It’s that time again! My second post.
So the weather has changed quickly here in Denver. It finally got the news it was fall. If I may, now that it has passed, I’m going to talk about summer for a moment. I don’t understand why people love it so much. In fact, I’m convinced the only people who say they love summer are people who also have air conditioning. I imagine them saying things as they finally step outside like, “oh what a quaint little heat wave” and, “better turn down the A/C even more because A/C is something we totally have!” Meanwhile, I haven’t had air conditioning in 8 years and so I’m at home feeling like I live in a sauna broken to “on” and taking ice cold showers and unable to sleep because it’s so hot. Anyway, so it was a 65 over the weekend and yesterday and today it’s in the teens. Maybe I’ll have to get some bar mitts, which are basically bike gloves that attach to your bike’s handlebars. The future is here, folks.
Speaking of my bike, I want to get a picture up here to show all of you what I ride (a glorious steed she is indeed), but in the meantime for those of you who would like to get to know me a little better, and to see why I chose to start this blog and ride my bike, please check out my about section! You can also find me on twitter.
So today’s building is the Acme Lofts, located at 1616 14th Street in Denver and built in 1909. At least that is the address for the lofts that they’ve become today. As I will get into later, this building used to be home to a factory for a few businesses and while 1616 14th was one address, there was a door on the other side, which was 1333 Wazee Street. Sometimes, then, this 1333 address is referenced in historical documents and searches.
This is a picture of the Acme Lofts I took last Sunday. I was facing west-northwest, and this is the 1616 14th Street entrance door shown here. The building sits on the northeast corner of the intersection of 14th Street and Wazee Street, sitting within the Auraria neighborhood.
In 1988, the area from Wynkoop Street to Market Street between 13th and 20th Streets was designated a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places for its local significance. Included in the list of 127 contributing buildings was Acme Upholstery at 1333 Wazee St., now known as the Acme Lofts at 1616 14th.
Here is a map that shows in a light blue the outline of the historic district. The red pin represents the Acme building. The other light orange (salmon? pinkish?) colored blocks are different historic districts and the other dots are individual buildings designated as landmarks. Talk about context, my friends, I’m trained in giving it. Boom.
Now that you have a little background, let’s move on to the building itself.
20th Century Commercial.
Some of the main characteristics of the Commercial style are the flat roofs, the masonry exterior and the three part windows. Now these windows are often called Chicago windows because of their predominance in the Chicago School architecture style. These two styles are similar in many ways, but usually the Chicago window is three sections and has one fixed middle window flanked by two double-hung sash windows. While it originated in the Chicago style, other turn of the century and 20th century commercial buildings used that window design. As you can see in the picture below with the Acme Lofts, it has the three part window but just not in the exact same fashion.
(red arrows mark the windows; blue arrow marks the cornice. Historic photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library)
Bigger windows in higher numbers per building developed largely because of newer and better construction technologies. Older buildings and factories struggled to surpass but one or two stories because of the heavy weight created by the need for large masonry support walls. In the Commercial and Chicago style buildings, there were steel frames acting as the main frame support with brick exteriors hanging on them, meaning they could accommodate more stories.
Other aspects that mark the style of this building is the presence of a cornice. The cornice is the decorative molding that is at the top edge of the building. Again, as you can see above, this building boasts a beautiful pressed tin cornice.
Lastly, since I’ve been talking about the similarities between 20th Century Commercial and Chicago Style I want to point out one of the big distinctions, and that would be the lack of terracotta. The city of Chicago saw a huge shift to incorporating terracotta in their buildings after the fire of 1871 and the “Great Rebuilding” since it was deemed to be a more fireproof material (but also many buildings in the late 19th century were made out of wood so pretty much anything would be more fireproof, just sayin’).
Brecht Candy Company was built in 1909 by the architecture firm Biscoe & Hewitt. During just a short time, the two created an impressive number of buildings in Denver, almost all of which are historically designated as significant at some level.
(click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Colorado’ Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation)
The building’s first occupants was the Austin Candy Company. After it failed in 1916, Gustavius A. Von Brecht (great name) purchased the building and ran it as a candy company under his name until 1952 when it became the Acme Upholstery Company until it was again sold and turned into residences in the early 1990s. A candy company! How cool is that! An upholstery company! How
cool sort of cool is that!
Just for fun, here are some good lookin’ business dudes, ready to do business in the 1960s:
(Historic photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library)
Factories like this one contributed an important amount of economic viability to Denver’s growth at the turn of the century. In fact, the National Register nomination marks the areas of significance for this building, and the historic district it lies within, as being both architecture and commerce. In the late 19th century, people were making their way out of the crowded cities of the east in exceedingly high numbers. People wanted to make their mark in the West and for many, Denver was at the very least a stopover.
The area surrounding 1616 14th is especially significant in terms of Denver, as the National Register nomination writes, “The original town site of Denver grew up on the east bank of Cherry Creek near the confluence of the South Platte River in 1858.” If you note the map I posted earlier in the post, you can see that this description of the origin point for Denver is right where this building sits.
Even something as seemingly innocuous as the cornice on this building contributes to the contextual significance. In the early 1900s, local economies across America were still reaping the benefits from the railroad system boom of the preceding decades. Again referring to the NR nomination, “With sudden access to Eastern architectural ideas and building materials, Denver’s buildings began to reflect a greater variety of styles and ornamentation…such as cornices, storefront columns and window hoods.”
What is it today?
Today it’s an attractive residential space boasting nearly 30 loft units. If you want to see the inside, but don’t want to break in (which is not recommended) check out this video made by the rental company.
Thanks for stopping by and see you next week!
http://www.denvergov.org/maps/map/neighborhoods [Entered 1616 14th St.]