17th Avenue Historic Tour Guidebook

This May, Uptown on the Hill will begin hosting guided historic tours of the neighborhood. Beginning with 17th Avenue, the purpose of these tours are to provide a social, cultural, and architectural history of the neighborhood to interested residents
and to initiate conversations about Uptown’s past, present, and future.

The guidebook presents Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of 17th Avenue from 1890 to 1951 and includes historic images of 17th Avenue from each period from the Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps have been organized by period – beginning with 1890 – 1893 – and move from west to east beginning with the intersection of Broadway and 17th Avenue and concluding with the intersection of York Street and 17th Avenue.

The Sanborns depict lot block sizes, lot layouts, set-backs, building massing, materials, and land use. Comparing a particular block-face or intersection through the various periods enables one to identify potential historic solutions to contemporary problems, and demonstrate the cyclical nature of history. For example, in 1890 the block northeast of the intersection of Broadway and 17th Avenue – currently home to the Cash Register Building – was home to only two structures. One of which was the H.C. Brown Barn Residence. However, by 1904 the Broadway face of the block is lined with row houses suggesting these buildings housed the staff of the Brown Palace Hotel.

The Sanborns can also help planners and community activists develop a vision for future development in the neighborhood. When walking adjacent to surface-parking lots on 17th Avenue, do you often ask yourself what was once there, or what should be there in the future? Reviewing Sanborns can help a community identify building types that will support its existing character and promote its vision for the future. Brick mixed-use retail buildings with multiple shopfronts – think of Hamburger Mary’s which was once Peal Drug, the Denver Bicycle Cafe, and the Thin Man building – are a successful archetype on 17th Avenue and should be used as often as possible within the areas zoned main-street. This archetype does an excellent job of activating the street and provides small business owners with manageable floor space, and enables the building owner to adjust the placement of interior walls to accommodate growing or contracting businesses.

Please feel free to download and print the guide book and take it with you the next time you visit 17th Avenue, and join us for a walking tour of 17th Avenue in May.
17th Ave. Walking Tour Guidebook PDF