Colorado flag  Denver  Colorado flag

Denver State House
Colorado State Capital

        Debbie and I recently took a trip to Colorado Springs to attend the USA Hockey Congress during June of 2005. It's four days of meetings and seminars attended by people from all of the hockey districts in the country. On Sunday, June 12, after the meetings were over, we took a drive north to Denver and spent an afternoon there. Denver has been given the nicknames; "The Mile High City" and "Queen City of the Plains."

        The weather that morning was cloudy with a light rain, but by the afternoon, it turned into a beautiful day. Denver has a mile-long tree-lined pedestrian street along 16th Street. It was built in 1982, and it is lined with outdoor cafes, shops, restaurants and stores. There are free shuttle buses cruise the mile-long Mall which we took advantage of when it started to rain. We visited the Denver Visitors Information Center at 16th & California along the 16th Street Mall.

 History of Denver

                Long before Denver began, the Arapaho Indians had been camping along Cherry Creek near its junction with the South Platte
River (photo below left) at the base of the Rocky Mountains in the western part of the Kansas Territory. They named the creek for its wild cherry bushes. French traders and trappers, whom the Arapaho also befriended, baptized the Platte River with their word for shallow or flat.
James W. Denver                Gold was discovered at the confluence
of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River by a group of prospectors from Georgia on November 22, 1858. From this sprang a small town which was named after James W. Denver, the Governor of the Kansas Territory (photo at left).
                More gold discoveries sparked a mass migration of some 100,000 in 1859-60, leading the federal government to establish the Colorado Territory in 1861. As white settlers poured into the new territory in search of their fortune, the indigenous people, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, were forced out. Railroads, like the Denver Pacific, Kansas Pacific and Colorado Central Railroads, helped Denver grow as a banking and coin minting center.
Between 1870 when the first railroads arrived and 1890, Denver grew from 4,759 to 106,713. In a single generation, it became the second most populous city in the West, second only to San Francisco.
                The first territorial legislative assembly met in Denver in September 9, 1861. The House of Representatives met in a small frame building on the corner of Larimer and G (presently McClintock). The Council, now referred to as the State Senate, convened at a brick building on the corner of Larimer and E (presently 14th St.).
Their first order of business was to select a permenante capital for Colorado. Later that year, they selected Colorado City (outside of Colorado Springs) as the capital. While Colorado City does have the designation as Colorado's first capital city, the territory's federal appointees never recognized it as such. Little was agreed upon except that the legislature would not convene at Colorado City again.
                A year later, an act was approved which established the capital as Golden City (now just Golden), even though the territorial officials called Denver home. The legislature continued to meet in Golden until 1867 when Denver finally became the official seat of government.
                In 1876, the Nation's Centennial year, Colorado became the 38th state and Denver became it's capital. Later that year, they voted to move the capital to Colorado City (outside of Colorado Springs).
Confluence                The depression of 1893 and repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act abruptly ended Denver's first boom. Civic leaders began promoting economic diversity, growing wheat and sugar beets, manufacturing, tourism and service industries. The Denver Livestock Exchange and National Western Stock Show confirmed the city's role as the "cow town" of the Rockies. Denver began growing again after 1900, but at a slower rate. Stockyards, brickyards, canneries, flour mills, leather and rubber goods nourished the city. Of many Denver-area breweries, only Coors has survived, becoming the nation's third largest brewery.
                In 1908, Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention (the Democrats nominated eventual three-time loser William Jennings Bryan). In 1932, Denver Municipal (Stapleton) Airport opens.

                Denver's 1970s energy boom spurred a growth of suburban subdivisions, shopping malls and a second office core in the suburban Denver Tech Center. Unfortunately, the 1980's oil bust, which forced the price of crude oil to drop to $9 a barrel, caused Denver to sink into a depression, losing population and jobs. A boom in the
1990's has led the Denver's growth over the past decade. In 2000, the metro area reached a population of 2.1 million, three-fourths of whom live in the suburban counties. This has been helped by the opening of the Coors Baseball Field, Ocean Journey Aquarium and the Pepsi Athletic Center
Avalanche                Notable institutions include the Denver Museum of Natural History, the Denver Public Library, the Colorado History Museum, the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, as well as the U. S. Mint. Along with this are the Colorado Rockies major league baseball team, Denver Bronco's football team and the N.H.L.'s Colorado Avalanche.

The Capital Building

Colorado State House             We parked behind the capital building and began our tour of Denver there. The building itself is not open on weekends so we couldn't go inside. I had to content myself with external pictures (as you can see here). When Denver was finally chosen as the state capital in 1867 (nine years before statehood) they immediately set about to build a statehouse. A wealthy Denverite, Henry C. Brown, donated the land for the building. Unfortunately, the territory was broke and could not afford to build anything on the land which sat empty. In addition, they were not a state yet and they didn't want to build anything in case the capital moved again.

             In August of 1876, President Grant admitted Colorado into the Union. However, there would be a general vote on where the state capital would ultimately be. By this time, Brown was tired of waiting for something to be done with his land and wanted it back. This would involve years of legal battles that eventually ended up in the Supreme Court.

Colorado State House             The election on a state capital was on November 8, 1881, and it made Denver the capital by some 17,000 vote majority. Denver received 30,248 votes, Pueblo had 6,047, Colorado Springs 4,790, Canon City 2,788 and Salida 698 with another 929 votes being scattered among various other cities.

              In 1883,  the legislature set out to finally build something on the empty lot. They first had to decide on a architectural plan. This would further delay them. Finally in 1885, they had 21 plans to choose from. They chose a Corinthian Style, with a Greek Cross floor plan, and on July of 1886, they started digging
Colorado State Houseup the land. After hiring and firing of contractors, they laid the cornerstone on July 4, 1890. Following the laying of the corner-stone, the construction work progressed rapidly and at the end of 1892 the exterior stone work was completed as well as the interior walls and the slate roof. They continued to work on the dome over the next couple of years. By November of 1894, the government moved into it's new home.

              Originally the dome was covered in copper. Since copper was not a native alloy or resilient to the elements, the dome soon became tarnished. In 1908, it was decided to cover the dome in real Colorado gold. They used 200 ounces of pure gold leaf to cover the dome. Atop the dome is a glass globe four feet in Colorado State Housediameter that surrounds a beacon-like light bulb. The 272 ft. high building is made up of Colorado granite.

              The Colorado state capitol has the distinction of being the only state capitol situated exactly one mile above sea level. To honor this, capitol officials marked the mile high step with a  "one mile above sea level" inscription into the stone step. We found out afterwards that the original inscription was wrong and the actual one mile marker is three steps higher (a brass geodetic survey plug has been embedded in it - which can be seen in the photo).

              In front of the capital is a bronze figure of a Union Soldier facing South with
Colorado State House gun in hand, built to honor Colorado's Civil War heroes. The stone base of this monument is adorned with four tablets that list the battles and the names of the soldiers who died. Also chiseled into the base of this memorial is the proud statement that Colorado had the highest average of volunteers in the Civil War of any state or territory in the Union. The statue is not without controversy as we read in a brass plaque embedded in it's base. Apparently, one of the "victories" attributed to the soldiers was nothing more then an Indian massacre.

             On either side of the civil war memorial on the west lawn of the capitol are two Napoleon cannons from the Civil War. There is quite a bit of speculation surrounding the history of these cannons, but perhaps the most plausible explanation is that these cannons were first used in 1862 to defend the Union against the Confederate advance at La Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. One of the cannons bears the number 121 which means that it was most likely used by the 9th Massachusetts Battery at the Battle of Gettysburg before its service in Colorado. In 1878, the cannons were donated by President Ulysses S. Grant to the Colorado National Guard. They later became part of the memorial outside the capital.

 What's in a name

The original mining group from Georgia, led by William Green Russell, settled on one side of Cherry Creek and named their settlement Auraria. Soon another group arrived and staked a claim across the creek and called their settlement St. Charles. They went back to Kansas to register their claim. Just after their departure, another group from Kansas arrived at St. Charles headed by General William H. Larimer Jr. LatimerWith the other group gone, Larimer (photo left) successfully jumped their claim and took possession of the new settlement.

                 He supposedly stated the town by crossing cottonwood sticks at the center of a square mile town plot on November 22, 1858. Wanting to get some recognition, Larimer re-named the town after James W. Denver, the Governor of the Kansas Territory and future Civil War general in the hope that he would make it a county seat. What he didn't know was that Denver had resigned weeks earlier. It's a good thing he didn't know since the new governor was Hugh S. Walsh (Walshton or Walshapolis doesn't sound as good as Denver).

                Latimer was an interesting fellow. He wasn't a miner or an explorer. He simply followed the Georgian miners to their spot and set up across the stream. He wasn't even a real general, but took the title from when he was in the Pennsylvania State Militia. Larimer, the claim jumper, proclaimed himself Denver's founding father boasting "I Am Denver City." Of course, it was a city in name only. The main street was named after Larimer. He and his son constructed a small cabin shortly after they arrived. Latimer had an interesting sense of humor; the doors to his cabin were coffin lids! 
After Russell and his group of Georgian miners left Auraria and headed back to the South to join the Confederate Army in 1859, the town of Auraria was absorbed by Denver.

                When Denverites failed to elect Latimer mayor or territorial representative and President Abraham Lincoln refused to appoint him territorial governor, Larimer soured on his beloved Denver. He returned to Kansas, denouncing Denver's "lack of comforts." Larimer died in 1875 in Leavenworth, Kansas. He is commemorated in the city he founded with Larimer Street in downtown Denver, as well as Larimer Square. Larimer County, Colorado in the northern part of the state is also named after him.

The Molly Brown House Museum

Molly Brown              After lunch, Debbie and I walked over to the The Molly Brown House Museum on Pennsylvania Street. This was the Victorian home of  Margaret Tobin Brown (photo at left taken around 1900) known to history as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown." Famous for surviving the Titanic sinking in 1912, Margaret Brown was never called "Molly" but instead was called "Maggie," however she did give herself the nickname "Unsinkable." Many people are familar with her portrayal by Kathy Bates in the Oscar-winning movie Titanic.

             She was born Margaret Tobin on July 18, 1867 in Hannibal, Missouri. Her father, John Tobin, was an abolitionist and worked with John Brown before the Civil War. There is even a claim that their home was a  stop on the Underground Railroad. She moved with some of her family members to Leadville, Colorado in 1883. It was here that she met and married James Joseph "J.J." Brown. Her husband worked very hard but it was gold that was destined to make Margaret and J.J. Brown rich. In 1894, now wealthy, they moved to Denver buying this home at 1340 Pennsylvania Avenue (now Street). Although Margaret owned the house until her death in 1932, the family did not live in the house continuously during these years.

Molly Brown House             Once the move to Denver was complete in 1894, Margaret threw herself wholeheartedly into philanthropic activities. The Brown's also did a lot of traveling. They lived in Ireland for a year. Beginning in 1903, Margaret began tackling the tough social issues of her time: juvenile justice; children's, women's and miner's rights; and social equality. Despite the myth, she was very much accepted by Denver society despite the fact the she and her husband were Catholics.

             Margaret's social parties and charitable work put a strain on their marriage. Her husband J.J. felt that women she not be so prominent in public. Finally, in 1909, after 23 years of marriage, the Brown's quietly signed a separation agreement and went their
Molly Brown Houseseparate ways. While the Browns never reconciled, they remained connected and cared for each other throughout their lives. After Margaret and J.J. separated, Margaret spent less and less time in Denver. When she did return to Denver she preferred to stay at the famous Brown Palace Hotel.

              Margaret continued to travel throughout the world. While on a trip to Europe in 1912, she received word that her son was ill and decided to return to America. As fate would have it, she booked passage on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Shortly before midnight on April 14th the Titanic struck an iceberg. After helping fellow passengers into a lifeboat she was taken a hold of and was dropped four feet into the lowering lifeboat #6. Margaret slid a heavy wooden oar into place, and with the help of another woman, assisted in rowing the lifeboat safely away from the Titanic. At 2:30 a.m., April 15th the Titanic sank. Of the approximately 2,300 on board 1,600 were lost. The occupants of Margaret's lifeboat stood in silent shock in the middle
Titanic sinkingof their lifeboat as the Titanic went under. They demanded to go back and help the people struggling in the water, but Quartermaster Hutchens, who was in charge of the lifeboat (he was also at the wheel when the Titanic struck the iceberg) refused saying that the drowning victims would capsize the small life boat in their efforts to be saved. They were later rescued by the Carpathia where Margaret started helping other passengers. She would continue helping them long after their return to New York.

              The Titanic publicity made Margaret a national celebrity and helped foster her career in politics.  Margaret first ran for the US Senate in 1909 and then again in 1911, both before women had the right to vote nationally.
During World War I, she went to France to assist with relief programs. Her husband J.J. Brown died in 1921. In 1932, she was awarded with the French Legion of Honor for her work in France. On October 26th, 1932, at the Molly Brown Houseage of sixty-five, Margaret Tobin Brown died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was buried along side her husband on Long Island (he had died in a hospital there and was buried there).

              Victorian homes were not popular in the early 1960s, and historic preservation projects were rare. Denver was in the process of undergoing "urban renewal," and bulldozers demolished many of the finest buildings to make room for high-rise apartments and parking lots. Concerned citizens rallied a grass roots effort to save the Molly Brown House from demolition. The home has been restored to what it looked like in 1910. The museum gets around 40,000 visitors a year. We had a fairly large tour group and were led by a women in a period Victorian dress. The tour starts in the back in the Carriage House (photo at right), which also houses the gift shop.
The entry hall staircase was very impressive. We visited the major rooms on the first and second floors including the parlor, the dinning room and the library. When we left, the sun was out.

             The website for the house has great photographs of the inside of the house - which you cannot take for yourself. It has a number of photos of when Margaret Brown lived there and how they look now.

Colorado History Museum

Debbie            We spent a couple of hours in the Colorado History Museum. It's on Broadway between 13th and 14th streets, about two blocks from the State Capital Building. Constructed in 1977, the museum preserves a collection of historic and prehistoric artifacts and documents and is the Colorado Historical Society's headquarters.  One of the more interesting exhibits is the Colorado TimeScape. It's a large 3-D model of the state, providing an perspective of Colorado's landscape. The model provides for a 10-minute multimedia presentation in which lasers move across the terrain documenting how land and people have come together throughout Colorado’s history.

            There is also an exhibit called Soldiers on Skis which is about the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division that trained in Colorado and fought in Italy during the Second World War. There is the The Colorado Chronicle: 150 Years of History. This is a visual timeline of the State's history through 1949. It was difficult to read since you can't get too close to it. There are a number of dioramas that depict early life in Colorado and their interactions with the Native Americans. They have a Conastoga covered wagon and an electric car.

            Finally, they have everything you ever wanted to know about mining.

16th Street Mall

Debbie & the buffalo            The 16th Street Mall is in downtown Denver is a tree-lined, pedestrian promenade of red-and-gray granite that runs the length of the downtown area. One end starts at Civic Center Park where the State Capital Building is. The other end, 16 blocks away, is near Union Station train station. The Mall has many stores, restaurants, theaters and plazas with fountains. There are also numerous steel buffalos here (photo at right). There is a Cheesecake Factory, Hard Rock Cafe and ESPN Zone. Also, the Denver Metro Convention & D&F TowerVisitors Bureau is here which gives tourist information. They also have a few kiosks along the mall for tourism info.

            There is a free bus shuttle service carries people from one end of the mall to the other. The mall, which is 16 blocks long was completed in 1982 along what was the longtime address for Denver's grand department stores. Each of the buildings that formerly housed Downtown's four major department stores on 16th Street have been redeveloped the past decade into new hotels, lofts, office and retail space. 
D&F Tower The Mall was designed by internationally famous architect I.M. Pei, who also designed the Pyramide du Louvre in Paris and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (both of which we were in). Coors Field, home of the Denver Rockies, is just four blocks away while the Pepsi Center, home of the Denver Avalanche hockey team and Denver Nuggets basketball team is about four blocks in the other direction.

             One of the sites along the mall is the D&F Tower. It's a 325-foot replica of the campanile of St. Mark's in Venice.
It's a clock tower, it has clock faces on all four sides. At 20 stories, it was the third-highest building in the United States when it opened in 1911 as part of the Daniel’s and Fisher department store. Daniels & Fisher were later bought out by the May Company. The department store was torn down in the 1980's, but the tower was saved and is still here. You can see where the old department store was from the change in brick color on the tower. No buildings are next to the tower so it stands alone on the corner of 16th and Arapahoe Streets. A Comedy Club called Rattlebrain Theater is on the first floor. 

Confluence Park

Debbie Frank

             After Debbiewalking the length of the 16th Street Mall, Debbie and I continued away from the downtown area. We walked past Union Station and over a bridge that spanned the Southern Pacific railroad tracks. We came to a park area along the South Platte River. Near there is Confluence Park, one of the many parks that make up the South Platte Denver bridgeRiver Parks. It's where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River join. When two rivers come together, it's called a confluence, thus the name of the park. The water was very high and going at a rapid rate. There were some parts were it was washing up on the pathways. As you can see the two of us in the above pictures along the South Platte River. This is where the original settlers stayed when they first came to Denver so it is considered the birthpace of Denver.

             Next to the park was an old Tramway powerhouse that has been converted into a shopping mall. We stopped there at the Starbuck's to have a frappuccino (of course, Debbie had water - she tried the frappachino, but, as you can see, she didn't like it). Starbuck's seem to be very popular in Denver
since we saw around 7 or 8 of them in a 20 block distance. They have a trolley ride that starts here at the powerstation and goes along the South Platte River.

              Here are two photographs I took on our walk. The first is of the bridge (above right) that goes over the railroadtracks. It is very modern and made for an interesting photograph. The other is, well I am not sure what it is. It appears to be a stone sculpture of a man lying face down in water. It was very unusual so I took this picture.


Eating in Denver

            Since we were only in Denver for the day, we only had lunch there. Of course, the decision as to where to go was difficult. So many places to choose from. We went to a place on the 16th Street Mall, next to Wazee Street, that seemed to be very popular among the locals call Dixon's Downtown Grill. Luckily for us, it was a good choice. We did have to wait around a half-hour for a table, but it was worth it. The place is decorated in a warm and comfortable style and they advertise that they have the best margaritas in town. Lunch was very good. I had the Bleu Cheese Burger with Gorgonzola cheese (though I did without the cracked black pepper) while Debbie had a Racines Smokin’ Gouda and Breast of Turkey sandwich on a croissant with cranberries. I tried one of their local microbrewery beers, that our waiter recommended, while Debbie stuck to a Diet Pepsi.

          So, after spending our Sunday afternoon in Denver, we got back in the car and drove south toward Colorado Springs. The trip took us about an hour and a half. We went to dinner in nearby Mantiou Springs.

Click for Denver, Colorado Forecast
Denver Tourism
Denver's Official Website

Go to Top of Page