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The 1891 Historic Elitch Theatre is just one of the important Denver buildings highlighted in this year’s Doors Open Denver tours. Photo courtesy of Historic Elitch Theatre
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Explore Iconic Denver Architecture During Doors Open Denver

The annual event, beginning September 27, offers three weeks of free virtual tours and ticketed in-person tours of Denver’s built environment.

City Park. McGregor Square. LoDo warehouses. Baker Historic District Victorians. Chances are, you’ve passed these Denver icons countless times, but have you ever wondered about the stories behind their designs?

Doors Open Denver (DOD), an annual event presented by the Denver Architecture Foundation, was created for those who have. Now in its 17th year, DOD helps Denverites explore their built environment and gain a deeper understanding of its evolution, impact, and design through expert-led tours.

This year’s event, taking place September 27 through October 17, includes free, on-demand virtual tours; four are new for 2021 (200 Block South Lincoln Street Historic DistrictDaniels & Fisher TowerLoretto Heights: Pancratia Hall, and NCAR Mesa Laboratory), and 12 are archived from 2020, including the Freyer-Newman Center at the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Boiler House, and the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library.

This year, DOD will also offer in-person tours of notable sites including the Clyfford Still Museum, the Historic Elitch Theatre, the Historic 11th Avenue Hostel, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, as well as fascinating walking tours of LoDo, City Park, and the Baker Historic District. Here, a preview of the places attendees will discover anew:

The City Transformed: LoDo – Professor Ken Schroeppel, founder and editor of the popular DenverInfill and DenverUrbanism blogs, leads a two-hour walking tour that explores Denver’s historic Lower Downtown District from an urban planning and development perspective. Learn about LoDo as the city’s birthplace, its transformation into a warehouse district, its post-WWII decline, its revitalization into today’s bustling mixed-use district, and its future. Photo courtesy of Ryan Dravitz
City Park – Longtime Park Hill resident, author, and president of City Park Friends and Neighbors Georgia Garnsey, along with author Barbara Wright and artist Patty Paul, will lead a tour of the 330-acre “people’s park,” sharing insights on its 1882 design and evolution from prairie to urban oasis. Photo courtesy of Visit Denver/Bryce Boyer
Historic Baker Neighborhood Walking Tour – This interactive walking tour, led by longtime Denver resident and chair of the Baker Home Tour, Kevin Henderson, offers a rich history of the Baker Historic District, an up-close look at the neighborhood’s 19th-century brick homes—including designs by architect William Lang—and a special peek inside a private residence. Photo courtesy of Kevin Henderson
Clyfford Still Museum – The cantilevered, concrete Clyfford Still Museum was designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture to display the groundbreaking collection of artist Clyfford Still. The museum’s Allyson Johnson leads an exploration of the 28,500-square-foot building’s role as a canvas for art—and a work of art in its own right. Photo by Jeremy Bittermann, courtesy of Clyfford Still Museum
Historic 11th Avenue Hostel – Sydney Ilg Malone shares how she and her father completely renovated a 118-year-old lodging facility—designed by renowned architect Frederick J. Sterner to house laymen and educators of the day—into a 21st-century hostel with unique private and shared accommodations for modern travelers. Photo courtesy of 11th Ave. Hostel
United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum – Head to Colorado Springs for a tour of this contemporary building—designed by world-renowned architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro—that’s dedicated to Team USA athletes and their stories. Highlights include the site’s focus on accessibility and the 60,000-square-foot building’s plaza, façade, 12 galleries, and pedestrian bridge. Photo by Jason O’Rear, courtesy of USOPM
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre – Historical architect John P. Olson and Tad Bowman, venue director for Red Rocks Amphitheatre, reveal aspects of this one-of-a-kind amphitheater that concertgoers might miss, from its naturally occurring rock architecture to rock ’n’ roll lore. Photo courtesy of Taylor Wallace – Alive Coverage
Historic Elitch Theatre – It was home to the oldest summer stock theatre in America. It hosted Colorado’s first moving picture, not to mention some of the most famous faces in show business, from Grace Kelly and Cecil B. DeMille to Robert Redford and Debbie Reynolds. Now, the 1891 Historic Elitch Theatre—which held its last production in 1991—is awaiting its revival as a nationally known venue for the arts. A trio of guides share more about its past and future. Photo courtesy of Historic Elitch Theatre
Eugene Groves’ Nordlund House – Discover the experimental building techniques and forward-thinking design details of the 1938 Eugene Groves Nordlund House, which features a modular construction of steel and pre-cast, poured-in-place concrete. The home’s current owners, engineers Jason Pingenot and Hillary Smith, lead a tour of the Hilltop gem, the largest and most elaborate example of architect Eugene Groves’ residential work. Photo courtesy of Jason Pingenot
McGregor Square – Discover the wide array of spaces comprising McGregor Square, a new development that connects Coors Field to the LoDo neighborhood. David Carnicelli of developer Stantec leads the stroll down Wynkoop Promenade, through the center of the plaza, and up to the Rally Hotel’s rooftop terraces and shared amenity decks. Photo courtesy of Stantec
Fruitdale School Lofts – The two-story, 1927 ornamental brick building known as Fruitdale School Lofts is architect Temple Hoyne Buell’s oldest remaining school building. The structure, which includes 1930 and 1950 additions, was redeveloped into 16 affordable, solar-powered apartments in 2017 and now produces food (apples, cherries, pears, plums, and blackberries) for its residents. Jim Hartman, co-owner of Hartman Ely Investments and an expert on sustainable, adaptive-reuse projects, leads the tour. Photo courtesy of Balthazar Ely
J. Roger Musick’s Bitman-Hower House – This Spanish Eclectic jewel on historic Montview Boulevard in Park Hill received its individual structure landmark designation in January 2021, making it the only residential design by prominent Denver architect J. Roger Musick to become a Denver landmark. Historic Denver’s executive director, Annie Levinsky, joins the 1936 home’s current owners to lead a tour of the exterior and interior. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rogers

If you go: Doors Open Denver runs September 27 through October 17; tour times and locations vary. Visit denverarchitecture.org to purchase tickets for in-person tours and to access virtual tours. Virtual tours are free; in-person tours are $25 each for members and $30 each for non-members.

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