The Colorado History Museum is a three-story structure of gray brick (a marble skin was cut from the budget) forming a flat-topped triangle with three north terraces descending to an open courtyard. Primary exhibition space for the museum is located below ground, with offices, including the State Historic Preservation Office, on upper levels. Exhibits include a wonderfully detailed WPA diorama of Denver in 1860 and of the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings. This museum building is a step down in design, materials, and location from its predecessor ( DV002).
The new museum shares its square-block site with the granite-clad, five-story Colorado Judicial Building, which relates to Civic Center with a cut-through opening at ground level. Standing on two legs straddling the first floor, this awkward white edifice disproves the theory that the grand public buildings of the City Beautiful era would inspire other noble structures. The four upper floors threaten to crush anyone walking through the cutout beneath them. The museum was supposed to front on Civic Center Park but the Supreme Court used its clout to flip the plan and take the park frontage. A raised skylight illuminates the subterranean law library, and a mural by Angelo di Benedetto depicts history's great lawgivers. The lack of an easily discoverable entrance may be a commentary on the labyrinthine legal system.