Modern buildings like the Denver Art Museum get all the attention, but it’s really the historic structures—red brick LoDo warehouses and Capitol Hill mansions—that are our city’s icons. And we owe our urban character, in part, to Historic Denver, a nonprofit founded in 1970 by a hodgepodge of concerned citizens trying to save the Molly Brown House (it’s now a museum). Last month, the group, which works to preserve and promote the restoration of Denver’s historic buildings—and is now one of the largest preservation programs in the state—celebrated its 40th birthday. “Our strength as a community lies in our willingness to invest in the places we’ve inherited in ways that allow growth and adaptation,” says executive director Annie Levinsky. Here, she takes us on a tour of a few of her favorite reuse projects.
Molly Brown House, 1340 Pennsylvania Avenue
Built: 1889 Restored: 1970–1971
Old Use: The Victorian residence of Denver’s famed Titanic-surviving philanthropist, the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown.
New Use: A fully restored and furnished early 20th century museum. Entrance fees benefit Historic Denver’s programs.
Rocky Mountain Seed Company, 1321 15th Street
Built: 1894 Restored: 2008
Old Use: The retail store and company headquarters for the Rocky Mountain Seed Company—purveyors of vegetable, flower, and other seeds—from 1920 through 2007.
New Use: A colorfully decorated, minimalist, loft-style office space, and headquarters for JohnstonWells Public Relations.
Dry Ice Factory, 3300 Walnut Street
Built: 1929 Restored: 2007
Old Use: The factory for Liquid Carbonic, manufacturer of dry ice, carbon dioxide, and other products used for soda fountains.
New Use: Home to more than 30 artist studios and a co-op art gallery—and considered a mainstay of the burgeoning RiNo arts district.
Sage (Fontius/Steel) Building, 1575 Welton Street
Built: 1923 Restored: 2008
Old Use: The Steel department store—and home of Dupler Furs and Fontius shoes—before giving way to dilapidation and becoming one of the 16th Street Mall’s most notorious eyesores.
New Use: A renovated office space, renamed the Sage Building after its tenant, hotel and restaurant management company Sage Hospitality.
Lowenstein Theater, 2526 East Colfax Avenue
Built: 1953 Restored: 2005
Old Use: The Bonfils Memorial Theater; then the Denver Civic Theater; and finally, the Lowenstein. It sat vacant on Colfax Avenue for nearly 20 years until its renovation.
New Use: Home to the Tattered Cover Book Store, Twist & Shout Records, and—as of November—the Denver Film Society.