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.
The 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.