Denver Debris

No matter how much you prepare to visit a city you don’t know well — and I try not to overdo it — surprises will turn up. Details you’ll only encounter in person. Such as Denver’s Rainbow Row.

Bail Bond Row Denver

That’s just my name for it, borrowed from the genteel Rainbow Row of Charleston. Denver’s version is not genteel. For one thing, it’s across the street from the 488,000-square-foot Denver Justice Center. That is, the city/county jail.

The colorful buildings all house bail bondsmen. It’s only speculation, but I’d guess that one of them painted its building a bright color to stand out, then the others did.

Speaking of colorful structures, not far away is the Denver Central Library.
Denver Public LibraryMore of a pastel effect. Though maybe “pastel” is too banal a term when you’re aiming to challenge assumptions about public spaces and discourse, or fracture public library paradigms, or something.

Anyway, Michael Grave Architecture & Design, which designed a major expansion of the library in the 1990s, notes: “This project, won through a design competition, included the preservation and renovation of the 1956 147,000 SF modernist library by Burnham Hoyt, and a 390,000 SF expansion. The expansion is composed as a series of elements to allow the existing building to read as one part of a larger composition.”

The library is across the street from the Denver Art Museum. Outside the museum is this sculpture.
The Big SweepLooks familar. Yes indeed, it’s a Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen work, “Big Sweep” (2006). (What, that wasn’t the name of one of Raymond Chandler’s best books?)

Art etiquette is right there in bronze, next to the work.
The Big SweepAfter visiting the museum, I spent a while at the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration just outside on the plaza. Featuring dancers.
Denver PowwowAnd drummers. Cool.
Denver PowwowOutside of Union Station, I saw a Tesla Model X. Haven’t seen those very often. Ever, actually.
Tesla X, Denver Union StationClose inspection shows that it belongs to the Crawford Hotel, which is part of Union Station. An upper-crust guest shuttle, no doubt.

On my last day in town, I worked in some shared office space — all the rage right now. I prefer my own office most of the time, but it was pleasant space. I didn’t mind working there for a few hours. Had a nice outdoor component, for one thing, with the Front Range off in the distance.
Shared office space, DenverI worked at this counter. People came and went, preparing light eats for themselves.
Shared office space, DenverAbove the counter was this. A hell of a light fixture, I’d say. Machine Age chic for Millennials.
Shared office space, DenverIn the same room were old machines made into illuminated works of art. Such as this typewriter + light bulbs, the likes of which I’d never seen before.
Shared office space, DenverA semi-circular, very old (late 19th century) Hammond machine. Looks like a 1b. Non-qwerty. Light bulbs added for effect, presumably.

Then there’s this curiousity. Again, light bulbs added.
The Davis & Kidder Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous DiseasesQuestionable Medical DevicesA 19th-century medical device. Reminds me of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis, now unfortunately closed.

I had the good fortune to visit that museum in 1998, and retain a pamphlet from it to this day.

The machine I saw in Denver is a specific device. The Wood Library Museum says: “In 1854, manufacturer W.H. Burnap produced a well-known electrotherapy device that was purchased by the general consumer as well as some physicians and hospitals: The Davis & Kidder Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases.

“The operator of this electromagnetic generator would place handles in the patient’s hands or elsewhere on the patient’s body and then turn a crank to deliver a ‘mild’ alternating current to the patient. The force of the current depended upon the speed with which the crank was turned.

“The makers claimed that it could relieve pain, as well as cure numerous diseases, including cancer, consumption (tuberculosis), diabetes, gangrene, heart disease, lockjaw (tetanus), and spinal deformities.”

One more thing. No Double Turn? What’s that supposed to mean? I saw several of these signs downtown.


I think I figured it out. No left turns except from the left lane. Denver is the only place I’ve ever seen such a sign.

Fairmount Cemetery, Denver

A handy list of “notable burials” at the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver is posted at Wikipedia. So handy that the cemetery web site doesn’t bother with its own list, it merely links to the Wiki site.

Like the list of interred notables at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, I didn’t recognize any of them. Like Arkansas history, I’m shockingly ignorant of the details of Colorado history, particularly the names of governors, Denver mayors, U.S. Senators and Congressmen from the state, local judges, newspaper editors, businessmen, ranchers and others. All those classes of achievement are represented by the Fairmount dead.

Some are intriguing. Such as Arlene White Lawrence, (1916–1990), bishop and the third president and general superintendent of the Pillar of Fire Church. Great name, that. Seems that the Pillar of Fire International is a Methodist sect. Methodists have splinter sects? This one goes back to one Alma Bridwell White.

Encyclopædia Britannica on White: “An intense experience of personal sanctification in March 1893 induced White to organize a series of revival meetings at which she attempted to recover the fervour and piety of primitive Methodism.

“Her zealous emotionalism, together with her outspoken criticisms of the decorous accommodations of the Methodist hierarchy, brought the wrath of conservative churchmen down on White and her husband [a Methodist minister], who was transferred to a still-less-desirable pastorate. She eventually persuaded him to resign altogether.”

Ah, those “decorous accommodations.” Not Where Jesus Would Live, she probably believed. Or Wesley either. The couple then founded what would become the Pillar of Fire Church. Arlene White Lawrence was their granddaughter, who obviously went into the family business eventually. The church, headquartered in New Jersey, is an ongoing thing.

That’s a digression from a Denver cemetery, but cemeteries are good places to digress, as you ponder the stones and the names and the dates. I didn’t happen to see Lawrence’s stone, but never mind. There was a lot else to look at Fairmount, founded in 1890 and sprawling over 280 acres.

Fairmount Cemetery, DenverFairmount Cemetery, DenverFairmount Cemetery, DenverFairmount Cemetery, DenverA sizable mausoleum.

Fairmount Cemetery, DenverAn even bigger one.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver - Eben SmithEben Smith was a Colorado mine baron of the late 19th century. I can only imagine that meant he was a ruthless bastard. Something the position called for.

“Destined to be grand from the start, Fairmount was designed by Reinhard Schuetze, whose success at Fairmount immediately became the talk of Denver,” the cemetery web site says. “He subsequently designed City, Congress and Washington Parks, as well as the areas around the Capitol. Today, Schuetze is known as the father of Denver’s park system.

“Fairmount is home to Colorado’s most extensive arboretum, filled with numerous Champion Trees and one of the largest collections of Heritage Roses in North America.”
Didn’t see any roses, but the trees were all around. Probably some Champions and a lot of also-ran trees too.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver

Fairmount Cemetery, Denver“The cemetery’s two original buildings, the Little Ivy Chapel and the 1890 Gate Lodge, are designated historic Denver landmarks. And the Fairmount Mausoleum contains one of the largest stained glass collections in Colorado.”

The charming Little Ivy Chapel, with a French Gothic look.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver - Little Ivy ChapelThe nearby Chapel in the Pines.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Chapel in the PinesThe stately Fairmount Mausoleum. The aforementioned stained glass must be those windows, but I didn’t have time for a closer look.
Fairmount Cemetery, DenverI spotted a less conventional grave site, of fairly recent vintage, near one of the cemetery entrances. A young woman named Jessica, 1986-2009, a victim of a modern plague.
Fairmount Cemetery, DenverSculptor Sutton Betti writes about the memorial: “The project was installed… March 29, 2012, and is my second permanent installation in Colorado. Although there is [sic] no figurative elements in the piece, I enjoyed making it, as this is something quite unique from my past work.

“Commissioned by Jessica’s mother, the memorial is designed to show the young woman’s love of snowboarding. Being a snowboarder myself, I was able to understand her daughter’s love of the sport.”

A Few Views From the Wells Fargo Center, Denver

During my stay in Denver, I had an event to attend in the Wells Fargo Center, the third tallest building in Denver, big enough (about 1.2 million square feet) for its own zip code: 80274.
Wells Fargo Center, DenverThe 1983-vintage building’s distinctive curving roof, a Philip Johnson touch, was barely visible from where I stood, near 17th Ave. and Sherman St. The neighboring streets there are Lincoln, Sherman, Grant and Logan. I sense a postbellum naming scheme.

The event was about mid-way up the tall tower, high enough for views of the city and surrounding territory, though glare from the window glass and haze in the sky obscured things a bit. Still, here’s another view of the capitol.
Colorado capitolSome neighboring tall buildings.
Downtown DenverThis caught my eye.
Sherman Street Event Center, DenverIt’s the prosaically named Sherman Street Event Center, 1770 Sherman St., catching the late summer morning sun. It used to have better names: in order, the Mosque of the El Jebel Shrine, the Rocky Mountain Consistory, and the Scottish Rite Temple. The Shriners had it built in 1907, onion domes and all.

Denver Under Construction

Yesterday I gushed about adaptive reuse of historic buildings in Denver. That’s worth gushing about, but it’s also good to see new construction rising in a city. I saw a lot of that in Denver.

For example, the Golden Triangle Apartments on 13th Ave. (in the foreground, and not yet out of the ground).
The Coloradan, behind Union Station. A condo development.
The Grand, also near Union Station (two apartment towers).
DaVita’s new corporate headquarters. DaVita owns dialysis centers nationwide.
Further afield, there’s suburban development. I know it’s out there. I saw this on the RTD.
Note that it promises only the gateway to the “life you deserve.” It’s up to you to get through it.

Denver Union Station and Larimer Square

Hot dry days here in northern Illinois around the equinox. Seems like September making up for the cool August, and the wet spring, but in any case it can’t last. It’s like walking on a shallow ledge far away from shore. Without warning the water’s going to get deep, just as you got used to ambling along only getting your feet wet. The cold will come just like that.

This is what Denver Union Station looks like, from across Wynkoop St. toward the grand entrance, in the early years of the 21st century. That is, earlier this month.
Denver Union StationIt’s easy to get sentimental about trains (this song does so too, but remarkably also addresses the evil done with trains at times). It’s especially easy to get sentimental in the presence of a refurbished structure from the golden age of American railroading.

In the late 19th century, a number of railroads serving Denver collaborated to erect Union Station. A fire and some rebuilding put it in its 20th century form by 1914. The years passed and countless thousands of people passed through the station at the edge of the Rockies.

By the latter years of the century, the place was run down, as passenger train service became a shadow of its former self. In our time — the 2010s — the ad hoc Union Station Alliance revived the place. Kudos to all those Denver companies in the Alliance: Urban Neighborhoods Inc., Sage Hospitality, Larimer Associates, REGen, and McWhinney.

As befitting more recent times, the station is now more than a transit nexus, though it’s still that, with Amtrak serving the station, as well as light rail, commuter rail and buses. Modern Union Station also includes the 112-room Crawford Hotel and 22,000 square feet of ground-floor shops and restaurants.

The 12,000-square-foot Great Hall serves as the hotel lobby, public space, and train waiting room. And as a place for me to rest during my walkabout in downtown Denver.
Denver Union StationBut I didn’t rest too long. I wanted to see the other side.

Denver Union Station

The shed in front (or behind) the main structure is where three RTD light rail lines converge. Directly underground is the bus station. A good idea: less aesthetic buses are underground, better-looking (and cooler) light rail runs at ground level, easy to see. Note also that there are places to lock up bicycles. Multimodal for sure.

From Union Station I wandered through parts of Lower Downtown — known to the real estate industry as LoDo — passing other redevelopment projects.

LoDo Denver 2017 Ice HouseDenver 2017But I didn’t go as far as Coors Field.
LoDo Denver 2017Before long I came to Larimer Square. The heart of the square, the 1400 block of Larimer St., was temporarily blocked off; a gastronomic event was slated for later in the evening, under lights and Colorado flags.

Larimer Square 2017Larimer Square 2017This stretch of Larimer St. is historic as it gets in Denver: the oldest commercial block in the city, laid out by land speculator and Denver City founder William Larimer Jr. in the late 1850s. He was also instrumental in establishing the Colorado Territory (until 1861, Denver City and environs were in the western part of the Kansas Territory).

For much of the 20th century, the neighborhood was a skid row, and by the mid-60s, that rapacious destroyer of interesting historic neighborhoods, Urban Renewal, threatened to raze the area. Fortunately the efforts of citizens, especially Dana Crawford, saved the block — and a lot more of old Denver. Crowford’s still at work.

In The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America’s Communities (2016), Stephanie Meeks and Kevin C. Murphy write:

“True to the time, the original proposal to turn Larimer Square and its environs around, as conceived by the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, was a massive 117-acre project called Skyline that threatened to raze thirty blocks of the historic downtown. Dana Crawford had another vision for Larimer Square.

” ‘Downtown Denver was pretty much intact from its Victorian boom days and it reminded me a lot of Boston,’ said Crawford. So, even as Jane Jacobs was going toe-to-toe with Robert Moses for the future of Lower Manhattan, Crawford… with her friends and neighbors, began buying older buildings in the blighted area, often for little more than the price of the land they sat on.”

Much more effort followed, but that was the beginning of modern Larimer Square — a superb example of adaptive reuse of historic buildings, ongoing for five decades now, and currently owned by Larimer Associates, who carries on the revitalization.

Larimer Square 2017

Larimer Square 2017Larimer Square 2017Larimer Square 2017I enjoyed just walking around, looking at the buildings. The fact that the street was about to be given over to an event added to the sensation.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Not far west of Denver, near Morrison, Colo., is Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, occupying about 900 acres in the iron-oxide tinted sandstone foothills of the Rockies. At the heart of the park, enormous outcroppings, roughly 300 feet high, form a natural amphitheater. It’s a place to stand and gape. That’s what I did.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017

Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017

So did a lot of other people. One thing to do was stand at the top of the man-made structure within the natural amphitheater, and look down.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017Down at the stage, which is backed by an outcropping.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017Or wander down toward the stage and look back.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017When there are no concerts, which is most of the time, the hard seats attract fitness enthusiasts to walk, run, do push-ups.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2017In prehistoric times, Utes lived around here, and I wonder if they gathered in the natural amphitheater. I like to think they did, for religious ceremonies, or maybe just to party. By the early 20th century, concerts and other events were being held there.

The City and County of Denver acquired the property in the 1920s, and in the 1930s, the CCC built a structure nestled into the natural amphitheater, using a design by Denver architect Burnham Hoyt, who reportedly modeled it after the Theater of Dionysus at the Acropolis in Athens.

I didn’t have time to take in a concert there. But if I ever make it back to Denver in the summer, I’m going to make the effort. The acoustics are supposed to be jim-dandy. Almost everyone who’s anyone has played at Red Rocks since the end of WWII. More about the venue is here.

The CCC workers haven’t been forgotten.
Red Rocks CCC worker statue, 2017Not officially, anyway. CCC Alumni Chapter 7, along with the City and County of Denver, dedicated the statue in 1988. The plaque at the base of the statue says:

Dedicated as a memorial to all who served at Mt. Morrison and the 3 million who served in the CCC nation-wide [sic], 1933-1942. The CCC left its heritage in the preservation of America’s natural resources for enjoyment by all generations.

Guess CCC alumni are pretty thin on the ground these days — and former WPA workers, too — like veterans of WWII.

As the name says, the area is more than just the amphitheater, as excellent as that is. The park sprawls out in all directions, offering the kind of views you just don’t get in the Midwest.

Red Rocks Park, Colorado, 2017Red Rocks Park, Colorado, 2017Red Rocks Park, Colorado, 2017Red Rocks Park, Colorado, 2017Red Rocks Park, Colorado, 2017Red Rocks Park, Colorado, 2017Off to the east, suburbs, and downtown Denver, are visible from the amphitheater, as well as from perches elsewhere in the park. But on September 10, the view that far was a little hazy.

That was because of the thin smoke of Colorado forest fires, I found out later. A hint of the natural disasters that seem to be stalking the Earth with special intensity right now, though that’s an illusion. There’s always something bad (for humans) happening somewhere.

The Denver Art Museum

At first, approaching from some blocks away, I didn’t realize this was one of the main buildings of the Denver Art Museum, which I visited on the afternoon of September 9.
Denver Art Museum, North Building 2017I spent some time looking at it, though, because it isn’t like anything else in the area. I had a thought that shows my age: crumpled punch card.

If I ever asked my daughters, or one of their contemporaries, what’s a punch card? the answer I would surely get is, I don’t know. But I remember seeing them as late as the early ’80s. Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.

The building, known as the museum’s North Building, is from the age of punch cards, completed in 1971 and one of the last works of architect Gio Ponti. Modernist Ponti’s work is otherwise unrepresented in North America and, having never been to Milan (or made any systematic study of the built environment), I had only a meager notion of his work.

There’s a helpful exhibit in the museum about the early history of the organization and the construction of the North Building, and then the development of the much newer Hamilton Building, completed only in 2006. That building is so horizontal that an image was hard to capture in one go, unless you step back further than I cared to.

Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building 2017Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building 2017If the North Building is Modernist, the Hamilton is Postmodernist? I suppose. Odd geometry for the sake of odd geometry by starchitect Daniel Libeskind. Interesting to look at, certainly. Like the Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge in greater Cincinnati, unfinished the last time I was in that town.

As any art museum of any size should — and it’s credited with being the largest art museum between Chicago and the West Coast — DAM has a wealth of works on display, and no doubt a sizable inventory in storage. Too much for any one visit: European and American art of earlier centuries, Asian works, Pre-Columbian items and a Spanish Colonial collection, modern African and Oceanic pieces, photography, textiles and more.

I’d read that one of DAM’s specialties was American Indian art, and so it is. Like the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, the collection includes Indian art and artifacts of historic interest, but also artwork by 20th- and 21st-century Native Americans.

I spent a fairly long time in these galleries, beginning with earlier items, such as this room, which naturally reminded me of the the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.

Denver Art Museum

Except for this work, “Blanket Story: Confluence, Heirloom, and Tenth Mountain Division” by Marie Watt, 2013.  Denver Art Museum

Which is composed of a very tall stack of blankets, “donated mostly by members of the local community,” said the plaque, which I take to mean the Seneca, since Watt belongs to that tribe. I asked a docent how the stack was held up; she said the artist and the curator probably knew, but she didn’t. There was no visible means of support.

Another room sports various vessels, in this case the works of Zia artists in New Mexico.
Zia bowls, Denver Art MuseumMoving forward in time, “Sacro-Wi” by Oscar Howe, 1967.
"Sacro-Wi" by Oscar HoweHe sounded familiar. Turns out he’s the same artist who did the interior murals at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Closer to our time, some parody: “American Spirit,” by David P. Bradley, 2004-05.

Denver Art MuseumAnd “Land O Bucks, Land O Fakes, Land O Lakes,” by the same artist, 2006. Reminded me very much of Wacky Packages, which were all the rage when I was in junior high.
Denver Art MuseumAs interesting as the works were, American Indian art was hardly the full extent of DAM. I also spent a while looking at European art from earlier centuries.
Denver Art Museum 2017Note the chairs. The older I get, the more I appreciate museums with seating with backs.

A detail from a striking painting in that room, “La Famille du Saltimbanque: L’Enfant Blessé (The Family of Street Acrobats: The Injured Child),” by Gustave Doré, ca. 1873.

Denver Art Museum

One of the other things he did was wood-engraved illustrations for “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

And now for something completely different: a detail from “Thomas Sheppard,” by Andrea Soldi, 1773.
Denver Art MuseumSomething even more different: a Chinese bamboo carving.
Denver Art MuseumBy that time I saw that I’d wandered off into a gallery dedicated to a collection of East Asian bamboo carvings of considerable variety and virtuosity. I must have seen such things while in East Asia, but time passes, and you forget.

Among other things, writings about bamboo were also posted in the room. Such as a poem attributed to Su Shi, a Chinese poet, calligrapher and gastronome (1037-1101) of the Song dynasty, translated by Jan Walls. (How come I don’t remember this statue of Su Shi near the West Lake? I must have seen it.)

At a Reclusive Monk’s Green Bamboo Studio

I would rather eat a meal without meat
than live in a place without bamboo.
Eating without meat makes you lose weight,
but living without bamboo makes you lose refinement.
When a person loses weight, it may be regained,
but when scholars lose refinement they are untreatable.
Others will find these words funny,
seeming lofty and at the same time, crazy.
Ruminate on this carefully if you are wise,
or you will never ride a crane to Paradise.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and the Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness

There are two large churches in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver within walking distance of each other. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, on Colfax Ave., whose French Gothic facade must be impressive,  but which is undergoing restoration work, so I didn’t see much of it.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, DenverImmaculate Conception is the the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, built in the early 20th century. Its design, by one Leon Coquard of Detroit, was reportedly influenced by the Saint Nicholas Collegiate church of Munster in Moselle. Bishop Nicholas Chrysostom Matz, who had the basilica built, was from there.

The altar, statuary, and bishop’s chair are all made of Carrara marble, while other elements feature stone from Marble, Colo. A wedding party had the run of the basilica while I was there, getting ready for the ceremony, I think.
The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, DenverAccording to the basilica’s web site, its stained glass windows — all 75 of them — were crafted by F.X. Zettler Co. in Munich at the Royal Bavarian Art Institute, who did a lot of windows for American churches. “The firm and its secret for stained glass were destroyed during World War II,” the site also says, so presumably there won’t be any more made for anywhere else.

A few blocks away, deeper in the Capitol Hill neighborhood — where parking is tough — is Saint John’s Cathedral. Or in full, the Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness, a wonderful name. It’s the seat of the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.

It too is Gothic, dating from the early years of the 20th century, as a replacement for an earlier structure that burned down. The front was in shadow, so I captured an image of the church hemmed in by tall trees, from another angle. Wilderness all right.
Cathedral of St. John in the WildernessApparently the structure wasn’t quite built as planned, because of cost (what else?). According to the cathedral’s web site: “The two transepts, choir and great tower were never built. Only the nave was completed of limestone with a temporary’ brick chancel.”

Ah, well. It’s only been a century and change. Maybe these things will be built in the fullness of time.

Cathedral of St. John in the WildernessCathedral of St. John in the WildernessA nice, cool space on a hot day. I sat for a while and listened to an organist practice.

I saw one more church in the neighborhood, something unexpected: the Denver Community Church at 1595 Pearl St.

Denver Community Church at 1595 Pearl StObviously not originally a Christian church. In fact, the building used to be Temple Emanuel, built in the last years of the 19th century. A Baptist group bought the building in 1957, and a Pentacostal church did in 1977, so it hasn’t been a synagogue in a long time.

Denver Community Church, an independent evangelical group, acquired it in 2013. Wish the building had been open. Looks like an interesting space inside.

A Walk Around the Colorado State Capitol

Carved on the riser of one of the front steps of the Colorado State Capitol is a well- known phrase: One Mile Above Sea Level. I’ve read that the measurement has been resurveyed a couple of times, and that step isn’t actually at a mile, a lower one is. Never mind. This is the tourist mile-high line.

Mile High Line Colorado State CapitolAs part of the city’s identity, that metric is well known. I saw a group of Korean tourists (I’m pretty sure that’s what they were speaking) snapping away at the mile-high step just like I did.
Colorado State Capitol Mile High LineCurious. No doubt they only had a vague notion of a mile as a measurement, since presumably they’d be more familiar with the metric system and the traditional Korean units like the ri, which is about a quarter of a mile, a unit descended from the Chinese li.

Then again, that’s the spirit of tourism for you. If I found a carving in East Asia asserting that the spot was One Li Above Sea Level, I might want to pose with it too.

Whatever the elevation, the capitol dome is impressive.
Colorado State CapitolCopper panels gilded with gold leaf from a Colorado mine. Fittingly, since the state owes its origin to a gold rush. The capitol itself dates, as many capitols do, from the late 19th century, designed by Elijah E. Myers, who also did design work on the Texas and Michigan state capitols. He was the only person to work on three, it seems. Now that’s a Jeopardy question to stump the best of ’em.

A further-away exterior shot.

Colorado State CapitolNot visible is the fact that the building is “the first state capitol in the country to be cooled by geothermal power, completed in 2013,” notes the State of Colorado’s web site. “An energy performance contract issued in June 2012 by the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration and Chevron Energy Solutions allowed the upgrade of the Capitol’s HVAC system and installation of a geothermal well that heats and cools the House and Senate Chambers.”

As mentioned, the capitol was closed on Saturday. I got a good look around the grounds instead. The area isn’t heavy on memorials, not like some states, but there are a few. Such as this Colorado Union soldier.
The memorial mentions the Colorado Volunteers’ 22 battles and the names of the 279 who died. You’d think that would be OK, but it turns out that only most of those battles were for the Union. A few were against Indians, including the notorious Sand Creek Massacre, so there’s been some grumbling about the memorial.

An effort is under way to built a permanent memorial on the capital grounds to the victims of Sand Creek. If there’s a temporary memorial there now, I missed it. Adding that, I think, would be better than tearing down Billy Yank.

I did notice, on the other side of the capitol, a much less dramatic memorial.
There are two plaques on the structure, and two other spots seemingly made for plaques, but which are empty. One plaque honors Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr, who objected publicly to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, unlike all the other Western governors.

The plaque quotes him: “When it is suggested that American citizens be thrown into concentration camps, where they lose all privileges of citizenship under the Constitution, then the principles of that great document are violated and lost… we are disregarding the very principles for which this war is being waged against the Axis nations…”

His stance probably cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate in the 1942 election. He has a number of other memorials in the state in our time, however. The other plaque on the memorial is about the Amache detention camp (Granada War Relocation Center) in eastern Colorado.

Den-Tex ’17

Before my most recent visit to Texas, which ended today, I spent a few days in Denver. It was like a first visit, because the last time was in June 1980. I had a layover of six — eight? — hours as part of a bus odyssey from Texas to Utah that summer, and took the opportunity to kick around downtown Denver, including a visit to the state capitol and the U.S. Mint.

Though I only remember Denver faintly from that visit, this time around I still felt that there’s a lot more Denver than there used to be. Of course, as a matter of objective fact that’s pretty easy to check. The metro population in 1980 was about 1.3 million. Now the Census Bureau puts the metro population at 2.8 million, though it seems that the definition of the statistical area has expanded over the last three decades-plus.

So it’s a big place. I can see why people want to move there. There’s lots to recommend greater Denver, except for the traffic and some dodgy areas, but every big city has those.

My trip focused on metro Denver. I didn’t climb cathedral mountains, or see silver clouds below. Saturday before last, I started with a walkabout in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which included a look at two major churches, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) and St. John’s Cathedral (Episcopal).

I also had a late breakfast or early lunch — I can’t call it brunch, it just didn’t have that atmosphere — at a joint on E. Colfax Ave. called Tom’s Diner.

Tom's Diner, DenverDecorative stone walls, avocado and orange tiles, big windows, yellow-surfaced booth tabletops, a counter to sit at while facing the kitchen: it was like stepping into 1973.

Later, I headed over to the Denver Art Museum and spent time wandering through the galleries. Just outside the museum, the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration was going on that day, so I got to see some of that too.

I visited the Colorado State Capitol again, though just the grounds, since it was closed for the weekend. From there, I caught the no-charge bus that plies 16th Street through downtown, making my way to two urban spaces that I’ve written about a number of times, and which I very much wanted to see: Denver Union Station and Larimer Square. Both are superb examples of redevelopment.

I couldn’t visit urban Denver without riding the RTD, the city’s relatively new light rail system. I’ve written about it, too. I caught a train not far from Union Station.
RTD Denver Union StationA sleek, new system: it was everything it needed to be, depositing me near the Denver Convention Center. It wasn’t long before I found myself looking at “I See What You Mean.”
"I See What You Mean" DenverA 40-foot blue bear statue, the work of Lawrence Argent, installed in 2005. A lot of tourists reportedly take pictures of it. Why should I be any different?

After Saturday, I had less time for tooling around metro Denver, but I did squeeze in a few other places, such as Golden, Colo. Guess it counts as outer suburban Denver now, but in any case the town has some exceedingly pleasant public spaces, especially along Clear Creek (which is a river).

In Morrison, not far from Golden, I visited the extraordinary Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. I didn’t see a concert there, but I can see the appeal to both the musicians and the audience. It’s an uplifting, masterpiece of space design.

At Red Rocks — which is owned by the City and County of Denver — I took note of the flag of Denver (on the right).
Flags: Colorado, US, DenverI don’t remember seeing it before. Like the Colorado flag, it’s a fine design. (Number three on the American City Flags Survey of 2004.)

I wanted to visit two historic Denver cemeteries, but I only had time for one: Fairmount Cemetery. It’s a well-tended property, unlike Riverside, which is on the South Platte and supposedly has the virtue of being unkempt.

The Texas section of the trip was mostly devoted to work and family matters. But I did get out for a few hours one day to visit the King William District just south of downtown San Antonio. The last time I was there was ca. 1976. I mentioned that to a person even older than I am, and he said, “Yeah, I remember it then. It was a slum.”

Not any more. For example, the house at 425 King William St., according to Zillow at least, is for sale for $2.7 million.