Denver Architecture - A Brief History

Colorado’s capital city of Denver was founded in 1858 as a mining town just a few steps away from the bustling mountains full of prospectors searching for precious metals.  By the time Colorado officially became a state in 1876, Denver was named the capitol and was well on its way to becoming the important western city that it is today.  Although Denver is a relatively young city when compared to some of the other US metropolises, it has its share of beautiful historic buildings. 

For visitors and residents alike, it is well worth the time and effort to take a walking tour of downtown Denver to view some of these magnificent buildings.  First, one should start at the Capitol building and then proceed to the 16th Street Mall.  Although many newer and uninspiring buildings line the pedestrian thoroughfare, the 16th Street Mall is dotted with some beautiful history buildings.  Visitors can choose to walk or take the "Mall Ride," but be sure to take a look at the Sugar Building, the Paramount Theater, and of course, the Ice House. 

History Of The Icehouse

Historic Denver - The Icehouse

Built in 1903, the Ice House was designed by Aaron Gove and Thomas F. Walsh and was originally built for the Littleton Creamery company.   Under the ownership of the Littleton Creamery, the Icehouse was used to produce and store cream, cheese, butter, and other dairy supplies.  In 1912 the Creamery was bought out by the Beatrice Company wherein the building saw its greatest success as a production and storage facility.  The Beatrice Company expanded the plant in 1912 and 1916 making the Icehouse one of the largest cold storage facilities in the nation for many years to come.  Much of the success seen by the Beatrice Company can be attributed to the Icehouse’s proximity to Union Station and the railroad. 

The Icehouse served as a cold storage facility until 1979 and was finally sold in 1981 for $1.2 million.  In 1985 it was put on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1990 the building was turned into lofts.  Today, the Icehouse residences are at the heart of Lower Downtown and are adjacent to Union Station, just a short walk away from Coors Field.  The Icehouse also draws many nonresidents to its facilities with a number of restaurants in its lower level. 

Built in an “Industrial Vernacular” style with hints of renaissance and art deco, the Icehouse boasts some of the best brick masonry in Colorado’s capital city.  The exterior of the building is banded in dark red, light red and beige brickwork with diamond designs holding up the cornice.   Each addition to the original structure is distinct, yet the same level of craft is easily seen with the amount of detail put into the brickwork.  This brick masonry indeed stands out as the building’s best architectural feature, as it makes quite a bold statement standing next to the better-known Union Station building.  It seems as if the polychromatic masonry and the bold proclamation of “Ice House” on its western façade are begging for attention from those entering Union Station.  This attention is indeed much deserved as the Icehouse stands as a beautiful edifice located in historic Lower Downtown. 

Be sure to read these other articles for your trip to Colorado: