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Auraria Higher Education Center Campus

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1976, Jacques Brownson, master plan. Bounded by Speer Blvd., W. Colfax Ave., 5th St., and Auraria Pkwy.
  • Auraria Higher Education Center Campus (Tom Noel)

An instant campus designed as a 171-acre urban renewal project features generally bland red brick boxes that keep the focus on several landmarks and on the restored residences of 9th Street Park. Designers of the low-budget campus are striving for Ivy League landscaping, and an urban forest is rising around the two-to-five-story complex. The campus is shared by the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and the University of Colorado at Denver. With more than 34,000 students, it is the most populous campus in Colorado. Jacques Brownson, who worked and studied with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designed the master plan for the campus to utilize the existing street and utility grid.

The campus incorporates the 9th Street Historic Park (1976 restoration, Edward D. White, Jr.), 9th Street between West Colfax Avenue and Curtis Street (NR), a novel project that preserved one of Denver's oldest intact residential blocks of middle-class housing. Restored exteriors and renovated interiors now contain offices for the Auraria Higher Education Center. The pavement of 9th Street has been replaced with grass, but the granite curbs and flagstone sidewalks have been preserved. Among the brick dwellings, two frame houses predate an 1874 Denver ordinance mandating brick construction as protection against fire.

The Knight House ( DV065.1; 1885), 1015 9th Street, is one of Denver's finest Second Empire specimens, while the Madden-Schultz Duplex ( DV065.2; 1890, Jason J. Backus), 1045–1047 9th Street, is the simple, two-story brick house of William F. Schultz and Eugene Madden, the Larimer Street saloonkeeper who served as the district's longtime councilman. The Smedley House ( DV065.3; 1872), 1020 9th Street, a very early frame residence with its original bracketed eaves, housed one of Denver's pioneer dentists, whose descendants also distinguished themselves in that profession. It served for many years as Casa Mayan restaurant, a social center for the Hispanic community. Restraint heightens the impact of the detail on the Davis House ( DV065.4; 1873), 1068 9th Street, an Italianate dwelling with Carpenter's Gothic wood-work. Houses at 1061 and 1024 9th Street are in the same style, but less assertive. The Mercantile Cafe ( DV065.5; 1906, Frederick C. Eberley), 1067 9th Street, originally the Groussman Grocery, is a two-story corner store with distinctive brick-work detail. The streetside parapets are embellished by globe finials and central arches, with the corner cut for the store entrance. The Golda Meir House ( DV065.6; 1911), 1146 9th Street, is a single-story, flat-roofed duplex of pressed red brick, a type so humble and common that it is generally overlooked. This dwelling, elevated by the brief residency of a Jewish American who became the first female prime minister of Israel, was moved to the park from the working-class neighborhood of “Little Israel” on West Colfax Avenue.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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