The Twelve Bricks of Christmas

The Masonry of Denver would like to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Holidays.  I would also like to thank you for reading my blog over the past six months.  It has been a wonderful gift to me that others find this stuff interesting, too.  (Or at least you’re good at humoring me, which I also appreciate.)  Thank you.


And now, introducing The Twelve Bricks of Christmas, Denver-style.  Sing along with me!

(Starting at twelve, to avoid alienating all of my readers.)


On the 12th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Cool Iron-Spotting


Bricks with wire-cutting


Bricks so uneven


Bricks made by flashing


Bricks with wee dimples


Bricks so red it’s pleasing


Bricks with green glazing


Frogged Paving Bricks!!!


Bricks laid in thirds


Clinker brick


Bricks that I love


And a striped brick that’s spirally.



Weicker Depository

If you drive east on Colfax Avenue past Capitol Hill, you might come across a Florentine, Italian-Renaissance Revival style tower that looks completely out of place.  Not only is it taller than all of its neighbors, but its style is unlike anything in Denver.


This building at East Colfax and Vine Street was built as a warehouse for the Weicker Transfer and Storage Company in 1925.  Known as the Weicker Depository, it was designed by architects William E. and Arthur A. Fischer [pdf].  According to Thomas J. Noel’s book, Buildings of Colorado, the Weicker Depository was so admired upon its completion that it was written up in Architectural Record and in Western Architect and Engineer.


The two-story base of the building is clad with travertine, most likely Colorado travertine.  The stone is heavily soiled and has been painted over with a gray-colored paint along the base, making the building look incredibly run down.  But most of the building’s original steel windows remain at the base and upper floors, and you can still see many of the original wrought-iron railings and window grilles.


Travertine is an interesting material.  It is made of calcium carbonate, like limestone and marble, but it is formed when calcium carbonate layers build up in hot springs.  If you can picture the thermal pools at Yellowstone that have those ‘terraces’ of white or yellowish deposits – you’re watching travertine being created.  It eventually forms into a stone once the hot spring disappears and the layers cool and compress.  Travertine often has a highly porous and rippled texture due to the decay of algae and other bacteria that die when the calcium carbonate layers cool to form stone.  You can see the highly porous stone and the rippled texture more clearly in the photo above.

The upper stories of the Weicker Depository are clad with red brick laid in a really odd pattern known as Monk bond.  It has two stretcher bricks followed by a header brick, all in a repeating pattern.  It is a very old fashioned style of brick coursing that is more common in Europe than it is here in the States.  Note also the corbelled brick used to create the projecting arches at the eighth floor, and the crenelation at the parapet.


The entire building resembles a watered-down version of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, minus the bell tower, of course.

1926storageThe Weicker Depository has little changed over the past ninety years, as you can see from this 1926 advertisement in The Rotarian.  A few doors have been removed from the ground floor, and their openings infilled with masonry.  But otherwise, it is largely intact.  (N.B.: The 1926 Rotary convention was held in Downtown Denver, so the May 1926 issue of The Rotarian contains numerous advertisements for Denver buildings and businesses. It’s worth a look, if you’re interested in old advertisements.  You can access it via Google Books here.)

The Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection has a wonderful photograph of the base of the Weicker Depository taken in 1928.  I cannot include the photo itself for copyright reasons, but if you click on the link you’ll notice the wonderful lanterns between each shallow, Gothic-inspired ogee arch at the ground floor.  There was even a cast metal (probably bronze or brass) clock mounted to the corner of the building!  The base of the Weicker Depository certainly looks much better than it does today in its incarnation as a self-storage facility.


The Masonry of Erlangen

Part Two of our trip to Germany entailed a visit with friends in Erlangen.  A beautiful city in northern Bavaria, Erlangen is home to the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), a large university with about 20,000 students.  The masonry of Erlangen is mainly stone, and much of the city’s architectural heritage was influenced by two important events: the arrival of French huguenot refugees in the late 1680s and a devastating fire in the old part of the city in 1706.  But there are also impressive nineteenth-century masonry structures throughout the city.

One of the most prominent buildings in town, the Erlangen palace (or Markgräfliches Schloss Erlangen), is owned by the university.  The palace was constructed between 1700 and 1704 and was used as a royal residence until 1814 when a fire gutted the building.  It was rebuilt by the university in the early 1820s.  The schloss faces the city’s market square and backs upon the schlossgarten, a public park.  Because Erlangen’s Christkindlmarkt was in the process of being erected, I wasn’t able to get a clear view of the front of the building, but its back is stately.


The building is made of a handsome pinkish-gray sandstone, which you can see in the photo below.


Another prominent building in Erlangen is the Hugenottenkirche, or the Huguenot Church.  It was built between 1686 and 1693 as a congregation for the huguenot settlers to Erlangen.  (The tower was added to the main church in the 1730s.)  The Huguenot Church was the centerpiece of the “new city” built by the huguenots to the south of the original city center.  The architect of the new city and the Huguenot Church was Johann Moritz Richter, the crown prince’s master planner and master builder.


Both the main part of the church and the tower were built using the same pinkish-gray sandstone that was used on the schloss.  This stone which must be native to the Erlangen area, as you see it on buildings all over town.  In addition, the tower has subtle baroque details, which is the predominant style of the new city’s architecture.


There are also a large number of late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century buildings in Erlangen, including these two buildings facing each other on Nürnbergerstraße near Güterhallenstraße.


The brick and sandstone building above houses a hotel and brasserie, and has wonderful polychrome brick details.


It faces an older limestone building with a richly-ornamented gable, a tower with a turret, and beautifully carved stone quoins.


But there is one thing you might not be able to see through the trees.  A knight carved into a niche at the corner, complete with a stone shield and a bronze jousting pole.


I was really curious what this building could be used for.  Our friends informed us it’s just another fraternity associated with the university.  I have seen some beautiful fraternity houses on American college campuses (and some horrid ones), but never a building this impressive or in such good condition.

Because we are on the topic of fraternities, it seems only fitting to finish our brief tour of Erlangen with an historic brewery.


The Erich Bräu building was built in 1870 on the Aldstädter Kirchenplatz in the old city.  In the late nineteenth century, Erich Bräu was the largest exporter of beer in Erlangen.  The brewery itself dates to the early 1700s, but it was purchased by Franz Erich in the mid-nineteenth century.  During his tenure, Franz Erich modernized the brewery and erected several new buildings along Aldtstädter Kirchenplatz, including this one.  This website has a brief history of Erich Bräu, as well as several historic drawings and photos of the brewery in Erlangen.  (All websites cited here are in German, but can be translated using Google Translate.)

Next time you visit Germany, be sure to spend a day in the charming city of Erlangen.  There are plenty of beautiful historic buildings, an impressive botanical garden run by the university, and lots of delicious food and drink.  I also hear there is a great beer festival every spring that rivals the more famous Oktoberfest in Munich.