Building Denver: Visions of the Capital City opens Saturday, May 29, at History Colorado’s safe and spacious museum on the corner of 12th Avenue and Broadway. A fascinating exhibition of architecture, ambition, activism, and urban planning, it anchors attractive programs that include neighborhood adventures and a series of free music events in July. Several additional exhibits opening this summer surround this marquee attraction for locals, newcomers, and visitors alike. Advance tickets ($0–14) are required via historycolorado.org/welcome.
On view May 29, 2021–August 31, 2022, Building Denver explores the growth, urban development, and architecture of Denver from 1860 to today. Throughout 3,000 interactive square-feet, the exhibition reveals how civic leaders, designers, and residents have steadily worked to bring their own visions for Denver to life. It is built on five chronological sections that focus on different visions for the capital—including the future—and residents are encouraged to advocate for their ideas for tomorrow. In each section, the exhibition examines how design affects everyday life.
An original light post from I.M. Pei’s 16th Street Mall will be on display, as well as a partial reconstruction of an 1859 Auraria plank house that was saved from demolition by May Bonfils Stanton in 1939 and is thought to be one of the oldest surviving structures in Denver. Drawings by John R. Henderson, Jr., who was Colorado's first licensed Black architect, will also be among the artifacts on view. Visitors can listen to the poems featured in the Living Denver podcast, and will have an opportunity to share their own neighborhood memories in the exhibit. Building Denver’s captivating sections are “A New City, 1860–1900”, which begins with the Colorado Gold Rush; “A Beautiful City, 1900-1940”, which unpacks a movement embraced by Mayor Robert Speer; “A Contested City, 1940–1980”, about a battle between urban renewal and historic preservation, among other competing visions; “A Great City, 1980-2020”, exploring Mayor Federico Peña’s optimistic view of Denver’s destiny; and “A Resilient City: Denver’s Future”, which empowers visitors to confront questions about pressing issues like mobility, the environment, and housing in the city today.
Stoked by climate change, public-health crises, and a burning quest for more justice within our metropolis, Denver is in the midst of accelerating urban and social transformation. Its population has exploded over the last two decades, and while the city is more diverse than ever, it was also identified in a recent study to be one of the most rapidly gentrifying cities in the nation. How did we get to this point? Where are we, exactly? And where should we go from here? Building Denver and its supporting facets will help answer some of these questions.
ADDITIONAL EXHIBITS AT THE HISTORY COLORADO CENTER All exhibits are always included in general admission tickets at no extra charge. Children under five receive free admission.
Black in Denver
Through March 2022
The History Colorado Center is proud to be among the host venues for Black in Denver, a portrait and interview series by Denverite Narkita Gold, who notes that the project “takes a critical look at identity, specifically at small Black communities, solitude, and the evolution of the self.” Gold’s approach includes participant observation, empathy interviews, and surveying both locals and transplants to gain a better understanding of Black life in Denver. The project’s online home is blackindenver.com.
State Historical Fund Retrospective
Through Spring 2022
Within every historic structure or project supported by the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF) lies a vibrant community and an individual story. In this 30th-anniversary exhibit at the History Colorado Center, heartfelt testimonials and powerful photography show how preserving history has changed lives. The nation’s largest preservation program of its kind, the SHF currently administers more than 270 grants across Colorado. The Denver Woman’s Press Club, Shorter Community AME Church, State Capitol, and Temple Emanuel are featured local sites.
Building Denver: Where Corners Meet A Collaboration with the CU Denver College of Architecture & Planning
June 11, 2021–Fall 2021
The History Colorado Center’s front porch, lobby, and beautiful Anschutz-Hamilton Hall will host creative interventions by students and architects from the University of Colorado Denver this summer. Three collaborative, investigative projects are currently in development. Work featured in the lobby will re-imagine what the neighborhood of Five Points could be today without prior racial segregation, ongoing societal discrimination, and gentrification. Creators have been examining Afrofuturism to focus their design proposals.
Five Points Plus: Neighborhood Memory Project
June 26, 2021–November 2021
History Colorado is collaborating with members of the Five Points community and the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center on a Museum of Memory project that showcases the human stories and collective memory of this important neighborhood. Built on narratives about living, working, and growing up in Five Points, it features a mural created by artist Adri Norris in partnership with residents, artifacts from a variety of different Five Points eras, a sound installation featuring the voices of the community storytellers, photos from the community, and a soundtrack provided by KUVO radio. This exhibit complements the imaginative lobby installation by partners from the University of Colorado Denver that is also on view this summer.
Brick and Soul
July 30, 2021–July 2022
This fourth-floor exhibit of more than 30 photographs by Denver photographer Armando Geneyro connects the built environment with the people who shape its meaning. A versatile creator, Geneyro specializes in events coverage and photojournalism. His passion for street photography allows him to connect to his subjects and immerse himself in different cultures.
Building Denver Tours & Treks
Through June 26, 2021
Welcome to our guided tours full of fresh air, big ideas, and tiny details. Join us for some sole searching as we take you back and lead you forward towards a Denver of tomorrow. These Covid-conscious walking treks and car caravans include a special series in June led by local historian Phil Goodstein, who offers three excursions focused on calamity and recovery in Denver’s history, for which tickets are still available
The History Colorado Center’s new hands-on makerspace welcomes all museum visitors at no extra charge. Designed for safety and fun, guests of all ages can explore Denver’s built environment through a variety of activities in this new main-floor space. Using materials like cardboard, LEGO blocks, and real tools like hammers and drills, visitors create their own buildings to better understand construction and urban development. Guests can leave their creations to be artfully displayed inside cases in the space or take them home as a keepsake.
Hands-On History Summer Camp
June 14–August 6, 2021
This summer, the History Colorado Center hosts eight weeks of summer camp for young people ages six through 12 to learn and create together through activities that bring history to life and connect to our larger world. Different weekly themes range from topics of the deep ocean, archaeology, superheroes, and space exploration. Building Denver anchors the session that begins July 26. Hands-On History Summer Camp offers automatic tuition assistance up to 40%. Details and registration are available here.
Music Where the Sidewalk Ends
Thursday evenings, July 8–29, 2021, 7–8 p.m.
This summer, the History Colorado Center hosts free outdoor concerts every Thursday evening in July. Music spanning several traditions from Denver’s most beloved neighborhoods will entertain guests, and food and drink will be available for purchase. Participating performers are Avery Jacob, Lolita, Los Mocochetes, and Venus Cruz. Tickets are forthcoming via h-co.org/building; advance registration is required.
Nourish, create, and connect through History Colorado’s newest addition to its online-only interactive offerings. These non-credit educational experiences for adults feature time and space to engage with fellow lifelong learners and our History Colorado experts. “When Zip Code Doesn’t Matter”, a course that connects the intentional and systematic racial housing segregation of the 1930s to political and social issues of today, runs Tuesdays in June. Find details for all of this summer’s classes at historycolorado.org/virtual-classes.
Denver Calling: The Lost Book of Astrid Lee
From the inimitable minds of well-known Denver weirdos Chris Getzan, Andrew Novick and Barry Osborne, the Building Denver mystery quest is a self-guided, physically distanced, episodic adventure. It supports local artists, musicians, small businesses, and community partners through a series of creative interventions upon historic sites—and reveals to participants teachable moments hidden in Denver’s plain sight. The quest runs in early September, with weekly clues leading to the next pursuit. Details for this offering are forthcoming via historycolorado.org/building-denver.
History Colorado Speaker Series
Launching August, 2021 – online and in person
Upbeat, engaging, and informative, the History Colorado Center’s next speaker series follows the June 10 conclusion of our current series investigating central questions of democracy, This Is What Democracy Looks Like. Speakers for late summer and this fall include Jobs With Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley, Gates Foundation President Tom Gougeon, Sturm College of Law Professor Tom Romero, and anthropologist and University of Denver professor Esteban Gomez. Details for these digital and in-person events are coming to h-co.org/building.
A book of Building Denver-inspired essays called Is This the City We Imagined?, this anthology collects leading voices to consider where Denver goes from here. Using the history presented in the Building Denver marquee exhibition as a springboard, it offers diverse perspectives on how we can continue creating the city we want in the future. It is scheduled to be available in July 2021 at the shop in the History Colorado Center and in History Colorado’s online bookshop. Contributors include preservationist and Historic Denver Inc. executive director Annie Levinsky, National Trust for Historic Preservation senior policy director James Lindberg, architects David Pfeifer and David Tryba, Habitat for Humanity vice president María Sepúlveda, former Denver City Councilperson Elbra Wedgeworth, historian and professor William Wei, and others.
The well-being of our staff and visitors is History Colorado’s highest priority. Enhanced cleaning procedures are in place, and some high-touch and high-traffic areas have been adjusted in accordance with public-health guidelines. Capacity is limited at History Colorado museums in order to ensure safe physical distancing at all times. Visitors to the History Colorado Center must purchase a timed ticket in advance or make a member reservation prior to their visit. Up-to-date policies and guidelines are provided during ticketing at historycolorado.org/welcome.
SPONSORS AND CREDITS Building Denver is made possible by generous support from Alec M. Garbini AIA, donors to the Executive Director's Innovation Fund, Bank of America, The City and County of Denver’s Community Planning and Development Department, Gates Family Foundation, Urban Land Conservancy, Continuum Partners--Mark Falcone, and RATIO/Dennis Humphries.
Headline image credits: Confluent People, a mural by Emanuel Martinez in the Confluence Park neighborhood. Photo by Katie Bush courtesy History Colorado; Children play in Cheesman Park, 1910. History Colorado, 89.451.1974; Sunday Rituals, photo by Armando Geneyro.
About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 142-year-old institution that operates Colorado’s oldest museum, nine additional museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is the nation’s largest preservation program of its kind. The SHF currently administers more than 280 grants across Colorado, of which more that 70% are allocated in rural areas. The History Colorado Center is the nation’s first state history museum to display a monument toppled last summer with new, inclusive interpretation.
In the spirit of healing and education, we acknowledge the 48 contemporary tribes with historic ties to the state of Colorado. These tribes are our partners. We consult with them when we plan exhibits; collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts; do archaeological work; and create educational programs. We recognize these Indigenous peoples as the original inhabitants of this land.
History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and nine other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information.