In the fourth year of what’s becoming a tradition for me, I spent a day visiting places normally closed to my camera for Doors Open Denver 2016.
Doors Open Denver is an annual invitation to explore buildings and spaces that aren’t usually so accessible. Participating places are often important architecturally, historically or culturally. Prime examples include the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, The Croke-Patterson Mansion, the Governor’s Residence at Boettcher Mansion and the historic Equitable Building. Every year, new sites join the list.
This year I saw:
The Denver Women’s Press Club
Located in a tiny house on Logan Street in Capitol Hill, it’s believed to have been the first women’s press club in the U.S. The house was formerly the home and studio of etching artist George Elbert Burr. The rest of the block consists of parking lots today, but the Press Club building was saved by its landmark status and now it stands alone, where I passed it many times on foot during my time living in the neighborhood.
First Church of Christ Scientist
Another building I’d walked past many times on Logan Street, my interest was purely architectural. The church is a lovely building with a spacious and beautiful sanctuary in the center, and a lobby floor covered with several thousand square feet of tiny, hand-laid mosaic tiles. The casements, too, exhibit lovely hand carpentry. We didn’t stay long, though.
Scottish Rite Masonic Center
Just down 14th Avenue from the church, the Masonic Center was another architectural mystery for me. Turns out, the Scottish Rite is kind of interesting — they use theater to teach Masonic lessons, and their stage, costumery and prop rooms are quite impressive to a former high school theater geek. The Masons are oddly eager to explain their mission, too, though it seems mainly to spring from an insecurity about the public’s perception of mystery and conspiracy surrounding the fraternity.
The Pentax 6×7 failed me during this first leg, and I have neither finished the pinhole roll I started, nor developed the single-use camera I took along. My backup for the Pentax was the Yashica-Mat, but it was in the car. I retrieved it for the next few stops, however.
Now fully restored and operating as the Patterson Inn, a fancy (but surprisingly reasonable) bed and breakfast, the Croke-Patterson Mansion was for a long time one of Denver’s most notorious haunted places. Restoration began when I lived in Capitol Hill, but we moved away before it finished. I was glad for the opportunity to look inside, because they’ve done a lovely job. Short of completely obliterating the interior, they rebuilt just enough to avoid losing some of the historic mansion’s age and charms. I made some photographs I’m really pleased with here.
Governor’s Residence at Boettcher Mansion
The Governor’s Residence has been available to Colorado governors since 1960, but was built by the Cheesman family on top of Logan Hill in 1908. Walter Cheesman died just as construction was beginning, but his wife, Alice, and daughter, Gladys, completed the home anyway, and added the solarium in 1915. Gladys and her husband John Evans (grandson of territorial governor John Evans) moved out, and Alice died in 1923, at which time the house was purchased by local business heavyweight Claude Boettcher. Claude and his wife lived in the mansion until their deaths in 1957 and 1958, respectively, and in 1959 Gov. Stephen McNichols accepted the home on behalf of the state. Edna Boettcher had left behind an endowed foundation to care for the mansion, and expansions of the foundation have helped maintain and improve it over the years.
Denver Fire Department Station No. 3
Engine No. 3 is the oldest fire company still in operation in Denver. What was Hose Company No. 3 began across the street in 1888, and in 1893 was reorganized into an all-black company in response to demands for a black firehouse from the predominantly black Five Points neighborhood it served. In 1931, the original building was decommissioned and the company was moved to the current building, which, tiny as it is by modern standards, is larger that the earlier building and has a wider engine bay better suited to motorized fire trucks. The original building’s arched brick entrance had been designed for hand-drawn fire carts and horse-drawn wagons, and a motorized truck chassis couldn’t fit through the doors of the narrow building. The modern engine is a tight squeeze even in the new building. Station No. 3 (as well as the rest of the Denver Fire Department) was desegregated in 1958, but prior to that it was the only company where an aspiring black fireman could hope for a spot. It was designated Denver Landmark No. 235 in 1994 for both historical and architectural significance.
Denver Art Museum
I only managed to spend a little while on the seventh floor — Western paintings and sculptures, and a photography exhibit — before closing. The art museum was the only thing open after 5 p.m., and since it was free, I decided to check it out. It was just enough of a taste to make me want to go back — I’ve only ever seen a few special exhibitions before, and never wandered the more permanent collections. I will say it was pretty cool to see a couple of Alfred Bierstadt’s enormous paintings up close and personal.
Without further ado, I present to you the rest of my photographs from Doors Open Denver 2016. All these photographs were made on Kodak Ektar 100 film with my Yashica-Mat and natural light, measured with the Light Meter app on my iPhone.