The Moderne Design of the American Woodmen Building

With its Streamline Moderne design, the old American Woodmen Building at 2100 Downing Street stands out in a neighborhood of Denver squares and bungalows.


This wonderful building was designed by architect Gordon White and was built in 1950 for the American Woodmen, an African-American fraternal and benevolent society founded in 1901.  The society offered life insurance to their members and created the American Woodmen’s Life Insurance Company in the 1960s.  The company used this building as their headquarters until the mid-1990s, when the firm was dissolved.  The Denver Public Library has some wonderful historic and more recent views of the building.

As an aside, Gordon White was a Denver architect who graduated from East High School in 1911.  White practiced architecture from the 1930s through the 1950s, if not later.  According to a 2007 study by Historical Insights [PDF], White worked with the Public Works Administration in the 1930s and designed the Colorado State Capitol Annex at 1375 Sherman Street, which was well-regarded upon its completion.  (Keep an eye out for an upcoming Masonry of Denver post on that building.  It’s one of my favorite buildings near the capitol.)  He also designed schools and houses in the city of Denver using a variety of architectural styles.


As you can see from the sign above the entrance, the building is currently occupied by architects Humphries Poli Architects, P.C.  The architecture firm designs new buildings, but also preserves historic buildings and adapts them for new uses.  One of their award-winning preservation projects was the restoration of this building between 2008 and 2009.

The American Woodmen Building was constructed of buff-colored terra cotta that has a subtle, mottled texture that resembles sandstone.  Although the ornamentation on the building is minimal, the terra cotta was adeptly cast into flat units, rounded corners and fins.


The only other ornament on the building is a subtle Greek key design beneath the second-floor windows.  These details are probably made of molded sheet metal.