Building Denver: Visions of the Capital City Begins May 29

The heart of downtown Denver will soon showcase a summer of local history through exhibitions, programs, and events at the History Colorado Center. Building Denver: Visions of the Capital City, a fascinating exhibition of architecture, ambition, activism, and urban planning, opens Saturday, May 29, at History Colorado’s safe and spacious museum on the corner of 12th Avenue and Broadway.  

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.

Photo courtesy History Colorado

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