There are many storied blocks in Denver, but none has more stories than the1400 block of Larimer Street. This stretch is only a few steps from where Denver got its start in1858 on the banks of Cherry Creek, just down from the confluence of the South Platte River, where gold was found that year. This block held Denver’s first bank, its first bookstore, its first photographer and dry goods store; it was home to the young town's first post office, first theater and first city hall. Over the years, the ramshackle cabins and storefronts were replaced by elegant Victorian buildings, and it became a major commercial district for the city.
Today Larimer Square is a go-to destination for residents, newcomers and visitors alike — much as it was a century ago. But a hundred years after Denver's founding, this historic block had slid into an ignominious status as the city's skid row.
Enter Dana Crawford. A native of Kansas who'd moved to Denver in the '50s, she looked around at a downtown where old buildings were being wiped off the map by the Denver Urban Renewal Authority and saw new possibilities. In 1963 she formed Larimer Square Associates and swooped in to save the structures of Larimer Square, building a lasting landmark for the city — and in the process becoming a civic landmark herself. Although Crawford no longer owns Larimer Square, she continues to be integral in preserving the past of this city — and helping to design its future.
Today you can learn the story of Larimer Square from Crawford herself at "Stories From the Square," part of a series of events celebrating Larimer Square's fiftieth anniversary, at the Comedy Works in the basement of Larimer Square's circa 1882 Granite Building. I'll be moderating a panel that features Crawford as well as Jeff Hermanson, the "legendary ski bum and developer" who bought the Square in 1993; and Dr. Colorado, historian (and bar expert) Tom Noel, who will recount what the 1400 block of Larimer looked like in the early '60s.
It's a far cry from what you'll find there today, and you can thank Crawford for that. Do it in person: Doors open at 4:30 p.m., with the panel discussion starting at 5, and questions are definitely encouraged. Tickets are $10, and you can stay for tonight's show at Comedy Works for another $5. Reserve your spot and find more information here.