The Historic Masonry of the Dora Moore School

As we continue our Denver Back to School Week, we are going to examine the Dora Moore School in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

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This  historic building is one of the oldest Denver school buildings still in use today.  It was designed by Robert S. Roeschlaub, Colorado’s first licensed architect and the chief architect in the late 1800s for what is now the Denver Public School system.  History Colorado has a great list of Roeschlaub’s contributions to Denver’s architecture [pdf] from the 1870s through his retirement in 1912.  During his career, he designed houses, the Central City Opera House, commercial buildings, and nearly all of Denver’s early school buildings.  Most of his buildings have been demolished but many that survive are listed on the National Register, including the Dora Moore School. (It is also a city landmark.)

The Dora Moore School was constructed between 1889 and 1890, and is a rectangular building with chamfered entrance bays at each corner.  It was originally called the Corona School but its name was changed in 1929 to thank former teacher and principal Dora M. Moore for thirty-five years of service to the school.  If you look closely, you can see the ghost of the old school name in the terra cotta frieze, shown below.

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The school building was constructed with soft, pressed brick, a sandstone water table and trim, and terra-cotta ornament.  Most of the terra cotta is located at the second story, but the arched entry at each chamfered corner of the building has an ornate terra-cotta surround.  The decoration in the terra cotta is mainly of foliage, but a little girl’s head projects from the left side of the arch, and a little boy’s head from the right side of the arch.  These details are so charming.

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Brick and Terra Cotta at the Fairmont School

It’s Back to School Week in Denver, so to celebrate we are going to examine the history and masonry of a few of Denver’s public schools.  First up: the Fairmont School in Denver’s Baker neighborhood.

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This gorgeous brick and terra-cotta school was built in 1924 based on a design by prolific Denver architect Henry J. Manning, often referred to as Harry.  Manning was an Illinois native who moved to Denver in 1904.  He had an architectural studio with F.C. Wagner from 1904 until Wagner’s death in 1921, and was in private practice until his own death in 1933.  (Historic Denver and History Colorado [pdf] have great websites about this architect’s life and oeuvre.)

Thanks to the Denver Public Library, we know that the original Fairmont School was an imposing three-story brick and stone building with a standing-seam metal hipped roof, side dormers, and a central, rectangular-shaped cupola.  It is not clear why this building was replaced with the current school building, though the current building is much larger (and frankly less ominous) than the original building.  The Public Library also has numerous photos of the 1924 Fairmont School, including many of the interior, shortly after its construction.  It amazes me that these historic photographs look as though someone sepia-toned photographs from today – so little has changed.

Now let’s take a look at the masonry.

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The building has several entries, including this one facing West 3rd Avenue.  The entry has an elegant terra-cotta surround with an ornate projecting oriel window at the second floor.  The terra cotta is buff with a slightly darker mottled texture, which makes it resemble cut stone, as you can see in this bay window, below.

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Franklin Studebaker and Automobile Row

Have you ever noticed that the old buildings on Broadway just south of the Capitol have large windows or garage doors at the ground floor?  And that some of them sport the names of now-defunct automobile companies?  Welcome to Denver’s historic Automobile Row!

In the early twentieth century, Broadway between 14th Avenue and Speer Boulevard was the place to shop for cars, to get your auto repaired, or to buy parts.  The area flourished from the mid-1910s until the Depression, with its heyday from about 1915 to 1925.  Many buildings have been demolished over the years, but several wonderful former auto dealerships remain on the east and west sides of Broadway, most notably the Franklin Studebaker Building.

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This three-story terra-cotta building was once a majestic showroom for Studebakers and Franklin motor cars, and is now part of the Howard Lorton Galleries.  The Golden Triangle Association’s blog has a thorough history of the building; here are some highlights:

  • The building was erected in the early 1920s based on a design by architect J.M. Hyder.  The ground floor housed the showroom, while repair shops were on the second and third floors.  The upper floors were accessed by a concrete viaduct off the back of the building that remained on the building until after World War II.
  • The dealership eventually became Marcus Motors, who sold Studebakers and Mercedes cars amongst other makes.
  • It was later a Chevrolet dealership, a ski shop, and a photography studio with space rented by a community college.

1929 Franklin Ad-011920 Studebaker Ad-07Most people associate the name Studebaker with automobiles, but what about Franklin?  The Franklin Automobile Company was based in Syracuse, New York and introduced the Franklin motor car in 1902.  They produced high-quality, luxury vehicles and were victims of the Great Depression, folding in 1933.  Studebaker also started manufacturing automobiles in 1902 and were much more successful than Franklin.  But financial troubles in the 1950s resulted in a merger with Packard; the Studebaker-Packard Corporation went out of business in 1966.

The façade of the Franklin Studebaker Building is clad with white terra cotta with cream trim and orange and dark green ornament.  The ornament is subtle, and include the Franklin and Studebaker names above the two original entrances.

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The spandrels at each floor have lovely white and dark green swags that point to a central orange cartouche.

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Medallions line the terra-cotta piers at the third floor, while the parapet piers are accented with similar white and dark-green swags.  It appears that the current owners built up and leveled the back side of the parapet, probably to reinforce the masonry wall.

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This is a remarkable survivor of an important era in the development of Denver and the transformation of the country as a whole.  Cities all over the country had Automobile Rows, but few are as intact as Denver’s.

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