Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Christmas is over, but the city's lights glow on

Christmas is over, but the holiday show is still up at the Denver City & County Building. This season's run will end sooner than usual, with the steps cleared of the Nativity and Santa's horrific hoedown on January 15 to make way for the Big Air show coming to Civic Center Park January 25-26. But that riot of lights illuminating City Hall will stay on through January 23 and the end of the National Western Stock Show.

And we've had a glimmer of light regarding the missing Christmas painting, a 76-foot mural created in 1935, shortly after the building was finished, by Louise Emerson Ronnebeck. She's the focus of Louise Emerson Ronnebeck: A New Deal Muralist in Colorado, now at the Byers-Evans House Gallery.

Although her mural disappeared soon after she created it, there have been hints of it in the subsequent decades. In the '80s, for example, the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation was still in charge of the holiday lights -- but then passed the job to Public Office Buildings. That's when John Hall, head of POB, heard about the mural, and went looking.

"We checked the 'attic' of the City and County Building and asked Parks and Recreation to check their warehouses with no results," he reports. "I gather it's lost to time, much like the Allen True murals that were in the old Carnegie Library. Should probably do an art history mystery."

Let there be light.

For more on the City and County Building light display, read Calhoun's Wake-Up Call archives.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun