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Archive of posts filed under the History category.

Union Station Update (sort of)

On the first leg of our travels, we spent two days in Tulsa.  We had never been here before so the city was a great discovery for us.  It seems that the beautiful downtown resulted from the intersection of a 1920s oil boom and the art deco style of the era.   The outcome is worthy of a visit.

But, as usual, I’m here to talk about Union Station or, in this case, the Tulsa Union Depot.

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I took this photo on January 10, 2011, a very cold day in Tulsa.  After the last train left this station in 1967, the building fell in disrepair to the extent that the roof collapsed.  Restoration was completed in 1983, and now the building is yet another fine example of Tulsa’s art deco architecture.  Unlike Denver’s Union Station, this one no longer has a place in the city’s transportation system.  It is an office building.  And it’s a beautiful office building.


Doors Open Denver 2010 – This Weekend!

One of the best annual events in our fair city is Doors Open Denver. Each April we celebrate Architecture Month in Denver by opening the doors to dozens of the the city’s most interesting buildings and sites and letting the general public tour the insides. Best of all, it’s free!

This year’s DOD features over 80 buildings and sites. Most are clustered in and around the Downtown area but several are located in neighborhoods throughout the city. Here’s a map of the locations, and if you go to the Doors Open Denver website, you’ll find the list of all the participating sites organized several ways.

Doors Open Denver site map - click to enlarge

Over thirty of the buildings have special Expert Tours that occur at specific times during the weekend. Since capacity is limited on these Expert Tours, on the day of the tour, you must first get a free registration pass at DOD headquarters at Union Station for the Expert Tour you’re interested in.  The free registration passes are given out on a first-come first-served basis. Since the Expert Tours “sell out” quickly, I strongly recommend you get to Union Station early in the morning (they open at 8:30 AM) to get your Expert Tour passes for that day. Otherwise, no registration is needed and you can simply show up to any participating building or site at any time between 10AM and 4PM, Saturday or Sunday, for a self-guided tour. A few of the sites have special hours, so please double check the list on the DOD website.

There are also a variety of other special events, such as self-guided Urban Adventure Tours, a photo contest, and activities for families and kids, such as Box City in the Wellington Webb building. I’ve served as a volunteer at Box City several times; check out my blog on the 2007 Box City. It’s a lot of fun.

Doors Open Denver is the perfect opportunity to explore Denver’s urban architecture by foot (or by bike or take Light Rail) and the weather this weekend looks pretty decent, so get out and celebrate Denver’s architectural and urban heritage this weekend at Doors Open Denver. I know I am.


Denver 1996

I really wanted to keep my photo-every-twelve-years streak alive, so I looked through my photo albums but couldn’t find a Central Platte Valley photo from 1997. Sorry. However, I did find this one I took from I-25 and 23rd Avenue during the summer of 1996. Close enough?

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What’s interesting is how immature Elitch Gardens looks. Elitch’s opened in the CPV in May 1995 so at this point the new Elitch’s was only a year old. Coors Field is visible on the left edge of the photo, but there’s no Pepsi Center yet. That wouldn’t break ground until November 1997. In the foreground, Colorado Ocean Journey (now the Downtown Aquarium) had not yet broken ground either. That wouldn’t happen until April 1997.

No new development had occurred yet behind Union Station. It would be three more years before construction on Commons Park would begin. There’s one building in this view that isn’t there anymore and I totally do not remember it at all. It is the dark gable-roofed building immediately behind the blond-brick Postal Annex building, at approximately the location of the Gates building today. It was fairly tall—the peak of its roof is about the same height as the top of the Postal Annex, approximately 60 feet. Does anyone remember anything about that building?

If we were to do another 12 years, that would put us at 2008/2009, which is basically what we have today, so I won’t bother. But you could always peruse the DenverInfill Blog archives for photos of the Central Platte Valley and Auraria from those years. I’m sure you’ll find a few.


Denver 1985

Last week I shared with you two of my favorite photos of the west side of Downtown Denver, one from 1961 and the other, twelve years later, from 1973. Today I have two photos from 1985—another 12 year jump into the future. Unlike the first two, these two photos were taken by me.

I moved to Denver in July 1985 and on one of my first trips to Downtown, my friends and I managed to sneak onto the top 56th floor of Republic Plaza, Denver’s tallest skyscraper (the building was about one year old at the time). The 56th floor was completely unoccupied and was just the core and shell; it was a single open room covering the entire floor offering fantastic views in every direction. Fortunately, I had my Kodak 110 Instamatic with me, and so here are two of the photos I took.

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This first one is taken in the same general direction as the 1961 photo, although aimed above Downtown buildings in the foreground. The Auraria Campus was just nine years old and none of the West Campus buildings had been built yet. This shot gives you a nice view of the Larimer and Lawrence Street viaducts. However, if you look closely one block to the right of the Larimer Street viaduct in the Walnut Street right-of-way, out by the industrial buildings you can see several sets of concrete piers that get shorter as they get closer to Downtown. That is the Auraria Parkway off-ramp from I-25 under construction. It doesn’t look like construction had begun yet on any of the at-grade portions of Auraria Parkway, which does a one-block jog, transitioning from a Walnut to Wazee alignment, between 5th and 9th Streets. In the far bottom right corner of the photo is the intersection of what was then Wazee and 9th Street, with the orange-brick historic building where Brooklyn’s is now located on one corner, and the Auraria Campus tennis courts (which were replaced a few years ago with the Metro State College parking garage) on the other corner.

The photo also provides a nice view of the original Mile High Stadium, and McNichols Arena. Just like in the 1961 photo, you can clearly see Lake Middle School and its bell tower next to Sloans Lake off in the distance.

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This second photo shows the Central Platte Valley behind Union Station. Just right of center is the old 20th Street viaduct (with billboards!) heading off into Lower Highland. One block to the left is 19th Street. About the only building still standing along 19th that appears in this photo is the small yellow building (the Xcel Steam Plant) at 19th and Delgany (now Wewatta). Visible in between the Tabor One and 1225 17th Street towers is Union Station with, behind it, rail yards and a huge industrial/warehouse building where the Glass House and Commons Park is today. On the left edge of the photo is a long horizontal industrial building where Little Raven Street now intersects with 15th Street.

Up next: Denver 1997-ish


Denver 1973

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:

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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!


Denver 1961

Today I’d like to share with you the first of several of my favorite photos that show the changes in Downtown Denver over the past fifty years. The photos generally focus on the western (Auraria and Central Platte Valley) side of Downtown.

This first image (used with permission from the personal collection of my friend, Rob Winzurk) is an amazing photo taken by his father in 1961. It is remarkable in that it shows several significant buildings that are no longer with us, all in one view, and in color.

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In the center foreground is the University Building, which still stands at the corner of 16th and Champa, along with the Gas & Electric Building at 15th and Champa off to the left. Across Champa from the University Building, the bright red sign of the Downtown Woolworth’s store is clearly visible. Also in this view are four prominent buildings that are gone.

One block to the right of the University Building, at 16th and Curtis, is the Tabor Grand Opera House (linked photos courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Collection). Built in 1881, it was one of the finest and most elaborate opera houses in the country. It featured a 1,500 seat auditorium and a grand atrium lobby capped by a stained-glass rotunda. Next to the Tabor Grand at 16th and Arapahoe is the Post Office and Customs House Building, built in 1885.  Both buildings were demolished in 1964, three years after this photo was taken, to make way for the Federal Reserve Bank, completed in 1968, which now occupies the entire block. Here’s a zoom-in of those two buildings:

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Directly above and behind the University Building are two buildings at the corner of 15th and Arapahoe: the Mining and Exchange Building on the left, and the Central Bank Building on the right. The handsome Mining and Exchange Building was built in 1891 and featured a statue “The Old Prospector” at the top of its spire. The building was demolished in 1963, two years after this photo was taken. Brooks Tower took its place, and The Old Prospector now rests in the plaza at the entrance to the tower. The Central Bank Building opened in 1911 and featured a beautiful curved brick facade and two-story columns at the corner entrance.  The building was a victim of the late-1980s real estate bust. The pathetic story went something like this: The Central Bank Building went into foreclosure and was sold as part of a portfolio of real estate assets to some British firm, which was in financial trouble itself and was involved in a complex lawsuit with a bunch of banks and insurance companies. The British firm eventually decided that one way to help improve its financial position was to “eliminate” some of their troubled assets. Despite valiant efforts by Denver’s historic preservation community to save the Central Bank Building (it was declared a Denver Landmark in 1988), the overseas firm apparently didn’t give a crap about the historic importance of some building in Denver, Colorado, and, in 1989, submitted a demolition permit to the city. At that time, the city could legally delay a demolition permit for only ninety days, during which Mayor Peña pleaded with the firm to spare the building. Ninety days later, in front of a crowd of protesters, a demolition crew smashed the building to bits. Today, the site is a parking lot. Had the Central Bank Building survived however, it would now share its southwest common wall with the parking garage of the new Four Seasons. Here’s a detailed view of those two buildings:

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Of course, there are other buildings in this 1961 photo that are no longer around, such as the department store once attached to the D&F Tower, and other nearby buildings that were replaced in the 1970s and 1980s by the Tabor Center, Writer Square, various shiny office towers, and surface parking lots. Behind the D&F Tower, the old Speer Viaduct (also known then as the 13th and 14th Street Viaducts) heads west to interchange with the “new” Valley Highway. Farther in the background, rail yards and industrial buildings cover the Central Platte Valley where the Pepsi Center and Elitch’s now stand and, to the left, the white painted Tivoli Brewery is surrounded by its pre-campus Auraria neighborhood. Finally, Sloans Lake shimmers in the distance, with the silhouette of Lake Middle School clearly visible in front of it and, in between the school and the white boxy industrial building below, is the profile of the one-deck-high Bears Stadium.

In the next photo: Denver 1973.


Reminder: Union Station Movie This Thursday

This is just a friendly reminder to stop by the Oxford Hotel this Thursday, March 18, at 5:30 PM for the LoDo premiere of the movie Denver Union Station: Portal to Progress

I’m a big fan of both historical documentaries and Denver’s Union Station, but even I wasn’t prepared for how good this movie by Havey Productions was when I saw it the first time.  You really must see this video, and Thursday night is your chance. Here are the details:

Denver Union Station: Portal to Progress
Thursday, March 18, 2010
5:30 – 7:30 PM
Oxford Hotel Ballroom – 1637 Wazee

The program begins with a reception and cash bar, followed by the film (35 minutes long) and comments by Dana Crawford and Jim Havey. General admission is $15, or for $30 you can see the film and get the DVD, or for $60 you can see the film, get the DVD, and get a discounted membership to Union Station Advocates.  Click here to download a PDF flyer about the event or for your convenience, you can pay online here.  I hope to see you Thursday night!


Commemorating “Justice Through the Ages”

On May 3, demolition will begin on the Colorado Judicial Building at 14th and Broadway in Denver’s Civic Center district to make way for the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Complex.  Perhaps the most prominent feature of the existing judicial building is the mural entitled Justice Through the Ages by notable Colorado artist Angelo di Benedetto (1913-1992) that graces the underside of the building as it spans over the plaza and the skylights that look down into the building’s law library.

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Since I posted my blog about the Judicial Building and the mural in February, people have asked me what is going to happen to the mural when the building is demolished. I didn’t know the answer to that question until now, thanks to an excellent article by Matt Masich posted on March 10th in Law Week Colorado. The answer (and the good news): the mural will be saved and put in storage for the time being.  The problem is no one quite knows what to do with it. Some people are advocating for it to be installed somewhere in the new Judicial Complex, but the challenge is the mural’s size. If laid out in one long row, the mural’s 74 panels would stretch 100 yards, and there’s no place in the new Judicial Complex that long to accommodate the mural, and no one seems to like the idea of breaking the mural up and installing the panels in different locations. Anyway, please read Matt’s article as it contains a lot of interesting information about the artist, the mural, and its future. Use the link above or click here for a PDF of the article.

Since the mural will be removed soon from public view and put in storage for who knows how long, I feel it is my civic duty to provide an online commemoration of the mural for people to enjoy after its removal. Also, there’s no plaque in the plaza that tells you who the 60 individuals are on the mural but, thanks to a state law librarian who dug around and found for me a document with that information, I’m happy to provide the names of those honored on the mural as part of this effort.

All of the names, dates, and biographical information presented below is quoted from a publication called Colorado Courts, a monthly newsletter issued by the Colorado Judicial Department back in the 1970s.  The feature about the people in the mural followed the mural’s October 1978 dedication, and was spread across several issues of Colorado Courts, starting in December 1978 and concluding in April 1979 (catalog reference “The Mural” – KFC2308.A16 C66 – “Colorado Courts” - Dec. 1978, Jan.-Feb. 1979, March 1979, and April 1979).  According to the article’s final installment, the authors of the biographical information below include Angelo di Benedetto, Don Cherno, Otto and Helen Friedrichs, Robert Dallenbach, the Denver, Westminster, and Adams County libraries, Astrid Galindo of the Mexican Consulate, Stephanie Albo, Terry Goldhammer, and Karoline Freed Briggs, and others.  The photos, of course, are by me.

Without further ado, Justice Through the Ages (from left to right):

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Hammurabi (18th Century BC) – King of Babylon and famous for code of laws

Akhenaton and wife Nefertiti (1375 BC) – King of Egypt and reformer

Moses – Hebrew lawgiver, Ten Commandments

Deborah (1100 BC) – a judge in Israel

Solon (5th Century BC) – Athenian statesman and lawgiver of Athens

Aspasia (470-410 BC) – Influential woman of Athens, associate of Pericles

Artistotle (384-322 BC) – pupil of Plato and philosopher

Plato (427-347 BC) – Greek philosopher

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Socrates (470-399 BC) – Anthenian philosopher

Homer (8th Century BC) – Greek epic poet

Justinian the Great (483-565 AD) and Empress Theodora – Roman emperor who codified Roman law

Cicero (106-43 BC) – Greatest Roman orator and unsurpassed master of Latin prose

Tribonian (500-547 AD) – Roman jurist who directed compilation of Corpus Juris Civilis

Gaius (130-180 AD) – Second century Roman jurist known for the Institutes, a legal textbook

Papinian (142-212 AD) – Jurist, perhaps the greatest figure of Roman law

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Ulpian (c. 170-228 AD) – Roman jurist and author of Libri ad edictum

Francisco Jose De Goya Y Lucientes (1746-1828) – Spanish painter and graphic artist, social satirist outraged at war and corruption

John Marshall (1755-1835) – noted American jurist, fourth Chief Justice of the United States who molded the Constitution by the breadth and wisdom of his interpretation

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – American statesman, Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington, author of law papers recently published, most powerful of the Federalists

John Adams (1735-1826) – Second President of the United States, lawyer, leader in the American Revolution, and prolific writer

James Madison (1751-1836) – Fourth President of the United States, master builder of the Constitution and strong advocate of the Bill of Rights

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – American statesman, printer, scientist, inventor, and writer influential in drafting the Constitution

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Thomas Paine (1737-1809) – Anglo-American political theorist and writer, strong supporter of the American Revolution and author of the Rights of Man

Philip Mazzei (1730-1816) – Italian physician, merchant, horticulturist and author, close friend of Thomas Jefferson and the latter’s personal ambassador to sell democracy to Europe, may have written the first line of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence, architect, scientist, philosopher and statesman

Josefa Ortiz De Dominguez (1768-1829) – Wife of the Corregidor (Mayor) of Queretaro, and sponsor of home meetings in favor of Mexican independence, leading to the War of Independence in 1810

Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla (1753-1811) – Mexican priest and revolutionary, national hero, Creole intellectual who helped natives improve their lot but was defrocked and shot

Jose Maria Marelos Y Pavou (1765-1815) – Liberal Mexican priest acclaimed a hero, joined the revolution against Spain and assumed leadership upon Hidalgo’s execution and subsequently suffered the same fate

Benito Pablo Juarez (1806-1872) – Mexican statesman, lawyer and national hero, an Indian, Minister of Justice and acting president—the border city of Juarez bears his name

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) – English author and feminist who promoted educational equality and was close to leaders of the French Revolution—she died in childbirth; her daughter Mary married Percy Bysshe Shelley

Emmaline Goulden Pankhurst (1858-1928) – British woman suffragist, nationally revered, founded the Woman’s Social and Political Union; after World War I moved to Canada, returned to England in 1925 and died campaigning for Parliament

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Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) – 16th President of the United States, the great emancipator, most memorialized American figure, savior of the Union, lawyer, statesman of noble vision, humanity and political wisdom, assassinated at close of the Civil War

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) – A freed slave who responded to “heavenly voices” and traveled throughout the North, effectively preaching abolition, emancipation and women’s rights

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) – American abolitionist, son of a Negro slave, editor of the North Star, author, advocate of civil rights, government officer and minister to Haiti

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) – Negro slave, “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, friend of the principal abolitionists, confidant of John Brown, nurse and spy for the Union forces

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) – American reformer and leader of the woman-suffrage movement, organizer of temperance movements, historian, foremost advocate of women’s rights to franchise

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) – Reformer, woman suffrage leader, organizer of women for equality, writer, orator, editor of a militant feminist magazine published by Susan B. Anthony

Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915) – Editor, lecturer and an unceasing champion of women’s rights, recognized as leader of the women’s movement in the Northwest

Jane Addams (1860-1935) – Social worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, active reformer, leader in suffrage and pacifist movements, author, influential in civic affairs, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

Alice Paul (1883-1977) – Social reformer, one of the founders and later chair of the National Women’s Party, sponsor of the first equal rights amendment introduced in Congress in 1923

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Sarah Winnemucca (1844-1891) – A woman of the Paviotso, daughter of the Chief, interpreter and scout, teacher, lecturer and author, advocate for her people

Joseph (1840-1904) – Nez Perce chief, intercedes with President Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) and two Congressmen. Chief Joseph was a symbol of the heroic Nez Perce retreat which has been compared to that of Xenophon’s ten thousand. President Hayes, a lawyer and Civil War general, served in Congress and as Governor of Ohio. After the presidency, he was noted for efforts in prison reform

Mandarin Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925) – Physician, student of Western political theory, Chinese revolutionary, first provisional president of the Chinese Republic (1911) and later president of a self-proclaimed national government at Canton (1921)

Soong Ching-Ling (1893-1981) – Wife of Mandarin Sun Yat-Sen, political activist, writer, recipient of the Stalin Peace Price, Vice-Chairman of the People’s Republic (1949)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) – Indian spiritual and political leader, successful lawyer, leader of civil disobedience, prominent in achievement of independence for India, assassinated by Hindu fanatic—accompanied here by an unnamed disciple

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Clarence Seward Darrow (1857-1938) – American lawyer, renounced lucrative corporate practice to defend the “underdog”, most famous for the Leopold and Loeb defence and Scopes evolution trial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) – 32nd U.S. President, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, lawyer, reformer, father of the New Deal, influential international figure in World War II

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) – American humanitarian, active in social betterment, leader in women’s organizations and youth movements, promoter of consumer welfare and civil rights

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) – American clergyman and civil rights leader, organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, killed by an assassin’s bullet

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) – 35th U.S. President, World War II naval hero, congressman and senator from Massachusetts, eloquent advocate of social justice and international accord, assassinated in Dallas.

Earl Warren (1891-1974) – 14th Chief Justice of the United States, Attorney General and Governor of California, liberal and dynamic leader in the area of landmark decisions in civil rights and individual liberties

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These last three photos show the artist’s name, the names of his assistants, and the mural’s center design:

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Let’s hope the mural finds a new home soon.