Saturday, April 21, 2007

Doors Open Denver

So last weekend, Denver opened up the doors of it's "architectural gems" for tours and such. I took the opportunity to get my camera out and I dragged Garth and Julie downtown for the day.

Garth and Julie beat me to Union Station (I missed my train) and they signed us up for our tours. Since we had some time to kill, I met them at Zaidy's deli for breakfast. While we were waiting, we eagerly looked over the program detailing each of the open buildings and we planned our attack. As I was reading the snippets, I was struck by the marketing job of City of Denver, as they had come up with a complete gibberish of acronyms for neighborhoods, and it was getting ridiculous. Already well known is LoDo, or Lower Downtown. They renamed it when they "saved" it from the beat poet/artist scum and constructed the baseball park.

Now though, they have created NoDo- Northern Downtown, RiNo- River North, and SoCo- South of Colfax. Nobody really uses these names (outside of the real estate industry, I guess) so we decided to come up with some of our own. Since I live in the relatively square neighborhood of Wash Park, it didn't give us much to work with. Garth and Julie, on the other hand, needed a much more interesting name for their neighborhood. Julie came up with DoYo- between Downing and York, which became NoDoYo- North DoYo, and I suggested NoDoJo- North between Downing and Josephine. It may not translate well here, but we were cracking up.

After draining our cups of coffee, we headed to the 16th Street Mall to meet our first tour group. Garth signed us up for the "Victorian Denver" tour, which I'm sad to say, had nothing Victorian on it (what we managed to see, anyway). It was a good tour though, full of the gossip and stories that come from a mining town. Our first stop was the Brown Palace, one of Denver's swankiest hotels.

The Brown was built by Henry (?) Brown, out of spite. He was rejected from lunching at one of the other Denver hotels due to his casual dress (they didn't really enforce dress codes then either, so it was a particularly obvious blow), and so he built the Brown Palace, meant to be the fanciest place in town.

He did a pretty good job- every president has stayed there, and Eisenhower even ran the country from the hotel while recovering from somethingorother for a couple of months. Another sign of a good hotel- it's said to be haunted. We didn't get the lowdown on any of the ghost stories, but you can go on a tour by the hotel to learn all about them. I think I'll be hitting that up later.

The next stop on our tour was the Capitol Building. Just as we were about to hear the story of the "mile high" marker, a bunch of Red Hats came out, led by their own tour director. They joined us for the telling of the story, and our guide got about 2 minutes in before being interrupted by the other guy, who wanted to tell the "real story". (This was about the third time already that this poor guy had gotten interrupted for a telling of the "real story".) So here goes:

The etched step in the middle is the marker surveyed in by the mayor of Denver when the Capitol was finished, way back in the day. Sometime in the 70's, a group of protesting university students (Down with the bomb, Boo Nixon, etc.) decided to take it upon themselves to re-survey the mile-high mark, just to stick it to the man. They measured the mark every midnight for a week and placed the upper marker on the spot they decided was the real mile-high mark.

Then, a couple of years ago, (since I've moved here- my previous photos of the mark don't include the third one!) President Bush was visiting, and was entertained by the story of the students and their project. He decided to use his multi-million dollar, high precision GIS system for good, and he had the mark measured again. The satellites just happened to do a flyover at exactly noon every day, and so, the third marker, the one on the bottom, was placed.

Which one is right? Well, after much deliberation and input from USGS scientists and such, they decided that the true, correct mark was: the original one, etched into the step. (The noon and midnight measurements were affected by the same pull that makes the tides.) Guess those old guys knew what they were doing, huh?

The tour was off to another stop, but we had to head back another direction to catch out other tour at the new EPA building in LoDo.

The new building, which is not nearly as interesting on the outside (I couldn't get a good photo- these are the buildings across the street) was built as a "Green" experiment. The building sports bamboo floors, a roof garden, cubicles lined with corn husk fabric, and a giant atrium with sails to reflect the sunlight down to the plebes on the lower floors, among other green things. It was an interesting take to construction, and we had one of the design architects to lead our tour. Since it was a government building though, I didn't get to bring in my camera, so you'll just have to trust me.

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