Best Of :: People & Places
In 1859, thousands of fortune-seekers braved the perils of the plains and joined the Rush to the Rockies, hoping to find a brighter future in the gold camps that had sprung up overnight in the western stretches of the Kansas Territory. Many of these prospectors turned back before they even saw the mountains; still others discovered just how tough it was to pull a living wage from the streams and gold mines, and instead settled in the little towns cropping up along the Front Range, including Denver. Exactly 150 years later, Denver's seeing tough times again. What better way to commemorate our hardscrabble past than to dress the panhandlers who beg at busy intersections in frontier duds, replacing their cardboard signs with pans that they can shake for gold, silver and other non-toxic Colorado assets.
Jill Hadley Hooper and Hugh Graham are two of this town's least-toxic assets, artists and entrepreneurs who've helped change the aesthetic landscape of the city. And in honor of Denver's 150th birthday, Graham and Hadley Hooper (who was included on Denver's list of 150 unsung heroes released last November) presented this town with a real gift: buckfifty.org, a website that celebrates the city's past and present. According to the buckfifty manifesto, "Denver has pulled its ass out of the fire any number of times. Whether it was the flood of 1864 (or 1965), the silver crash of 1893, the great depression, the oil bust of the eighties, or countless other struggles, Denver and the people who live here have reinvented themselves through community, art, and story." Anyone is welcome to submit a contribution to buckfifty, but better hurry — when it gets to 150 posts, the site will become a permanent time capsule.
Most of the new construction in LoDo apes the look of the original buildings there, but a few refer to the neighborhood's character more subtly. A triumph of this second, more sophisticated approach is the SugarCube, developed by Urban Villages and designed by the Toronto-based firm of KPMB (Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects). The site, right on the 16th Street Mall, is a sensitive one; the venerable 1906 Sugar Building by Gove and Walsh is right next door. While the details of the SugarCube are chicly neo-modern, KPMB created a buff-colored brick volume to visually associate the new building with the old one next door, and the SugarCube brick matches the Sugar Building brick. But that's just the beginning: The SugarCube also has the same sight lines at the roof, and its windows follow the older building's fenestration pattern. The SugarCube is not just the best addition to LoDo this past year; it's the best new building in many years.
When you enter the birthdates of Bill Owens and Ward Churchill into the free "Compatibility Report" at www.cafeastrology.com, it's clear that these two will never get along — unless they cross a significant barrier. For starters, the former governor's Saturn squares the former professor's Uranus to create distinct times when they will inevitably argue about restrictions of freedom (in Denver District Court, for example). Ward's Mercury doesn't feel free to express his ideas and is intellectually stifled by Bill's Pluto. Still, they share a trine in Mars that indicates an odd attraction to one another. So instead of footing the bill for a court case, fiscally responsible Colorado taxpayers should be seeking the services of a couples therapist for these two lusty Libras. If properly trained, Bill and Ward might experience the joy of mutually stifling one another — thereby releasing the rest of us.
John "Whip" Wilbur isn't just a DJ at Indie 101.5. In addition to hosting the morning show, the veteran jock serves as the station's music director and its most energetic booster, even fighting with the outlet's new ownership group to buy enough time for word of mouth to build. His love of the music and the daring mix he's assembled come through loud and clear with each syllable he mutters. At a time of struggle for terrestrial radio in general, he remains a true believer, and his passion is infectious.
The road to the 2008 Democratic National Convention was paved with freebies. Free meals, free parties, free stuff, free bags to hold said free stuff. Of course, 99 percent of it was useless (the windmill lapel pins given out wouldn't even look good on Al Gore), but there was one display of killer, if temporary, swag: a thousand free bicycles, courtesy of the Freewheelin bike-share program organized by the convention host committee, Humana Inc. and Boulder-based Bikes Belong. Thanks to the crowds and the beautiful weather, the slick new green bikes were the coolest way to get around. In fact, the city was so taken with the idea that it plans to unveil a similar bike-rental program this summer. That's change we can believe in.
"Elegance" isn't a description usually associated with a TV anchor's coiffure. "Bet you could bounce a quarter off it" is far more common. But every time she appears, 7News anchor/reporter Theresa Marchetta classes up the set. Although her tresses appear to have been tastefully tinted (only her hairdresser knows for sure — but she has twins, and has earned any gray), they flow naturally, with none of the plasticized sheen favored by so many of her professional peers. Talk about delivering the news with style.
Kyle Clark's cut is multi-dimensional. When he's on assignment, the hard-charging correspondent's mop looks mildly mussy yet still under control. Think of it as Action Hair that perfectly complements those Jake Gyllenhaal eyes. In the studio, however, his 'do — enhanced with a little product — exhibits unexpected complexity, with its waves and ripples suggesting a particularly fashionable topographic map. Destination: cool.
And our guess is it smelled bad...
After the oil crash of the 1980s, it took two decades for new high-rise projects to begin appearing again in downtown Denver — and now that mini building boom is going bust. Given the current economic climes, the few buildings nearing completion could be the last of their type for quite a while. The most promising of the group is 1800 Larimer, a project of Westfield Development. As planned by the Denver architectural firm of RNL Design, the building will rise 22 stories and be topped by a penthouse with a striking butterfly roof. The exterior walls will be distinctive, too, covered in a Mondrian-esque pattern with deep-blue glass panels. But this building isn't just about looking good; it's also been designed to be as "green" as possible, with the plans already LEED-certified. This high-rise should be a stunning addition to the downtown landscape, and since over 70 percent of it has been pre-leased, it's likely to actually get finished.
We weren't the only ones blown away by Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War, the very first book by Thomas Andrews, an assistant history professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His account of the events surrounding the 1914 Ludlow Massacre — in which the Colorado National Guard stormed a mining colony, resulting in the death of twenty people, including eleven children — was a stunning debut, full of insight into the role of labor and class not just in southern Colorado, but across the country. Andrews's efforts were recently recognized with the Bancroft Prize from Columbia University, the top American history award.
Back in 1908, the Democrats trucked in piles of snow to amuse delegates to the Democratic National Convention. A century later, the best entertainment inspired by the 2008 Democratic National Convention may leave a more permanent legacy. Celebrate 1908 was a two-day, multimedia festival of political and historical flashbacks that brought the issues and arguments of 1908 back to the Tivoli Turnhalle on the Auraria campus in late July. Technically a benefit for Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage, an organization that commemorates the Latino community that centered on the Casa Mayan restaurant, Celebrate 1908 was a true celebration of the people whove contributed to the melting pot of Denver over the past century.