Empire Building, Denver Colorado

Date added: January 27, 2010 Categories: Colorado Commercial Neoclassical

Located at 430 Sixteenth Street in downtown Denver, the Empire Building was constructed in 1906-07 by real estate developers Julius Myers, Horace Bennett, and Jerome Riche. The building was designed by Frank E. Edbrooke, one of Denver's most prominent and prolific architects, whose works include the city's Brown Palace Hotel, Masonic Temple, and Denver Dry Goods Store. In his 1973 book. Historic Denver 1858-1893, architectural historian Richard Brettell wrote that Edbrooke "was almost singlehandedly responsible for the architectural maturity of Denver's downtown in the late 1880s and 1890s. The Empire Building, a six-story, brick, steel frame, commercial building with Neo-classical ornament,_is representative of the mature designs of the later portion of the architect's career. The building also represents the low-rise office and retail buildings which characterized downtown Denver in the early part of the twentieth century.

Construction on the Empire Building began in 1906, at a time when Denver's economy was enjoying an economic upswing. During the depression of the 1890s, Colorado had experienced widespread business failures, unemployment, labor unrest, and agricultural distress. In 1906, however, seven million dollars were spent on new construction in Denver, and confidence in the city's growth was mirrored in the construction of the city's $250,000 Carnegie Library, YMCA Building, El Jebel Temple, and City Auditorium, which was aimed at attracting new business to Denver.

Real estate developers Julius Myers and Horace Bennett reflected the city's optimistic mood when they financed the construction of two new office buildings in downtown Denver. The Commonwealth Building, a six-story edifice on Fifteenth Street, was begun in 1905 and completed the following year. In 1906, Myers and Bennett, together with Jerome Riche, built the six-story Empire Building on the corner of Sixteenth Street and Glenarm Place (previously Glenarm Street), replacing a low block of small stores.

The Empire Building's facade was located on Sixteenth Street which, since its inception, has been Denver's main shopping district and the center of its public life. Like many of the historic post-1900 structures along Sixteenth Street, the Empire Building illustrates the "modernization" of the downtown business district. By 1900, the exuberant eclecticism of nineteenth century Denver had given way to a new, more sober, architectural aesthetic. With their steel frame construction, discrete ornamentation, and classical styling. Sixteenth Street's modern commercial buildings reflected the conservatively optimistic mood of Denver during the first part of twentieth century.