So this is my first post on my new, shiny blog. Pedaling Preservation started from my desire to work on my architectural preservation skills. Since I’ve only done it in the context of school, and even then I’ve only entered the historic preservation world two years ago when I started studying at Colorado State University, I figured I could push myself to get more practice. Plus, I’m still new to Colorado and I’m certainly new to Denver which is such a beautiful city.
The premise is this: I ride around on my bike and find buildings I think are beautiful and historic (generally one in the same though in my eyes) and see what I can find out about them using the tools historic preservation often use. Then, I do a little write up and post a picture or two. It’ll always be places I ride to, and I’m hoping this becomes a cool collection for anyone who may stumble across it.
But this blog is useful in another way, I believe. In the spring of 2014 I was in a graduate level digital history class. There were a number of group projects but mine was doing a State Historical Fund grant, proposing to help Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) survey more potentially historic sites by writing a grant that worked on building a mobile application to help make it easier for everyday guys and gals like you and me to get out there and survey cool old buildings. This may seem like a project motivated by purely altruistic sentiments, but as my group found out during the process there is a strong need for it in Colorado. Here is what we wrote:
“The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 charged all State Historic Preservation Officers with the responsibility of surveying and cataloging historic properties to determine eligibility for listing on state and national historic registers. In northern Colorado, the process of recognizing and preserving historic resources has still only begun; as noted in Colorado’s 2010 State Preservation Plan, a mere 7% of Colorado’s geographic area has been thoroughly surveyed. Facing limited resources, the OAHP cannot possibly hire historic preservation professionals to conduct highly specialized, comprehensive surveys throughout the entire state. The OAHP therefore needs to enable volunteers—students, professionals, and the public—to engage in the process of information-gathering and democratize involvement in this daunting task.”
My reaction to that 7% percent figure was shock, awe and bunch of “say whaaaaaa?” I’m pretty articulate. No big deal. But in all seriousness, that’s another motivating factor for this blog. If I can get out there on my bike and check out some buildings and post them on a blog, maybe people will see them and be able to connect the buildings they see as they are walking around their neighborhood to the broader history that lies within them. I imagine many of the buildings I put up here will not be on any sort of National or State register, though some might be (actually today’s is a Landmark! please don’t judge me and my choices) and in some ways, I’m more excited to get those on here since they otherwise haven’t been ogled over that way registered buildings have been.
My plan for these posts is to post some pictures and name the address and neighborhood, then I’ll go in an architectural description and then I’ll write a bit on the historical background of the people involved with the place. For this last piece, some will obviously have more info than others but I’ll try my best.
Without any more delay, I will begin!
Today’s building is…(drum roll, please!) Tammen Hall.
As many of you know, last Friday was Halloween. If you did not know that, I imagine reading this made all your co-workers being dressed up and kids stopping by your house in high numbers make a heck of a lot more sense. Anyway, it just so happens Tammen Hall is actually thought to be haunted so a very fitting first entry!
Located at 1010 E. 19th Avenue, Tammen Hall was named as a Historic Denver Landmark in 2005 it is in the Five Points neighborhood just near Downing Street, sitting on the south east corner of the intersection of E. 19th Avenue and N. Ogden Street.
New buildings are going up all around it, as brand new hospital is being built. Even as I went to go take pictures, the whole back was (and has been, presumably) fenced in with construction going on all around. A new hospital is being built up in the surrounding blocks.
I would classify this as art deco. While it is not highly stylized, it fits into the time frame for the American movement into art deco buildings, with it’s construction date pegged at c. mid-1920s.
One of the telling features that this is an art deco is its emphasis on the vertical. Note the recessed portion on the front elevation where the three archways sit. That brings your eye all the way to the roof line, where there is more ornamentation. Specifically note the geometric (perhaps zigzag) motif near the roof on the two portions of the facade that flank the recessed portion.
Noting those features and the time period in which Tammen Hall was built, another helpful guide is Virginia McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses, essentially my bible as a budding architectural historian.
She explains that art deco was quite popular in commercial buildings in the 1920s and early 30s. She also notes that some of identifying features include “zigzags, chevrons, and other stylized and geometric motifs occur as decorative elements on [the] facade; towers and other vertical projections above the roof line give a vertical emphasis.”
With this, we can see the center, recessed portion of the facade extends above the roof line, and marks some of the most stylized portions of the front elevation. The rest of the facade is relatively streamlined and unadorned other than the archways at the entry point.
So where to begin with the history? The name that sits atop the arched entryway on 19th Ave. seemed to be as good as any since looking up the address address on the Denver Assessor’s Office – Real Property Records website turned up very little information for this particular building.
Searching the name in the Digital Collection of Denver Public Library brought up a fair amount of information, including this picture of the young and dapper H.H. Tammen. While his wife was more involved with this particular building, and is more likely the deserving namesake, I can’t pass up the opportunity to tell a good story.
Like so many, the Tammen family migrated westward in the late 1800s. H. H. Tammen was interested in studying minerals and started writing a publication about them. Later, with his partner F.G. Bonfils, he became co-owner of the Denver Post. Not so sensational, but here’s the juicy part. In January of 1900 Tammen and Bonfils were shot by W.W. Anderson, a Denver attorney. (Not a great way to start off 1900) So the trial begins and at the end Anderson is found not guilty. Later, however, it comes out the Bonfils and Tammen tried to bribe the jury to find Anderson guilty and ended up getting put on trial themselves. You can’t make this stuff up. You could say that one definitely…backfired on them. Boom! Historical pun!
Anyway, back to the building. Tammen Hall was an additional wing to the original hospital that sat just east but is no longer there. As space grew increasingly limited, the new 8 story Tammen Hall was constructed in 1924 to allow for more space for nurses and the patients. There, Henry (H.H.) and Agnes poured in thousands of dollars to help treat smallpox, tuberculosis and the flu among other illnesses. During their recovery process, children often had long stays at the hospital, resulting in a school program to be developed there.
I think what is interesting is that this really lines up within the historical context of the Progressive Era. Generally acknowledged to start in the 1890s and extend into the 1920s in America, the Progressive Era was all about bettering oneself. For example, remember Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle? It exposed the absolutely terrible working conditions in Chicago’s meat packing plants. Well one real-life thing that came out of that was the 1906 Meat Inspection Act which essentially stipulated that meat plants must produce meat that was fit for human consumption (no wayyyyy), regulated inspections and made it so accurate labels were to be placed on the meat.
A more congruent contextual comparison in terms of Tammen Hall and the Progressive Era I think is the settlement house movement in America. It was a social reform movement that sought to help immigrants by providing education, daycare, and housing. [For more about settlement houses read here.] While settlement houses peaked in the 1920s and still linger on in some capacities presently, their roots certainly begin in the Progressive reform era. With the construction of many surrounding buildings to accommodate living quarters for the nurses, gymnasiums, learning centers as well as the medical facilities, I think Tammen Hall is well situated in this context.
What is it today?
From what I can gather through sources, Henry died in 1924 and Agnes died in 1942. Their legacy lived on, through both the hospital’s work and their lasting motto of “For a Child’s Sake” with Tammen Hall remaining a working hospital well into the 2000s. After years of switching out equipment and moving around offices, the decision was made in the mid-2000s that the hospital needed more space and that renovations just wouldn’t cut it any longer. The Children’s Hospital has since moved from this Five Points area, but Tammen Hall remains as a testament to the past.
I hope you liked my first post! Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post! (or don’t, it’s a free country) (but please do)
http://www.discoverdenver.co/ [searched 1010 E. 19th Ave.]
McAlister, Lee and Virginia. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
http://www.childrenscolorado.org/about/history/timeline#1908-1945: A Hospital is Born