This is a quick bonus update on SugarSquare, just one week after our special inside the infill post on the Lower Downtown project.
I mentioned in last week’s post that we do know there was once a building on the lot where SugarSquare is rising—sandwiched in between the historic Sugar Building and 1540 Wazee—because construction workers found the remnants of an old foundation. No one knows what the building looked like when it was standing, but I’m happy to share with you photos of the building foundation that was unearthed during the excavation for SugarSquare.
A big thank you to Jake at Jordy Construction, the general contractor for SugarSquare, for providing DenverInfill the following photos:
Thanks for the great photos, Jake!
Let’s do some detective work on the mystery of the former building at the SugarSquare site, starting with one of the best resources for historical building research: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
The University of Colorado Boulder library has an excellent collection of digitized Sanborn maps. Below is the Sanborn map for the block in question from 1887 (Volume I, Sheet 26, cropped). The site where SugarSquare is being developed is the fifth lot in from the top right corner, labeled as 1544-1546 Wazee. According to the map, it was once a blacksmith shop, with a wagon shop in the rear. A building colored green on a Sanborn map indicates a use that is a hazardous risk. From a fire insurance company’s point of view, a blacksmith shop would certainly qualify as a hazardous risk! Pink indicates a building of brick construction and yellow is wood-frame construction.
The Sugar Building wasn’t constructed until 1906, so we can see that previously on its site (the first four lots from the corner) was a patchwork of buildings that included an establishment called the Red Lion Hotel featuring a dining room, office, and reading room. Next door was a cracker bakery, complete with a revolving oven!
Searching through the 1887 Corbett & Ballenger’s Denver City Directory available at the Denver Public Library’s digital archives, we find “John J. Murphy, blacksmith” listed for 1544-1546 Wazee.
The 1893 and 1903 Sanborn map series continue to show a blacksmith shop on the site. But the 1929 Sanborn map, the next Sanborn map series published for Denver, shows the lot as vacant—no building. So, sometime between 1903 and 1929, the building was demolished. If someone were to dig through every annual city directory between 1903 and 1929, we could probably narrow it down to a specific year.
Anyway, while we don’t know what the building looked like or exactly when it ceased to exist, we do know with some certainty that the brick foundation recently uncovered by construction workers once supported John Murphy’s Blacksmith Shop. How cool is that?