Four Squares

Give a kid some crayons and ask him to draw a house, and the result will probably look a lot like a Denver Square. You see them all over the city, those cubic, two-story brick houses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sturdy, statelly, and, yes, boxy, the Denver Square - genericallly known as a Foursquare, and not unique to the Mile-High City - is a paragon of architectural efficiency, offering a large amount of interior space on smallish lots. Although they are simpler and less detailed than the ornate Queen Annes that preceded them, their relative plainness has always been part of their appeal.

October 2002

Built by the thousands between 1894 and 1920, often by real estate speculators from kits and pattern books, the typical Denver Square has a low-hipped roof with a deep overhang, a large central dormer window, minimal ornamentation, and a full-width front porch supported by simple Tuscan columns or square posts.

Inside, the layout is the epitome of simple functionality, with an entry hall, a living room, a dining room, a pantry (many of which have been converted to small bathrooms), and a kitchen on the first floor, plus three or four bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Some are quite large?– Cheesman Park has some of the biggest – while others, such as the plane jane versions in West Washington Park, seem tiny by comparison.

Naturally, some renovation work is often in order. Original plumbing and electrical systems usually need to be overhauled. Most Denver Square owners favor at least some modern conveniences. Some have knocked out a wall or two in order to “open up” their houses. Others have added entire rooms off the back. New kitchens are de rigueur. The trick is to make sensitive updates without compromising historical integrity.