Few perfect days begin with tales of lechery and treachery, but if you’re at all interested in the history of Denver, head downtown where you can experience a Denver History Walking Tour, visit historic sites, and even tour a late 19th century home.
Blending some new with the old, today’s exploration of Denver’s and its history will include taking a ride on the free 16th Street Mall shuttle, powered by electricity rather than petrol to the Capitol Hill neighborhood known for its government buildings, large parks, and culture. The epitome of historic downtown, many of the structures in this neighborhood date back to the 1920’s, including some of Denver’s oldest single-family homes.
While many may know Denver as the Mile High City, many may not know how dark some of its history is. For example, Market Street was so named because it was lined with women’s “boarding houses” where they would sell their services to paying male customers. Did you realize that Cheesman and Civic Center Parks that surround the Capitol Hill neighborhood, while beautiful today, were built upon a cemetery that was not fully emptied of all interred there and a large neighborhood of multi-family buildings that were simply razed to the ground, displacing hundreds of residents.
While we enjoy these parks today as large green spaces with fountains and monuments, the City Beautiful style of municipal development that inspired then Mayor Robert Williamson Steele during his trip to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was achieved at a high and not altogether fair price, thus the deviant side of Denver’s history.
Begin your day with a walk through Writer Square on the way to the meeting point for your morning walking tour. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to picture one-time Capitol Hill resident and famed author Jack Kerouac reposed at one of the courtyard bistro tables with coffee and a pastry. Take the time to enjoy the flowers and sculptures that grace the middle of this square. For your own breakfast, try Crepes ‘N Crepes on the northeast side of the square. Savory or sweet, they will have a crepe to satisfy your taste buds and jumpstart your morning with enough sustenance to carry you through a busy day exploring the history of Denver.
Next, head towards the clock tower at 16th and Arapahoe; notice that this section of 16th Street is designed for the pedestrian, with only the environmentally-friendly free electric shuttles whirring back and forth. This is the 16th Street Mall – designed by I. M. Pei before he became famous for his glass pyramids that now mark the public entrance to the Louvre in Paris.
It is from this location that Denver History Walking Tour’s Gold Rush tour begins. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, this tour will likely expose you to new stories and places – like gems hidden in the crevices of new structures and murmuring beneath the bustle of everyday business in downtown Denver. The tour walks you through the city’s early history – before Denver was Denver. Discover how the streets of downtown received their names; how short-lived the Denver gold rush was until someone realized, “There’s gold in them thar hills,” and set out for higher elevations; and where the past and future meet at the soon to be redeveloped Union Station. The walks are designed to be interactive, so never hesitate to ask questions of your tour guide. The most important of which may come at the end of the tour: “What else would you recommend we see in Denver before we leave?”
The walking tour ends at the clock tower where it began. From here, hop on the free shuttle and ride to its terminus at Civic Center Station. You’re now in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. If you’re feeling a little peckish after the walking tour, stop into Mad Greens for a salad – or a glass of wine from the Mad Wine Bar. Located across from the giant broom and dustpan in the Denver Art Museum courtyard, a seat on their patio is prime people-watching real estate if you’re there on one of Colorado’s many mild afternoons. Choose from menu options like the Don Quixote or Edgar Allan Poe; add a chicken breast or piece of salmon for protein, and it will be sure to carry you through your next activity during your perfect day in Denver.
The Byers Evans House is one attraction your walking tour guide might recommend as a must-see, and it’s just one block away from Mad Greens on Bannock St. Built in 1883 by Rocky Mountain News publisher William Byers, the structure and its furnishings are original and have been preserved in this museum. The last tour is at two o’clock, so be sure to give yourself enough time to get there.
To make the day unforgettable, consider checking in at the Hotel Teatro. Consistently rated as one of Denver’s best hotels, its location and amenities can’t be beat. End your perfect day right in the hotel with dinner at Restaurant Kevin Taylor. Ruminate over your day’s discoveries and Denver’s dark past at this Paris inspired eatery, which features a gourmet menu and extensive wine list. Nothing concludes the perfect day better than enjoying a decadent meal, good conversation, and retiring to the bed awaiting you only a few floors above.
What and Where:
Denver History Walking Tours (720-234-7929)
Capitol Hill Neighborhood (www.denver.com/capitol-hill/)
Cheesman Park (www.denvergov.org/CheesmanPark/tabid/380771/Default.aspx)
Civic Center Park (www.denvergov.org/CivicCenter/tabid/380780/Default.aspx)
Crepes ‘N Crepes (1512 Larimer St., #6-R; 303-534-6844)
Restaurant Kevin Taylor (1100 Fourteenth St.; 303-288-1100).
Mad Greens and Wine Bar (1200 Acoma St., Ste. B; 303-464-7336)
Byers Evans House (1310 Bannock St.; 303-620-4933)
Hotel Teatro (1100 Fourteenth St.; 303-288-1100)
Maura O’Neal has lived in Denver for three years and is still finding new things to do in and around the Mile High City. When she is not out exploring her own neighborhood, she works as a flight attendant to support her international travel habit. Visit her blog at http://travelsabound.blogspot.com.