Longform

Paint the Town Read

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Once the location of Denver's first crosstown streetcars, department stores and banks, the mall had become a poster child for the excesses of urban blight. Food courts and schlock shops that muscled out the emporiums now cowered in the shadow of multimedia complexes and chain coffee bars. Like lemmings, the office workers came. They overflowed the microbreweries and pub-cafes gawking at tourists, lined up at the steam wagons for hot dogs, and tripped over hard hats who had the sense to eat their sack lunches on the sidewalk in the shade.

Jackie avoided the mall.

5. Brown Palace Hotel

A Lost Lady, 1923

Willa Cather

How strange that she should be here at all, a woman like her among common people! Not even in Denver had he ever seen another woman so elegant. He had sat in the dining room of the Brown Palace hotel and watched them as they came down to dinner -- fashionable women from "the East," on their way to California. But he had never found one so attractive and distinguished as Mrs. Forrester.

6. Duffy's

1635 Court Place

Dead Dry, 2005

Sarah Andrews

Memories of my oil-patch days started to flow back as I remembered the offices she and Afton kept in a funny little building in downtown Denver, above an Irish bar called Duffy's. I used to get a green tongue from drinking beer at Duffy's on St. Patrick's Day and danced in the narrow hallways of the offices upstairs, in which a tribe of renegade geologists like Afton held forth.

7. City and County Building

"The Green Automobile,"

written 1953

Allen Ginsberg

Denver! Denver! we'll return

roaring across the City and County Building lawn

which catches the pure emerald flame

streaming in the wake of our auto

8. Downtown

Augusta Locke, 2006

William Haywood Henderson

To the south, the foothills shrank toward Denver. She had walked south more than once, she had caught rides, she had smelled the coal smoke. In that direction the roads angled against themselves, and the buildings stacked high. Echoes died in the false canyons, music from alley doors, shards of bottle glass in the dark pools.

9. Bail Bondsman's Row

The Devil's Hatband, 1996

Robert O. Greer

Bail Bondsman's Row is a block-long assemblage of six aging turn-of-the-century buildings affectionately known as Painted Ladies. The unlikely but enduring cluster of once proud Victorian houses lines the west side of Delaware Street as it turns toward downtown Denver from 13th Avenue North. Darkness never descends on Bondsman's Row. Brightly lit neon signs just from the ornate fascia above weathered wraparound porches, selling freedom to the prisoners across Delaware Street in the Denver County Jail. Blue, red, yellow and green neon tubes shaped to spell OPEN 24 HOURS, BAIL BONDS ANYTIME, and NEVER CLOSED flash gaudy promises of freedom not only to the inmates but to the prisoners' families and friends.

10. Auraria Campus

Strip Search: A Gabe Wager Mystery, 1984

Rex Burns

His old neighborhood, Auraria, was long gone; street after street of frame houses that had been home and kinfolk and shortcuts through neighboring backyards as familiar as his own, all were gone. In its place a university sprawled -- a collection of factorylike buildings as ugly as they were cheap. The whole downtown, following the same path, was becoming an area no one could grow up in: crowded and uncomfortable by day, blank and cold at night. And on weekends the empty streets were dotted here and there with straggling tourists who showed their uneasiness in the face of all the dark, locked doors. If a city had an aura, then Denver's must be totally maladjusted -- torn between the commuter life of nine-to-five, and the rest of the day, which was dead. Even the Colfax strip, with its drifting filthy, was better than being dead, and Wager could understand the need of those who returned night after night to the busy lights and constantly moving feet, even though they did not like the pimps and pushers who jostled them. They were turning their backs on a dying city.

11. East Colfax Avenue

Booked to Die, 1992

John Dunning

I drove out Sixth to Colorado Boulevard, went north to Colfax, then east to the bookstores. This was my turf: I was as much at home along Book Row as I was in the world of hookers and pimps that surrounded it. Colfax is a strange street. It used to be known as the longest street in the world: people with more imagination than I have used to say, in the days before interstate highways, that it ran from Kansas City to the Great Salt Lake. Its actual length is about twenty miles, beginning on the plains east of Denver and dwindling away in the mountains to the west. About twenty years ago, urban renewal came in and ripped out old Larimer Street, and the whores and bums who lived there landed on Broadway south and Colfax east. Lots of whoring goes on on East Colfax Avenue. It starts at the statehouse, where they know how to do it without ever getting in a bed, and works its way through the porno shops between Broadway and Colorado Boulevard.

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