This is a great photograph. I don’t know who took the photo originally, but I snagged it from the 2007 Auraria Campus Master Plan document, which had included a small version of this photo in the chapter discussing Auraria’s history. With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to extract the image at a high resolution and present it to you today. The Auraria neighborhood and surrounding areas in 1973:
There’s so much here to talk about in this photo.
First, obviously, we have a great view of the Auraria neighborhood (originally the Town of Auraria before the consolidation of Denver City, Auraria, and Highland on April 3, 1860) before the Auraria Campus was created. The buildings that survived the demolition of the neighborhood to make way for the campus were the Tivoli Brewery, St. Elizabeth’s Church, St. Cajetan’s Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Chapel (Denver’s oldest surviving church, built in 1876, and now the Emmanuel Gallery), and the historic homes along Ninth Street Historic Park.
What’s also visible in the Auraria area is the old Larimer Street and Lawrence Street viaducts. As in-bound and out-bound viaducts, they were one of the main ways to get between I-25 and Downtown Denver. They were replaced in the late 1980s by Auraria Parkway; the viaducts were removed and in their place today are mostly broad pedestrian walkways or narrow streets for local access and RTD busses. The street running in front of the taller historic buildings where Kacey Fine Furniture, Brooklyn’s, and the Auraria Lofts are today—that was Wazee Street. Behind those buildings, where the Pepsi Center is now located, were more rail yards. We also get a nice view from this angle of the 13th and 14th Street (Speer) viaducts that I mentioned in my Denver 1961 post. What was neat about those viaducts, as you can see in this photo, was that the out-bound 14th Street viaduct didn’t go elevated until about 14th and Wazee, and it ran along the Cherry Creek side of the Acme and Volker Loft buildings. But the in-bound 13th Street viaduct remained elevated until Larimer, and ran along the southwest side of the Acme and Volker buildings. The two streets then did a clumsy readjustment over Cherry Creek to eventually flow into the Speer Boulevard alignment we have today to the south.
Union Station is clearly visible in this photo, with the big boxy blond brick Postal Annex next door (replaced by the EPA Building and 1515 Wynkoop). What you see behind Union Station to the Platte River—yeah, that area has changed a bit, no? We also see the old 15th Street viaduct (replaced in the 1980s by the current 15th Street which goes under the railroad tracks and features twin red pedestrian bridges), the old 16th Street viaduct (gone entirely), and, off in the distance, the 20th Street, 23rd Street/Park Avenue, and Broadway viaducts—all replaced in the 1990s/early 2000s. The bright white grain elevator at 20th and Wazee—that’s where Coors Field is today.
Finally, there are a few remarkable changes in the Downtown area to note. Brooks Tower is there, but its companion building (formerly the Executive Tower Inn and now the Curtis Hotel) is not. However, the black-glass modern Park Central complex on Block 075 is clearly under construction in this photo. Who would have ever guessed from their outward appearances that Park Central is older than the Curtis Hotel tower? In front of the Park Central site at 15th and Arapahoe is the side of the Central Bank building.
The two blocks of parking lots in the foreground of the Brooks Tower… that’s where the Denver Performing Arts Complex is. The department store around the D&F tower has been torn down, but the Tabor Center is still a decade off in the future; although the Tabor Center’s other block between Lawrence and Larimer has not yet been razed. On the foreground side of 16th Street (pre-Mall, of course) you can see that the entire block where Writer Square is today has been leveled, as has the half-block to the left where The Larimer condo tower is today. Its neighbor, the blank-walled former-Dave Cook’s-now-Office-Depot building hasn’t been built yet. Also visible are the buildings that were there before Market Street Station was built.
The year 1973 was probably an exciting year in Denver. They were on the cusp of the city’s greatest building boom, probably not unlike how we all felt in 2005. In the next twelve years, from 1973 until the date of the next photo I’m going to feature (1985), over forty towers (yes, you read correctly, 40) were built in Downtown Denver. Now that was a building boom!