Weicker Depository

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.

1926storageThe 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.

Denver’s Original Bus Terminal Parking Garage

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.