To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Historic Denver Inc. has launched its 50 Actions for 50 Places initiative that’s designed to amplify attention on sites that previously have been under-recognized or marginalized.
Historic Denver collected nominations for locations from the community from March through May before culling the list down to 50 places. The actions to be taken on each property vary depending on what it needs, said Annie Levinsky, executive director of the nonprofit organization.
“For some sites, it’s more research, for others it’s interpretation,” Levinsky said.
For example, Julia Greeley Boarding Boarding House is the building where Greeley lived while performing charitable acts in Denver. Greeley was a former slave from Hannibal, Missouri, who made her way to Denver after Missouri’s Emancipation Act of 1865. She gave what she didn’t need to poor families in the neighborhood, and if her own resources weren’t adequate, she begged for food, fuel or clothing for those who needed it.
“It’s now a commercial building, but an interpretive plaque on the building will help people know its significance,” Levinsky said.
Others want Historic Denver’s help in getting local Landmark designation or a listing on the National Register of Historic Places to support the goals they’ve set for their properties.
The selected buildings represent stories that are not widely known, were not protected or where there is a clear potential for action.
“We didn’t want to get the Brown Palace 50 times,” Levinsky said.
Built in 1892, Denver’s storied 243-room Brown Palace Hotel and Spa is the longest continuously operating hotel in Denver and one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious businesses. The sandstone and red granite structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the obvious landmarks eliminated from the mix, that left room for lesser-known historic properties to garner some attention.
Denver’s ChinaTown made the list, and the Re-Envisioning Historic Chinatown Project is working on the historical markers and mural to replace the existing plaque marking the Hop Alley/Chinese Riot of 1880 near 20th and Blake streets because its description of the area is incorrect.
“Hop Alley is a derogatory term for opium dens,” said Gil Asakawa, a commissioner with the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission and a Historic Denver board member. “Whites used it to describe what they thought were dirty, drug-addicted Chinese, but their customers were not just Chinese.”
The plaque also describes an anti-Chinese race riot during with Look Young was beaten to death and hung from a light post at 19th and Arapaho streets. The plaque, without mentioning Young’s name, states that one Chinese person was killed and names three white business owners who protected Chinese who were fleeing.
“It just seems really off balance to me and the other commission members that three white names were included on this plaque and not the man who was killed. It’s history written from a white perspective. Our goals is to replace that plaque.”
Bars and restaurants making the list include:
- My Brother's Bar, built in 1873 and Denver’s oldest bar
- Brooklyn’s, one of the last remaining buildings to stand along the former Golden Road
- El Chapultepec, the former site of a famous jazz club where greats like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet and Ella Fitzgerald stopped into listen and perform
- The Mercury Cafe, a 30-year-old haven for weirdos and free spiritsx
- Bastien’s Restaurant, an important representative of the Googie style built in 1958.
My Brother's Bar and the Mercury Cafe both are owned by a groups that include Danny Newman and his wife, Christy Kruzick, who have indicated they will continue to operate the businesses.
“A lot of people know (My Brother’s Bar) is important, but there really hasn’t been a preservation action around it in the past,” Levinsky said. “The new owner is interested in historic buildings and preservation.”
To fund the historic preservation efforts, Historic Denver spent 2020 raising $50,000 from donors. People can also donate to the effort on the Historic Denver website.
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