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.


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.


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.