Hangar 61

Saved by Colorado Preservation

In 1890, Benjamin F. Woodward, a tycoon who helped bring the telegraph to Colorado, commissioned Denver's premier architect, Frank Edbrooke, to design a mansion. Edbrooke, who had just completed his masterpiece, the Brown Palace Hotel, worked in the Richardsonian-Romanesque manner, the most important architectural style of the day.

Constructed of red brick with red sandstone accents, the mansion was a handsome landmark that stood for more than a century at 1530 Sherman Street until it was torn down last week. Like most losses of the historic architectural equity of the city, it didn't have to happen. But the long-term owner, the State of Colorado, had neglected it the way a slumlord would have, and its run-down condition sealed its fate. You would think that the state's historic preservation office might have intervened — but then, the powers-that-be at the Colorado Historical Society can't tell a history museum from a hole in the ground, so what would they know about preserving a historic mansion?

The sad story is all too typical here, which makes the pending restoration of Hangar 61 (pictured) at Stapleton unusual. Armed with grants from the State Historical Fund, Colorado Preservation purchased the hangar last month in order to save it. The hangar was built in 1959 to shelter the private plane used by Ideal Basic Cement Company, which was owned by the prominent Boettcher family. It incorporated then-new thin-shell concrete technology and was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Fisher and Fisher and Davis — the ancestor of the Davis Partnership. The hangar features intersecting hyperbolic arches stylistically linking it to the contemporaneous work of I.M. Pei, whose lost hyperbolic paraboloid had been built downtown just a few years before.

The irony of this tale of two historic buildings is that it's usually much easier to preserve nineteenth-century examples like the Woodward Mansion than twentieth-century ones like Hangar 61. I guess in Denver we truly do need to take the bad with the good, like it or not.

 
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