Capitol Hill Books Closes Temporarily After Truck Crashes Into Storefront

The aftermath of Wednesday night's crash.
The aftermath of Wednesday night's crash. William Kortz
Capitol Hill Books is closed today, November 19: A truck carrying Lime scooters crashed into the glass storefront at 300 East Colfax Avenue at 8:40 p.m. November 17, smashing into a glass bookshelf holding the store's most expensive rare books.

"Signed Richard Bachman books, signed first-edition little prints — they're ruined," says William Kortz, an employee who was first on the scene. At least 100 rare books and prints were damaged in the crash.

The rest of the store was saved by a heavy, old-fashioned radiator that blocked the truck from getting further inside. However, steam from the burst radiator hit the rare books and prints on the shelves.

"It was not so much the crash as the steam from the radiator pipe that broke that got the books," says owner Holly Brooks, who is in good spirits despite the shocking incident. "We'll be able to salvage some of the books; we just haven't started on that part yet. We need to get back in some sort of shape before we welcome people back into the rest of the store."

She continues: "That's what we're going to do today — sort through and find out what's lost and basically store what we can until we have access to this area again."
click to enlarge The truck, carrying Lime scooters, crashed into the store at 8:40 p.m. November 17. - WILLIAM KORTZ
The truck, carrying Lime scooters, crashed into the store at 8:40 p.m. November 17.
William Kortz
Brooks found out about the crash after employees at the Newhouse Hotel next door texted Kortz, who lives nearby. He immediately ran over. "It was a real shock when I arrived. It was like finding your kid under a truck. That's how I feel about this place; it's like a person. It just hurt a lot," he says.

It was also quite a present for Brooks, who got the news early November 18, her 71st birthday. "It's one I'll never forget!" she says.

The damaged books and prints are currently carefully piled in a corner of the store, and Brooks and crew are now looking for bookshelves to stash the materials they can salvage.

As for the front of the store, Brooks sees opportunity in the chaos. She's been in touch with the landlord about installing a new wall there. "No more glass," she says with a laugh. "We're thinking of making it a wall instead of windows so we can have a mural there. We have so much window space, so we won't lose a lot by losing those three windows."

click to enlarge "We are already starting to look better," the store's Facebook page reads. - CAPITOL HILL BOOKS FACEBOOK
"We are already starting to look better," the store's Facebook page reads.
Capitol Hill Books Facebook
No one at the bookstore knows how the truck crashed into the store, and the police "won't tell us anything," Brooks says.

The store has gone through tough times during the pandemic, and business was never easy, says Brooks, who bought the place fifteen years ago — it was founded four decades ago — and runs it as a labor of love. "It has to be," Brooks notes.  "You think anyone makes money off of used book shops?"

"She doesn't actually even take an income," Kortz adds. "She works here and she owns it and pours her heart and soul into it and doesn't take from it."

Despite this latest trial, Brooks is carrying on. "I've been absolutely determined," she says. "COVID, pandemic, truck — no matter what, this store is going to stand."

The bookstore has long been a favorite with Denver book lovers. Early on during the pandemic, when Westword reported that it was on the brink of closing, readers flooded the store with online orders that enabled the store to pay rent.
click to enlarge Steam, broken glass and more damaged around 100 rare books. - WILLIAM KORTZ
Steam, broken glass and more damaged around 100 rare books.
William Kortz
Capitol Hill Books has been putting updates on its Facebook page, where it now says it hopes to be open standard hours — 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 21.
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Emily Ferguson is Westword's Culture Editor, covering Denver's flourishing arts and music scene. Before landing this position, she worked as an editor at local and national political publications and held some odd jobs suited to her odd personality, including selling grilled cheese sandwiches at music festivals and performing with fire. Emily also writes on the arts for the Wall Street Journal and is an oil painter in her free time.
Contact: Emily Ferguson