Guess Which 6 of These Denver Buildings Are Officially Historic and Which 6 Aren't

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Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part story on landmark preservation in Denver. Click to read part one, "Want a Denver Building to Get Historic Status? It's Up to You!"

Everyone knows that the Molly Brown House is a historic landmark in Denver; in fact, the fight to save the Victorian structure from demolition led to the creation of Historic Denver in 1970. But just because a building is old doesn't mean it's an official historic landmark in this city; as our cover story, "Building for the Future," shows, getting landmark designation in Denver is a long, involved process.

As a result, many of the places that you think would be historic are not — while some surprising structures are now protected by Denver's Landmark Preservation rules. Keep reading for a look at six spots that make the list, and six that do not. You may be surprised!

1. Designated Historic: Edward L. Fox House
3225 Quivas Street

Though nondescript, the Edward L. Fox house was designated a Denver historic landmark based on its connection to Francis Schlatter, a spiritual healer. A transformative experience pushed the humble cobbler to start a faith-healing ministry, and Schlatter traveled the West before landing in Denver, where Edward Fox invited him to base his makeshift ministry inside this quaint house. In 1895, Schlatter attracted as many as 80,000 people to events, and followers could visit him at his Northside headquarters by taking a special trolley marked “Take This Car for the Healer.” The structure is a good example of how outstanding architecture isn’t always required for historic status; often it’s just enough that history happened here.

2. Not Historic: Anderson House
2329 Eliot Street

A classic representation of the late-1800s Queen Anne-style architecture that dots many of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, the Anderson House was recently deemed not worthy of saving by Denver City Council, after neighbors put up a fight. The building was once home to William W. Anderson, who was briefly the attorney for convicted murderer and admitted cannibal Alfred Packer; Anderson himself was later put on trial for the attempted murders of Denver Post publishers F.G. Bonfils and H.H. Tammen. But apparently those sordid stories weren’t enough to garner historic status for the tall house on the hill, and it is slated to disappear altogether from the quickly changing Jefferson Park neighborhood.

3. Historic: Smith’s Ditch
Washington Park

Joggers pass this unassuming little piece of Denver history whenever they make a loop around Washington Park. Smith’s Ditch is an open-air section of a 27-mile underground water system that was hand-dug in the late 1860s, running from what is now Chatfield all the way to Capitol Hill. Paid for in part by businessman John Smith, the water system was eventually purchased by the City of Denver. Only six miles of the channel are in use today by Denver Water, a section that runs from South High School to City Park. Also known as “The Big Ditch” or “The City Ditch,” this key piece of Denver’s water system was designated a historic landmark in 1977.

4. Not Historic: Lakeside Amusement Park
4601 Sheridan Boulevard

Opened in 1908 as White City, Lakeside Amusement Park has long outlived fellow amusement parks of yore — including the original Elitch Gardens, which closed in 1994, and Manhattan Beach, closed in 1914. Beyond its visual appeal, Lakeside would be a prime candidate for historic preservation because its construction was funded by prominent Denver businessman Adolph Zang. Packed with the grand architecture of many eras, as well as old-school shake-’em-up rides and hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights, Lakeside is definitely an asset to the area— but since it’s located in the tiny town of Lakeside, its status is out of Denver’s hands.
  5. Historic: Douglass Undertaking Building
2745 Welton Street

This humble structure dates back to the late 1800s, when it was originally built as a residence. In 1915, influential Denver architect Merrill H. Hoyt added the building’s neoclassical look. Later it became the Douglass Undertaking building — home of a business often thought to have been founded by L.H. Douglass, son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which relocated here in 1916, joining many African-American businesses in the neighborhood. Douglass Undertaking remained until 1944, and the building has housed many businesses since then, including a recent speakeasy. As a contributing property to the Five Points Historic District, it has historic status — and is now getting a facelift.

6. Not Historic: Original Brooklyn’s (J. Solf building)
2644 West Colfax Avenue

One of the few remaining Queen Anne structures in the Sun Valley neighborhood along old West Colfax Avenue, the J. Solf building was constructed in 1896. For the past three decades, it’s been the original Brooklyn’s; in the many decades before that, it was headquarters for the Schachet Mercantile Company, home to a kosher delicatessen and also a department store. Nearby sits Rude Park, named after Jewish philanthropist Isadore Rude, who donated some of the money to purchase the land that was gifted to the city. Today the building’s classic architecture is hidden under the Colfax viaduct, but the J. Solf building survives — for now — as a reminder that the area was once the heart of Denver’s strong Jewish community.

7. Historic: Joshel House
220 South Dahlia Street

The Joshel House is a rare example of International-style architecture found in a residential home in Denver. Completed between 1950 and 1951, the sleek structure was designed by renowned mid-century-modern architecture greats Joseph and Louise Marlow, a husband-and-wife team. The Joshel house — named after onetime residents Lloyd and Suzanne Joshel — was designated historic in the mid-’90s, one of the few post-war structures to earn that status. The cubist composition of this strikingly minimal home stands out among the bigger, bolder and far less impressive residences that surround it in the Hilltop neighborhood.

8. Not Historic: Neufeld House
40 South Bellaire Street

The Neufeld house, built in 1958, is a fine example of the Usonian style of architect Richard Crowther’s visionary work. A pioneer in solar energy and its function within the modern home, Crowther created structures ranging from Lakeside Amusement Park’s art-deco-era ticket booths to office and retail buildings in Cherry Creek North. In the early 2000s, new owners of the Neufeld house — named after its first owner, sculptor Jean Neufeld — found Crowther's original blueprints in the basement. A renovation was done, honoring Crowther's original plan with some modern updates. But the house hasn't been designated a landmark.

9. Historic: 20th Street Gym
1011 20th Street

A renaissance-revival masterpiece that’s survived Denver’s many booms and busts, the historic 20th Street Gym was built in 1908 as a public bathhouse in the days when many homes did not have full bathrooms. Even as it was transformed into a public gym and rec center, few alterations were made to the building over the decades; it retains much of its beautiful brick, tile work, wooden banisters and trim. The 20th Street Gym’s seventy-year-plus boxing program is still going strong — a living testament to the building’s heavyweight history. This is a very special — and, fortunately, historic-designated — site in the heart of booming downtown Denver, a remembrance of things past...and a cheap place to work out.

10. Not Historic: Kitty’s South (The Webber Show)
119 South Broadway

This building got its start a century ago as the Webber Show, then became the fabulous Webber Theater, and finally the notorious Kitty’s South before it closed altogether. After purchasing the building last fall, the new owners applied for a certificate of non-historic status — and got it. Even though Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission found that the structure met the criteria to be considered for historic status, no citizen stepped forward to ask that it be listed. While its now-official non-historic status would allow the building to be demolished, the new owners are hoping to preserve it — and maybe even restore the original facade that they hope is hidden beneath decades-old stucco and bad paint jobs. 

11. Historic: Greeters of America
1740-1762 Ulster Street

The Greeters of America — a national fraternal organization of hotel front-desk employees formed in 1910 — kept a two-home property in what was once the town of Montclair. After the Greeters bought the original 1899 home and its five-acre plot, complete with an apple orchard, they built a second, attached home in 1924. The complex served as a place of refuge for elderly members of the organization who nee ded home care and whose health benefited from the dry climate of Colorado. Upon the Greeters of America’s dissolution in the mid-’50s, the properties were separated. They became side-by-side historic landmarks in the ’90s.

12. Not Historic: Bastien’s
3503 East Colfax Avenue

Twenty-six-mile-long Colfax wouldn’t be the iconic street it is today without its cast of characters — buildings included. The circa 1958 building that holds the Bastien family’s restaurant is a corkscrew of a structure, a circular, multi-level masterpiece with a “sky dome” at its rooftop. With its multi-sided rotunda shape, Googie-style neon signs and folded roof, this gem exemplifies the fun, futuristic vision that has come to typify mid-century-modern architecture. The building isn’t an official historic landmark — but Bastien’s sugar steak is rightly considered a Colorado classic.

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