Viaducts - Denver, Colorado 

 

Viaducts Area
 Denver, Colorado

On the west side of downtown Denver, a system of viaducts were engineered to span the vast Platte Valley. The valley, bordered by the Platte River on one side and downtown on the other, was occupied largely by the railroads for supply lines for the entire region.

The viaducts I photographed were: Lawrence Street, Speer Boulevard, 15th Street, 16th Street, 20th Street, 23rd Street, and Brighton Boulevard.  The viaducts were busy with travel above the large fields below. Most of the activity under them at ground level had seen its glory days. The era of the railroads, which had replaced horses and wagons, was now a fading memory as well.

The viaducts were like spokes, or fingers, leading in and out of Denver.  On top of the viaducts, long expanses of roadway offered views of the city and mountains. One could look at the vacant land below and the sparse remains of warehouses, and be amazed that such a large area was mostly deserted.

As a photographer. walking on the ground below these large powerful structures was rewarding. I could easily get around the entire valley virtually unimpeded.  Beautiful fields, mostly quiet, were punctuated with these long and strong concrete and steel marvels. Some buildings still remained at each end of the viaducts, mostly on the downtown side. 

Put on your walking shoes or boots and we will take a little journey.

The 15th Street Viaduct had the most energy because it was the only viaduct that had a paved road open to normal automobile traffic. On one end was The Post Office Terminal Annex (operating at the time) and the Wazee Super Club with My Brothers Bar, on the opposite end, were anchors and entertainment for the eclectic. The Monarch Mills Building was under and near the middle of the viaduct, but it would soon be demolished and be the site of the new MCA. The small, and still present, Moffat Train Station stood nearby, lonely and sad.

All of the viaducts offered natural framed views of the buildings. The strong vertical and horizontal lines of the viaducts were capped by soft curves at the top.  The mixture of beauty and strength was captivating to me. The sun steamed down on the viaduct tops, creating wonderful, dark shadows of mystery.

The 16th Street Viaduct was at the south end of Union Station and provided passage for that immediate area. It was close to the back of the station and ended downtown near what is now the Tattered Cover Bookstore and Dixons Restaurant.

The 20th Street Viaduct spanned the "Bottoms" area on the west and ended at the Firemen's Grain Building at Blake Street, now the site of the main entrance to Coors Field. Union Pacific Headhouse nearby is now the Chophouse Restaurant.

The 23rd Street Viaduct (now Park Avenue West) was at the north end of what is now Coors Field.  Breckenridge Brewery was converted from an old vacant warehouse and thankfully several new loft projects now occupy the area.

Brighton Boulevard Viaduct was the last viaduct, remote in those days. Starting at Broadway to the East and turning into Brighton Boulevard, it spanned part of the valley and went north to the Denver Coliseum. Now the area is an emerging community for art and design.

All of the viaducts had a distinct role for their respective area.  They were great to photograph as a tribute to our past architectural and engineering past.

- Kim Allen

 

 

 

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ęCopyright 1983 Kim Allen Denver Photo Archives