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Art Deco & Art Moderne

Often called Moderne or Modernistic, Art Deco was very popular during the Great Depression and employs modernistic motifs on neoclassical buildings. It is the first popular style in the US that broke with the traditions of Beaux-Arts. Essentially a design style, Art Deco motifs were applied to everything from clothing to cars, as well as to houses.

Art Deco architects were impressed that modernity could be achieved through geometric elements and decoration, and used many materials to achieve their desired effect, including concrete, smooth faced stone, metal, glass, terra cotta, vertically oriented designs in the form of parallel straight lines, zigzags, chevrons, and floral motifs (many of which were based upon Native American art). These materials, in addition to the use of many colors, known as polychromy, combined to create a futuristic effect.

Perhaps the most interesting examples of Art Deco design can be found in movie houses of the 1920’s and 1930’s, which used the style both inside and out, such as our own Mayan Theatre. Many good examples of Deco and Moderne houses can be found in Hilltop and Bonnie Brae. Don D Etter’s book Denver going Modern details the movement’s arrival in Denver.

545 Circle Drive

Designed by Burnham Hoyt. While there are no “pure” Art Deco homes in Denver, this is one of the finest examples of the style here.

Circle Drive

3100 East Exposition

Built in 1938 by Thomas E. Moore

1601 Grape Street &
1611 Grape Street

Designed by Charles Jaka in 1931-1932. These are two of the best examples of the Art Deco style in Denver.

1030 Bonnie Brae Boulevard

Horizontal elements are emphasized by the streamline detailing.

Bonnie Brae

150 South Bellaire Street

Built in 1937 by Raymond H Ervin, this large residence was modeled after the monastery that Columbia Pictures built for “Lost Horizon” in the same year. The Moderne style is emphasized through the flat roof as well as the exaggerated eaves. The horizontal Moderne style is complimented by the verticality of the Art Deco panel on the south side. Other Deco elements include the Chevron design and stylized flower panels.


146 Eudora Street

Built in 1936

1521 Monaco

Built in 1936

3655 Tejon Street

Note the streamline trim, entry canopy, window treatment and Moderne boxiness.

The Oxford Hotel
Cruise Room

Created in the 1930s by Charles Jaka, this bar remains a fine example of Art Deco interior design. It won a national award from the Miami Art Deco Society after a faithful restoration in 1983.

Source: Denver the City Beautiful by Thomas J Noel & Barbara Norgren

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