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Author Phil Goodstein is a Denver native who has churned out more than 20 volumes about the Mile High City. Not only has he seen to it that the volume is very well illustrated but, as is his wont, he emphasizes history from the bottom up. He explores controversies over the use of the Civic Center while emphasizing the way the different hopes and perspectives of various classes and economic interests have shaped the community. In a word, The Denver Civic Center is not just a history of the land in and around the Civic Center, but it is a profile of Denver as a whole. It is must reading for anybody seeking to grasp the nature of the Mile High City. Information about Goodstein’s books can be found at capitolhillbooks.com
Tours and Talks – Summer 2020
All tours have been canceled through the end of July. This is both because of the coronavirus and it gives me time to recover from what I hope will be minor surgery in late June.
No tour will be held as long as there is a public mask order.
Here are some books Phil recommends for Troubled Times:
The Denver School Book (Denver: New Social Publications, 2019. ISBN 0–9860748–4–5/978–0–9860748–4–4. vi + 490 pp. Illustrations. Index. $24.95) is Phil Goodstein’s latest venture.
It dissects what local schools have been all about. It starts with the city’s first school in 1859, telling about the character of teachers, administrators, and school board members. The study encompasses different schoolhouses, linking them with distinctive neighborhoods. The Denver School Book spells out how the schools have interrelated with the community, and their successes and failures. In passing, it deals with the essential nature of public education and refers to what critics have blasted as “compulsory miseducation.” The extremely well-illustrated Denver School Book is only the beginning of the story. It is the first of a trilogy. The tome ends in 1967, right when DPS was on the verge of school busing upheavals. They will be the subject of volume two, The Denver School Busing Wars. The third part of the study promises to bring the subject into the end of the second decade of the 21st century.
Phil Goodstein, The Denver Civic Center: The Heart of the Mile High City. Denver: New Social Publications, 2016. ISBN 0–9860748–2–9. vi + 478 pp. Illustrations. Index. $24.95.
One hundred years ago, Robert Speer triumphantly returned as mayor of Denver. A prime project was completing the Civic Center. This was an initiative Speer had launched on first taking office in 1904. In the middle of the city, he announced, Denver must have a majestic park. Adjacent to the Capitol, the Civic Center was to be the heart of the Mile High administration and civic life. He encountered numerous roadblocks in making it a reality.
By the time Speer became mayor, Denver had burgeoned as a metropolis with more than 100,000 residents. As it had boomed since the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1858–59, newly wealthy individuals advertised their affluence by erecting opulent mansions. Many were in and around what became the Civic Center.
Already in the 1860s, 14th Street had started to emerge as Denver’s address of distinction. Connecting the future Larimer Square with what became the Civic Center, it was where leading bankers, politicians, and members of high society lived. The original home of the University of Denver was at 14th and Arapahoe streets while many medical faceless were nearby. Included was an early home of the University of Colorado School of Medicine at 13th and Welton streets.
The Civic Center proper is in Evans Addition, land pre-empted by Colorado Governor John Evans in 1864 to the south of Colfax Avenue and west of Broadway. In passing, The Denver Civic Center explains why the diagonal street pattern of downtown ends at Colfax and who the street’s namesake, Schuyler Colfax, was.
Land usages rapidly changed during Denver’s first 50 years. As Capitol Hill overwhelmed Evans Addition and 14th Street in the early 20th century as the city’s elite neighborhood, the land near the Civic Center was increasingly an industrial and commercial district. Broadway north of Cherry Creek emerged as the city’s premier site to buy a prestigious new car. Numerous apartments and residential hotels filled the area.
All the while, the Capitol dominates the hill east of Broadway. Its construction and the various monuments in and about it, including in the Civic Center proper, are among the themes of the book. In passing, The Denver Civic Center tells about the tunnel system under the Capitol, complete with the folklore that a couple of floating heads are stashed beneath the seat of the state government.
In the 1970s, the area in and around the Civic Center started emerged as the Golden Triangle. This increasingly became the popular name for the spread encompassed by West Colfax Avenue, Speer Boulevard, and Broadway. Besides being the heart of Denver’s cultural district with the Denver Art Museum and the main branch of the Denver Public Library, it came to be the home of elite residential towers. In passing, the volume notes the Golden Triangle has also been the home of Denver television with the studios of channels 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, and 31 being in and around the section.
The Silver Triangle emerged in the early 1980s as a mirror of the Golden Triangle. Generally, this is the section bordered by West Colfax Avenue to Speer Boulevard to about Champa Street to 15th Street. The Denver Civic Centerlooks at the landmark buildings there, relating how the Colorado Convention Center emerged and contemporary efforts to transform 14th Street into Ambassador Street