If you are ever in downtown Denver and are looking for a place to park your car, check out this incredible Art Deco temple to the automobile. Located at 1730 Glenarm Place, this dilapidated parking garage was once the city’s bus terminal parking garage.
It was constructed in 1929 and was designed by engineers Shankland and Ristine [pdf]. There is not much information about Shankland on the internet, but Ristine appears to be G.W. Ristine, Jr., a Cornell alumnus. Ristine was an engineering jack of all trades specializing at various times in mechanical, transportation and structural engineering.
Buildings designed by structural engineers are typically utilitarian, but the Denver Bus Terminal Parking Garage has an ornate, Deco façade.
Although the building is heavily soiled, you can see travertine panels below the parking sign in the photo above. This travertine, which was used to clad the building’s base, was quarried locally at Wellesville, Colorado (according to Messages in Stone: Colorado’s Colorful Geology, eds. Vincent Matthews, Ph.D., Katie Keller Lynn, and Betty Fox. Colorado Geological Survey, 2003, p. 121-123). Here is another detail of the travertine. Also note the ornate ironwork at the entry soffit.
The body of the building was erected using poured-in-place concrete, which was poured into wood molds. Do you see faint horizontal lines at the right in the photo below? These are the seams of the wood planks used to create the mold. The fluted piers that surround the windows above the entries are also made of poured concrete. They are heavily spalled, and you can see exposed steel reinforcement bar (rebar) in several places.
The spandrel panels above the second floor depict rams heads, while those on the upper floors have geometric patterns. It is difficult to determine what material was used to create the rams heads, but the crispness of their detail suggests they are probably cast metal. The geometric spandrel panels, seen below, are pigmented concrete. Note the deco-style finials at this portion of the parapet. Another thing to notice is that most of the original steel window sash remain; this is fairly rare, as steel windows are notoriously poor insulators and were often replaced within thirty years of a building’s construction.
The Bus Terminal Parking Building was originally used to park intra-city busses, but it also had parking spots for 500 cars. Offices, located at the ground floor, were once occupied by bus transportation and touring companies. The building is still used for parking, but its ground-floor storefront appears vacant.
Another thing I wanted to point out: if you walk around to the side of the building you will see red hollow-clay tile infill set into a grid of cast concrete. It appears that the building was once much larger, though I have not come across any documents that indicate when this might have occurred. I would guess that when the bus depot moved, the owner lopped off the north and south sides of the building. Fortunately the south side is largely obscured by a contemporary building, but the north side is fully exposed over this parking lot.