New Terrace

It’s Thanksgiving ya turkeys!  (This time for real) I hope all of you are having a wonderful day full of turkey, watching the Bears lose once again and pumpkin pie.  If you saw my post from yesterday, you’ll know that I was lucky enough to eat a Thanksgiving meal a day early with some great friends here in Colorado since I couldn’t make it home this year.  But even so, I’m enjoying the holiday with family vicariously thanks to video chat:


I just realized that I’m wearing the same sweater today as the one that I’m wearing in my profile picture.  I own other sweaters, I promise.


Today’s building is New Terrace. Consisting of eight units and two stories this rowhouse/apartment building is located at 900-914 E. 20th Avenue.  Sources have noted that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 5, 1987 but I wasn’t able to track down the official nomination report so that was a bummer.


This is a picture of the New Terrace I took last Sunday.  I was facing south, and this is the center portion of the facade that shows the name “New Terrace” and the year it was built, 1889. The building sits on the northwest corner of the intersection of 20th Avenue and Emerson Street, sitting just south of the San Rafael Historic District.  It is hard to tell whether or not New Terrace is just outside of the district or if New Terrace is located just outside of the boundary.  Though as I’ve been researching a bit more, it looks like New Terrace is in the Park Avenue addition rather than the San Rafael addition, according to this Denver assessor map. In either event, I think a little bit about San Rafael Historic District will apply to the context of New Terrace and might will be super interesting! Look for that down in the history section!


So this one is a bit more difficult than my previous posts since it is a rowhouse.  That’s part of the reason why I picked it, to challenge myself.  Another reason I picked it is because it is definitely within the Victorian period and I thought it had a number of Queen Anne elements to it. While I know last week I did a Queen Anne, I thought because I talked about how many different, intricate character elements there are that make up a Queen Anne it would be cool to see something that may look totally different but is still the same style. I also thought if I was going to have a repeat style that it would be good to have it back-to-back while last week’s blog post is still fresh.

So as you may have put together, I would say this is a Queen Anne.  I think if you look back at last week’s post and then look at this one, it’s a good example to help show why I really like architectural history.  There are so many different ways to tell the story of a building, and they can look very different but still be classified as the same.

So some of the details pointed out last week still apply. Stylized ornamentation on the porches, and the emphasis on each unit’s porch are one example. Again, a good point to focus on here are the styled porch supports, as indicated here by the decorated turned spindles.

Another hint that this is a Queen Anne are the wall texture variations.  Stylized wall textures a key identifying factor to the Queen Anne style.  Whether the main exterior material is wood or masonry, many Queen Anne’s have various shingle or brick patterns.  Some of the ornamentation is labeled via red in the picture below.

download (2)

I’ve had a few friends tell me I must know that in MS Paint there is an option to not do freehand in order to make sure the lines are straight. But again with this picture you can see I chose not to, instead deciding to show off my awesome artistic skills. This photo is courtesy of the Denver Public Library, and you can see that as opposed to the first photo the colors are different.  These series of photos available on the Library’s website are undated, so I can’t exactly peg down just from the photos when the outside renovations took place, but I do make an educated guess down in the history section.  Because I’m educated and can guess. (Be right back, putting that on my resume)

Moving on, another architectural feature that helps pinpoint its style is the tower on the northwest corner of the New Terrace building.  As noted in last week’s post, towers are a very common element to the Queen Anne styles.  They can be from the ground up or be cantilevered out at the second floor like this one.


One thing I also want to mention that I didn’t last week is that Queen Anne towers are almost always rounded or polygonal. Other architectural styles like Second Empire or Italinate may also have towers, but those are more likely to have squared towers rather than rounded ones. And, if we’re getting specific, technically Italinate towers are often cupolas, since they most often sit atop the roof. Awww snap, you got lawyered. Just kidding, no you didn’t, I’m not trained lawyer. But, I do have an LSAT book. So yeah, maybe you did.

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Looking through this rundown of Queen Anne features, you can really see how all the decorative ornamentation adds up to little to no flat surfaces on any elevation.  There’s decoration in nearly every area. This is common across many of the Victorian Style houses that dominated the latter half of the 1800s. Second Empire, Stick, Queen Anne, Shingle and Richardson Romanesque to name a few are often cited as carrying many features influenced by Medieval prototypes as my best friend Virginia McAlester suggests.  Their multi-textured exteriors, characterized by asymmetrical elevations and steeply pitched roods are all common features.

Now,  like I mentioned earlier, I know that this house has been on the National Register since 1987.  Unfortunately, I also couldn’t find who was the architect, builder or engineer.  I do know, however, that the period of significance for this building is 1875-1899 and the historic significance is listed as architecture and engineering.


(Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library digital files)

1875-1899 is a good range for the area, as noted by the historic district that sits just to the north that I brought up earlier, the San Rafael Historic District.  So the San Rafael Historic District generally encompasses the area to north of 20th Avenue along Emerson Street.

The San Rafael Addition was added in 1874 named after the hometown of one of the developers. And while you may be wondering, but Kim, you said New Terrace wasn’t in that district why are you mentioning it.  Okay well first, cool your jets. And second, I think this rowhouse fits in well within the context of what makes San Rafael important.  Rather than try to describe it myself which would end up terribly written I’ll refer you to the following statement taken from the website of the San Rafael Neighborhood Association:

“The San Rafael Historic District is a unique and well-preserved collection of historic building representing Denver’s middle class housing and religious structures of the period 1874 and 1910, ranging from early vernacular frame homes to substantial architect designed dwelling and landmark churches. The district is notable for the cohesiveness of its built environment in terms of size, scale, building materials, and craftsmanship.”

And this point about this area’s representation of middle class housing is important to expand upon, particularly since this isn’t just a house but a rowhouse. Now I’ve said that couple times — rowhouse — I should probably define it. The term generally means houses that share a common wall but often have their own, private entrance door.  As a national register nomination for another rowhouse in Denver explains, these forms of housing were especially important to help accommodate the increasing density in urban settings in late 1800s, early 1900s.

Not everyone could afford large mansions.  Especially after the silver crash of 1893 (also known as the Silver Panic), a period in which Americans saw one of the worst economic recessions in years and one only to be surpassed in tragedy by the stock market crash of 1929.  Money was tight and times were tough, making more affordable housing especially appealing.  While New Terrace is and was a very nice example of architectural significance, it helps illustrate the evolution of the apartment building form at the turn of the century.

Even in the 1880s, Americans held the idea of buying and having their own, individual, private home in very high esteem. But the Silver Panic of 1893 changed this idea for many, especially as they were just starting to make their roots in Denver. Many feared that these new lowered expectations, and the rise of apartment style rowhouses would quickly deteriorate into unsightly tenements.  But the landscape of neighborhoods like Captiol Hill (close to where New Terrace is located) and the rowhouses like New Terrace that sit within them was already changing.

Many of these old historic neighborhoods fell into disrepair over the years, with a number of budgetary issues or neighborhood density shifts playing a role in their decline.  In the 1970s, however, movements across the country pushed revitalization of these old neighborhoods into the mainstream, especially with a new desire to learn more about America’s past fueled by the Bicentennial.  It’s around this time I think the exterior transition took place.

Some other examples of prominent Denver rowhouses include The Grafton  built in 1890.

What is it today?

Today New Terrace is a private residence not too far from Tammen Hall.

Check out this website for some more information:

Thanks for stopping by and see you next week!


Click to access asmt_02353.pdf

Click to access 5DV8524.pdf [entered 914 E. 20th Ave]

McAlister, Lee and Virginia. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

Stipe, Robert E. A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.