There are over 300 individually landmarked properties and 52 local historic districts in Denver, which have been designated as such in order to encourage preservation of the buildings and respect for the history of the Mile High City. Denver has certainly experienced explosive growth since our humble beginnings as a gold rush settlement in 1858, and in 2015 we ranked as the 19th most populous city in the U.S., with an estimated 682,545 residents. But thanks to the National Historic Preservation Act, the subsequent Denver Preservation Ordinance, and the work of organizations like the Denver City Council and the Landmark Preservation Committee, we are able to enjoy these amazing historical landmarks in Denver which have been maintained or restored to their former glory for all to see. Long live historic preservation!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Confluence Park
Confluence Park marks not only the junction of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, but also the spot where the city began in 1858 when Green Russell and his prospectors began the search for gold.
2. Larimer Square
Larimer Square is Denver's oldest and most historic block. Its namesake, General Larimer, founded Denver City on November 22, 1858, and Larimer Street became the city's main street in 1861.
3. Union Station
Since its establishment in 1881, Union Station has been the central transportation hub and railway station for the Mile High City. It underwent a major renovation that was completed in 2014 and now houses fabulous shops, restaurants, and a luxury hotel.
4. The Oxford Hotel
Just a stone's throw from Union Station is The Oxford Hotel, the oldest and most historic hotel in Denver. It opened its doors in 1891 and has welcomed and wowed guests ever since.
5. Coors Field
The first official game at Coors Field was April 26, 1995, when the Rockies defeated the Mets 11-9. (Fun fact: According to the official site, "In 1999, Coors Field firmly founded itself as the most prolific offensive ballpark ever created. The Rockies and their opponents combined for 303 home runs, the most ever in a season at one venue, with one or more tenants.")
6. Denver Performing Arts Complex
DPAC sits on 12 acres, contains 10 performance spaces, and is the second largest performing arts center in the United States. Its sculpture park is home to Jonathan Borofsky's The Dancers, a head-turning piece of art that stands proud at 60 feet tall.
7. 16th Street Mall
This mile-long pedestrian mall runs from LoDo's Union Station to the Civic Center Station Downtown and has remained a center for businesses and tourist attractions since its opening in 1982.
8. Daniels & Fischer Tower
One of the most distinctive landmarks in Denver is the Daniel & Fischer Tower, which was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1910. It stands at 325 feet, has a four-sided 20-floor clock tower, and has a 2½ ton bell above its observation deck.
9. The Brown Palace Hotel
Established in 1892, the Brown Palace is the second oldest operating hotel in Denver and has lodged many important guests, including Elvis who declared it to be, "The best hotel in the world!"
10. Colorado Convention Center
The Colorado Convention Center opened its doors in 1990, with its first event being the NBA Draft for the Denver Nuggets. Today it hosts more than 250 events annually and is home to another of the Mile High's most notable landmarks, the 40-foot-tall big blue bear (aka "I See What You Mean").
11. Civic Center Park
This picturesque urban park opened in 1919 and continues to serve as the nucleus for Denver's government, arts, and culture. Civic Center Park is surrounded by many of the city's most prominent institutions.
12. Colorado State Capitol
The Capitol is one of the most eye-catching features of the Civic Center and has been in operation since 1894. The infamous gold leaf was mined in Colorado and added to the dome in 1908 to honor the Colorado Gold Rush. The interior contains White Yule Marble from Colorado quarries and what is believed to be the entire supply of Colorado Rose Onyx. (Fun fact: The 13th step leading to the west entrance is exactly one mile high.)
13. City and County Building
The final cornerstone of Denver's City and County Building was laid in 1982 after eight years of construction and is seen as the culmination of "a 30-year process to define the
Civic Center as the heart of city government and its cultural center."
14. Denver Public Library
Denver built its first Central Library in 1910, and due to the city's continual rapid expansion, it has outgrown many facilities since then. The current Central Library opened in 1995, was designed by famed architect Michael Graves, and is a massive 540,000 square feet.
15. Denver Art Museum
Founded in 1893 as the Denver Artist's Club, DAM had many temporary homes before opening its own gallery in 1949 and has continued to expand to include three architecturally stunning buildings totaling over 350,000 square-feet. There are 10 permanent collections on display with over 70,000 works of art.
16. Denver Mint
The United States government established a mint facility in Denver in 1863, which served as an assay office where miners could bring gold dust and nuggets to be melted and cast into bars. Business boomed and the grand new facility that is now the Denver Mint was built in 1906. In its first year of operation, the Mint produced 167,371,035 gold and silver coins (valued at $27 million), and the current output today can exceed 50 million coins daily.
17. Denver Firefighters Museum
This 11,000-square-foot museum dedicated to the history of firefighting in Denver opened in 1980 and is located in historic Station One, built in 1909 and home of Engine Co. No. 1. Today the museum is regarded as one of the top three fire house museums in the nation.
18. Molly Brown House
Designed by renowned Denver architect William Lang and built in the 1880s, this house was once home to Titanic survivor "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Today the building serves as a museum commemorating her life, as well as architectural preservation and the Victorian era of Denver.
19. Denver Museum of Nature and Science
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science was essentially conceived in 1868 when naturalist Edwin Carter began accumulating specimens of Colorado fauna and putting them on display in his log cabin. Word of Carter's collection got out and in 1900 The Colorado Museum of Natural History (now Denver Museum of Nature & Science) was founded. It gained a permanent home in City Park in 1908 and has continued to expand over the years to what is now a 716,000-square-foot complex with over 1,000,000 objects and artifacts.
20. The Buckhorn Exchange
The Buckhorn Exchange is Denver's original steakhouse and oldest restaurant and has been serving Old West fare since 1893. The building is overflowing with historical artifacts, including a 125-piece gun collection and a 575-piece collection of taxidermy. (You've got to see it to believe it!)
21. Red Rocks Ampitheatre
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is "the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world." The first documented performance took place in 1906, and it's been rocking every since.
22. History Colorado Center
Want to know more about the history of Denver and the state of Colorado? Visit the History Colorado Center which opened in the Golden Triangle in 2012 and has been described as “the first great history museum of the twenty-first century.”
Did we leave out any of your favorite historical landmarks in Denver? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!