The Paramount Apartment Building Story

14th Avenue between Broadway and Lincoln Street - Denver

WHAT Was REALLY There ? 1929-1977

  1. The new Judicial Center opened on Monday, January 13, 2013, and now dominates the downtown Denver location of 14th and Broadway, replacing the so-called ‘file cabinet’ Judicial Heritage building (next to the ‘typewriter’ Colorado History Museum building) built in 1977. 

  1. There has been abundant slow-news-day coverage of this story by the various local news organizations, but most of these reports lack accurate information as to what was on this site prior to these monstrous temples of heritage.  So, what was there before the 1970s?  The answer depends on the historian, and therefore, the truth can be quite twisted.  The story, the truth, the justice continues...

In 1929 construction started on the City and County building at the west side of the civic center.  This view is looking eastward toward the intersection of 14th Avenue and Broadway, showing the Hall Cadillac building, the Paramount apartment, the Presbyterian church to the south of the Capitol building.

In 1931 the United States was still in the Great Depression when the City and County building was completed.  This view shows the Civic Center in front of the new City and County building, and the Hall Cadillac building, the Paramount apartments, the Presbyterian church to the south of the Capitol building.  That’s a car wash to the south of the Paramount on the Broadway School site (school torn down in 1928).

In 1945, World War II was ending, Denver had it’s Civic Center and City and County building in glorious symmetry, and the Hall Cadillac building and the Paramount apartments were still there to the south of the Capitol building.

    But then, starting as early as the 1960s, people started noticing the alarming rate at which their neighborhoods were being imprudently razed and its history destroyed.  Efforts to organize and push back the bulldozers began.  The intent was to save at least some of the history and unique character of Denver, and to have a fighting chance against the blind greed of rampant real estate speculation.

The accomplishments of Dana Crawford provides a great example of this effort:

  1. In the 1960s, award-winning preservationist Dana Crawford was the first to look at the abandoned and neglected buildings of Denver’s original main street and lower downtown (LoDo) and see the possibilities of their transformation for the city. She initiated a new concept of urban renewal, one of the first of its kind in the United States, saving the beautiful historic buildings of Larimer Square and transforming them into a festive marketplace. Since then, she has redeveloped more than one million square feet of historic property in Denver, including The Oxford Hotel, Acme Lofts, the Edbrooke Lofts, Cooper Flats Condominiums and phase one of the Flour Mill Lofts project. In each case, Crawford preserved the historic architecture and character of Denver while bringing new life and excitement to the city center.

Denver Tourism Hall of Fame

Capitol Hill is the unofficial birthplace of Denver's preservation movement. Following the 1970s demolition of the Moffat Mansion (at 8th and Grant) Historic Denver, Inc. was created by concerned citizens in time to save another of our city's precious historic homes, that of the "unsinkable" Margaret Brown.  Detailed studies were conducted and reports compiled to support the same kinds of efforts, such as the Denver Neighborhood History Project, 1993-94, which served to prove the value of many historical locations. 

These efforts, however, came too late for the Paramount.

    So, what happened to the Paramount apartment building at 1375 Lincoln Street?  It got in the way. 

    As history shows, that which stands in the way of PROGRESS (buildings, people, cultures) is often destroyed, because PROGRESS is often defined by the values of those in possession of and seeking wealth - and there usually is no stopping it. That’s just the way it consistently is.

    Depending on the type of wealth sought, sometimes progress is not such a bad thing.  During the time of Mayor Robert W. Speer, the optimistic intent to transform cow-town Denver into a City Beautiful, accomplished progress in a way that benefited the majority of citizens, and did promote a tremendous amount of long-term growth and prosperity.  These efforts were designed to make Denver a better place with a focus on her citizens. 

  But a greedy type of progress descended upon Capitol Hill years after the city beautiful period.  This eventually motivated some successful efforts by concerned residents to thwart the destruction and changes that promoted only the narrow values held by a few wealthy/powerful/corrupt entities.  Without these efforts, the entire Capitol Hill area might have become one big parking lot, scraped clean in speculative greed - all of it; the homes, the businesses, the history, all gone - a parasite killing its host.  The fact that people organized together to resist greedy progress represents the best form of progress - a human experience resulting in peaceful problem-solving by those brought together by a worthy cause.  Based on this, the City Beautiful idea is true after all - people will care enough about the integrity of their city to advance their own integrity. 

    Ah, the Paramount.  Actually, there were in fact many solidly built, beautiful apartment buildings in the Capitol Hill area at one time.  When the times and the needs of the population changed, the area also morphed from mostly single-family residential to mostly multi-family commercially-zoned district.  While quite a few of these solid old buildings still stand, the Paramount was simply in the way, and nothing special.

    Except to me.  And now, maybe since a bit of its history has been resurrected, the Paramount will be able to get some justly deserved respect.

    Denver has, as a result of these efforts and fortunately for us, an abundance of surviving history and a healthy interest in the people and places of the early days.  The following is one of the many interesting stories about early Denver, Capitol Hill and the leaders who directed the way the city progressed.  This little history lesson no doubt is a blend of fact and opinion, but also shows how things that get in the way and block progress will disappear - almost forever.

After the war, Capitol Hill started slipping, uh, down hill into the kind of sleazy neighborhood that gets a bad reputation - rightfully deserved or not - within a very polarized society.  Certainly, it was no longer Quality Hill, reserved for mansions and the wealthy.  The entire Capitol Hill neighborhood was going through the weird times the rest of the country was experiencing.

According to this, the Paramount apartment building, along with the other remaining buildings, were simply part of a ‘cleared block’ that made way for the ‘file cabinet’ building.  Eventually the block was cleared again for the 2013 Judicial Center.

By the mid ‘70s the nation-wide urban churn was in full swing, and huge numbers of old, worn-out eye sores (developer’s opinion) in the way, were being mulched for the profitable real estate under their foundations.  This excerpt from a 1980 tour guide, published by the League of Women Voters of Denver, reflects the attitude:

Before 1800  -  1880-1908  -  1908-1928  -  1929-1977

Before 1800  -  1880-1908  -  1908-1928  -  1929-1977

Those who come after us care nothing for names; it is only the good deeds and kind acts which live and are remembered.

Robert W. Speer