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).

Three Short Stories about my Irish Family

— by Dennis Gallagher

Story One: William J. Gallagher, Sr.

My grandfather, William J. Gallagher, Sr., in the cab of the old 303 engine on the Rio Grande Railroad (circa 1950).
My grandfather, William J. Gallagher, Sr., in the cab of the old 303 engine on the Rio Grande Railroad (circa 1950).

My Grandfather, William Gallagher, came to America from his native Ireland in the early 1900’s. He was born in William Butler Yeats’s country, County Sligo. When he arrived on the eastcoast, he saw a lot of signs up at work places, “No Irish Need Apply.”

But he heard a rumor that in Colorado, Railroads would hire even Irish lads willing to work.

So he came here to Colorado, got to Denver and took the test for the Moffat Railroad, the old Denver and Salt Lake, later bought by the Rio Grande line which still goes through the tunnel to Winer Park. He got a 100% on the exam for engineer. Those hiring at the railroad said, “That Irishman must have cheated. He’ll have to take the test again. And this time we’ll watch him.”

So my grandfather took the test again, and they watched him, and Gallagher got 100% again. This time they said, “well maybe we need this guy afterall.”

Now because of this experience, my grandfather always lectured me: “Dennis, you have to be twice as good as the Anglo-Saxons. You have to work twice as hard as the Anglo Saxons. They will never accept you, and you have to fight for every chance offered you by this great country.” His story , his experience, his initial workplace slight, made us sensitive to the needs of others in our society who were different and not accepted by those in power.

He worked for quite a few years for the Moffat and then many years for the Rio Grande. And I thank him for this important life’s lesson. I think of him when I pass the old Moffat Station, abandoned, but still there, north on 15th Street just west of the rail tressle as you head toward My Brother’s Bar, I say an ‘Ave” for him.

Story Two: William J. Gallagher, Jr.

My father, William J Gallagher, Jr., and I in front of old Engine Company #7 at West 36th and Tejon St (circa 1975)
My father, William J Gallagher, Jr., and I in front of old Engine Company #7 at West 36th and Tejon St (circa 1975)

My father, William Gallagher, Jr., was the fourth firefighter hired in the late 30’s in a year when Denver only hired four firefighters. He was assigned to the old Barnum Neighborhood station. It was located about 7th and Knox Court. The officer in charge showed him his bed and his locker. After lunch another firefighter came up to him and told him, “Gallagher, you Irish Catholics on that side of the fire truck and we Kluxers on this side of the fire truck. Don’t come over to this side.”

During the mid-20’s Denver city government and agencies were ruled by the KKK. My dad could not believe it, that there were still Kluxers on the fire department….with enough anti-Irish Catholic residuality to be dumb enough to talk about it with folks.

After work my father met the Klansman on the way to his car in the parking lot. He engaged the Kluxer in a mopping up action for which he would most likely have been fired for today. But he told me that that guy never mentioned religion or the Klan again. A civil detente reigned after that in the Barnum firehouse.

Story Three: Nellie Flaherty

My beautiful mother, Nellie Flaherty, and I (in elephant pants) on the porch of 2825 Hooker in North Denver (circa 1944).
My beautiful mother, Nellie Flaherty, and I (in elephant pants) on porch of 2825 Hooker in North Denver (circa 1944).

My mother, Nellie Flaherty, loved music and the theatre. She had a friend who worked as the hat checker at the old Denver Auditorium Theatre, now the Ellie Caulkins. During the mid-20’s when our city was ruled by the Ku Klux Klan, she often helped her friend, Patricia Delaney, and checked coats and hats at the city auditorium. At that time John Galen Locke, Grand Dragon of the KKK, came to the auditorium, the crowd would all rise and sing “God Bless America,” as he took his seat in the Mayor’s Box.

My mom told me that Pat Delaney would laugh heartily and then say : “Nellie Flaherty, you hide here among these fur coats. We don’t want those Kluxers to see a fine Irish Catholic girl here in the check room.” The girls showed lots of chutzpah by laughing behind the backs of the Kluxers.

B50 Note: Dennis Gallagher is currently the Denver City Auditor, and is a former City Councilperson, State Senator, and State Representative. He is also Professor Emeritus from Regis University and well-known in the local community as a historian, storyteller, and man about town.