Art Review


About a month ago, the Davis & Shaw building, at 1434 Champa Street, was sold to developer Randy Nichols, who immediately announced that he was planning to build a thirty-story condominium high-rise on the site. This is a genuine tragedy.

Davis & Shaw is a high-end furniture retailer that first opened in Denver 115 years ago, though the structure itself dates back only to the 1920s. Designed by Fisher and Fisher, one of Denver's preeminent architectural firms, the building is a gorgeous little gem that looks like it came right off the streets of Paris. It's a classic retail store from the period, having a grand iron canopy and a procession of show windows leading to the recessed front door. The facade is clad in cream-colored custom tile made by the Denver Terra Cotta Company. The style is an example of the short-lived neo-classical moderne, in which traditional forms such as columns were modernized through simplification.

Davis & Shaw is near the Colorado Convention Center, and it's too bad the building isn't somewhere else, like just a few blocks up Champa, near 17th Street, where so many well-cared-for historic buildings are located. Most of these architectural treasures are protected from demolition by the Downtown Denver Historic District. Davis & Shaw is surely fine enough to qualify for inclusion in that district, but the Wellington Webb administration specifically disallowed properties in an economic-development zone around the CCC from being on the list.

The proposed new building is already being designed, and although Nichols has not yet lined up financing, it's likely that he will. After all, he's well connected locally, having constructed the very successful Clayton Lane in Cherry Creek North, which was designed by David Owen Tryba Architects just a year or so ago.

Davis & Shaw is currently conducting a going-out-of-business sale, providing the perfect excuse to go and see it before it's gone.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia