

—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).

Remember City Spirit? I do.

Monday, January 19th, 2009

— by Tracy Weil, weilworks.com

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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.

Fashionhomemade

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.

Under the Viaducts

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

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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Feed The Kids

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

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.

Trucker’s Terminal Implosion, Part 2

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Walking past old buildings in Denver I hear whispered voices speaking all at once; trading cattle and dust, mourning lost babes and loves, planning a future for the irreverent, energetic young Denver.

Beside the voices ghost doors bang and creak. Ghost children pound muddy boots on stairs, pencil marks climb door jams like growth rings. Private, quiet, secret walls now share their scars where headboards rubbed, vanished staircases etch zigzag signatures on remnants of walls pocked with fist holes, peep holes, bullet holes.

The only completely silent building I knew was called the “Trucker’s Terminal.” It stood against Denver’s bright, windy sky – a pop-up rectangle that was its own tombstone. Quiet and pale, most folks didn’t even recognize it existed at all, until it didn’t… until its absence let a little more light onto Wazee Street for a few months… until the next monolith arose – a new baseball field was planned.

One Wednesday a demolition rig appeared. Belching and roaring it attacked The Terminal. With each huge swing of the wrecking ball a tiny chip of concrete fell onto the weed-webbed patch of pavement below. Rebar sprang from the wounds in silent, incomplete sentences.

To compensate, explosives were arranged and a celebration planned. History was to be made. At dawn, people filled fields and parking lots surrounding The Terminal. Tables went up. Silver coffee urns and trays of muffins kept the watchers busy for a time.

Late morning arrived and a rumor ringed the crowd, becoming truth; there would be no implosion that day. Refusing spectacle, The Terminal was choosing a more intimate passing.

The eventual destruction was attended by only a few small clusters of admirers. Afterward, as gigantic dust clouds rolled eastward in the implosion’s aftermath, watchers shouted, triumphant. The Terminal’s upper half stood intact, defiant, silent.

– Sharon Feder, sfeder.com

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