Masonry at Coors Field

Most people go to Coors Field to root for the Rockies.  But they should also admire the masonry used to construct the ball park.


Most modern ballparks are fairly drab, cold buildings (see the new Yankee Stadium), but Coors Field is anything but that.  Designed by HOK Sport (now Populous), the former sports division of HOK Architects, Coors Field is reminiscent of the old masonry ballparks of the early twentieth century.  I was not surprised to learn that HOK Sports / Populous is responsible for the design of AT&T Park in San Francisco, Citi Field in New York City, and Camden Yard in Baltimore, all of which have similarities to Coors Field. (I did find it amusing, though, that Populous designed the new Yankee Stadium, one of the least welcoming ballparks in the country.)

Most of Coors Field was constructed of a steel structure with poured concrete slabs and concrete terraced seating areas, but the main entry at 20th and Blake is wrapped with masonry.  You can see in the photo above that the main pilasters are supported by heavy bases of brick laid in a corbeled (stepped) pattern.  These pilasters frame a decorative masonry band above the entrance gates.  The masonry is laid in what is known as a diaper pattern.  I have always been curious why this diamond pattern is called diapering, but I learned that the etymology of ‘diaper’ refers to “a white diamond or white cloth used on the diagonal”.


The diaper pattern at Coors Field is laid with three types of brick: a deep red brick is interspersed by some darker red or reddish-brown bricks; a buff-colored brick; and what looks like a glazed black brick.  The red brick is laid in stretchers with projecting headers to make diamond patterns, while the buff brick is mainly laid with exposed headers flush to the rest of the masonry.  Two black glazed stretcher brick form the center of each red-brick diamond.  These masonry diamonds are not only attractive, they also reference the baseball diamond inside the stadium.

The diaper pattern is framed by either buff-colored cast stone or buff-colored glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC).  These materials are often used in lieu of natural stone because they are much less expensive to fabricate.  GFRC is also much lighter than cast stone and natural stone, and is sometimes preferable for structural reasons.  But the architects also made use of natural stone when designing Coors Field.  Each masonry pier at the entrance is supported by a high water table clad with red and buff Lyons sandstone, which is quarried between Boulder and Fort Collins.  I appreciate this nod to regional architecture and materials.


Here’s something else I didn’t know about Coors Field:

“During construction, workers discovered a number of dinosaur fossils throughout the grounds, including a 7-foot-long (2.1 m) 1,000-pound (450 kg) triceratops skull. … This later led to the selection of a dinosaur as the Rockies’ mascot, “Dinger”.” (thanks to Wikipedia)

Pretty cool!

Now that baseball season is winding down, here’s one last look at the ballpark for the year.  Let’s hope the Rockies have a better season in 2015 than they did this year.


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.


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.


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.

DoraMooredetail1     DoraMooredetail2


Brick at the Quaintance Block

Today we’re visiting Golden, where I came across this lovely little brick building near the corner of Washington Avenue and 13th Street.  Known as the Quaintance Block, after original owner Charles F. Quaintance, it is the first building in Golden to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


According to the National Register nomination [PDF], the Quaintance Block was originally built in 1911 at the corner of Washington Avenue and 13th Street across the street from the Denver and Northwestern train depot, which brought visitors from Denver to Golden.  Charles Quaintance was an entrepreneur and great promoter of tourism.  He offered burro rides up to the top of Castle Rock in Golden and owned a photography studio that commemorated the tourists’ trips up Castle Rock.  The Quaintance Block was designed with three storefronts: his photography studio occupied the southern storefront on 13th Street, his Quaintance Investment and Amusement Company (offering burro rides, amongst other things) was located at the corner entry, and his brother had a small law office facing Washington Avenue.  The building was moved in 1923 several feet west to its present location when Charles Quaintance sold the corner lot to a gas station.  The basement level and stoop were added to the Quaintance Block at that time.

The existing building is quite charming, but right away I noticed its exquisite brick masonry.  The original builder, James H. Gow, used three types of brick to create corner quoining pattern and window and door surrounds.  This detail shows the richness of the brick used on the building.


The National Register Nomination report indicates that the white brick is a glazed brick developed by the United States Glazed Brick and Pottery Company in Golden.  Not much is known about this company, but a Wikipedia page about the Quaintance Block states that the building “is one of only three known remaining buildings using these bricks (including the Maas Residence at 423 10th Street in Golden and Union Station in downtown Denver), which were renowned in their time for their beauty and would not crack or craze.”  (I always take Wikipedia entries with a grain of salt, but as the gentleman who wrote the National Register nomination is an historic preservationist and architectural historian with an office in the Quaintance Block, my guess is that he contributed his research to the Wikipedia page.)

There are also two types of iron-spot brick used to create the quoining details and to outline the windows and doors.  One is a medium orange-brown brick with a moderate amount of iron spotting.  The other is the dark brown, almost purplish brown, brick with numerous iron spots.  The NR nomination states that these bricks were manufactured by the Golden Fairview Brick Works, also located in Golden.  These two bricks give the quoining and window details great depth, and enliven the entire façade.

As an aside, iron spotting is a bit of a misnomer in the brick manufacturing process.  To create the iron-spot effect, brick manufacturers use various types of metals with low melting points.  Most used manganese because although it looks like iron, it has a lower melting point than iron (and therefore does not need to be as highly fired in the kiln) and is less corrosive than iron.  In fact, manganese phosphating is used as a corrosion inhibitor on iron and steel, and manganese is a key component of stainless steel, whereas iron continues to rust when exposed to moisture.  Any expansion caused by iron corrosion (often called rust jacking) would destroy bricks with a high iron content.  (All red bricks contain iron, which pigments the clay; however, the iron component in clay is stabilized upon firing in the kiln.)  And that, my friends, is what is known as too much information.