Friday, February 27, 2015

Union Station(s) in Denver

More from my ramblings around Denver last week.

If you've taken the RTD bus from Longmont to Denver in the last thirty years, you were probably familiar with Market Street Station, the termination point in Denver.  In mid-2014, the new RTD Union Station Bus Concourse was opened a few blocks away.  Market Street Station was closed and is now temporarily an underground parking garage.  Future plans have the site turning into a mixed-use development.


Closed RTD Market Street Station

And now to reveal some confusion I had about Denver's Union Station(s).  This is what I consider Union Station:  the elegant train station on Wynkoop that has recently been renovated and now includes a hotel and some restaurants inside.  It is where people go to catch an Amtrak train.


Inside revamped Union (train) Station:


Amtrak schedule:


The new $480 million RTD bus station is called Union Station Bus Concourse and it is supposedly connected to the Union Train station above but I couldn't find the way to go between the two last week other than a 10-minute walk on the city sidewalks above.  So I was confused, because these two Union Stations are different structures but have the same name.  I'm sure it will become more clear in future visits.

The new bus station.  It's also below ground like Market Street Station was.  



In seeing this sparkling new station for the first time, I couldn't help but to think of a variation of the name of a Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks.  In 2004 when Longmont voters approved an RTD tax increase, We Were Promised a Train and all the benefits that Denver area residents are now enjoying with this station, the new westward light rail route, and the upcoming train line to the airport.  We helped pay for this infrastructure but few Longmonters benefit from any of it. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Tour of Denver Bell-System Properties

An hour to kill before a meeting on a very mild Thursday evening in Denver gave me the chance to walk around some of my old workplace buildings when I was an employee for the telephone company U S WEST in the mid to late 1990s.  I was based out of Boulder but was frequently a vagabond Denver employee for days or weeks at a time, in various locations downtown.

First on the Denver tour, the gothic revival style Telephone Building at 931 14th Street.   Built in 1929, this was the original headquarters of the old Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company:


This was my favorite building in Denver to work in, perhaps because I liked its history.  It was referred to internally as the 931 Building.

A telephone construction mural is outside the front lobby of 931 and there is also a telephone booth on display so that we'll never forget where Superman transitioned from Clark Kent:



There is more mural artwork inside the building lobby, and on one of the top floors, where I would guess that the executive dining area used to be.  It was just a lunch/break area with vending machines when I worked there. 

Two particular 1995 dates that I'll never forget while I was working on the 9th floor of 931:  the shock of the Oklahoma City Murrah building bombing on April 19 and the extreme buzz around the Netscape IPO on August 9.

Directly attached to the 931 building is 930 15th Street, built in 1980, and was known as the 930 building.   Meeting locations in the two buildings were often confused but you could easily walk between the two, since they were connected via certain floors.  For whatever reasons, perhaps the lack of windows, I never liked this building as much, and tried to avoid it.


Next up is the second tallest building in Denver, what used to be called the Mountain Bell building internally.  Built in 1983 at the time of the AT&T breakup, it served as the US WEST headquarters for all 14 states. As part of a real-estate divestiture effort, they sold it in 1991 and leased most of it back.  I never worked much here other than a few week-long stints and an occasional meeting, and it naturally seemed to have the most corporate feel of all out of all the properties.  


Two blocks from 1801 California was 1999 Broadway, commonly called the Holy Ghost building because it was built directly over the Holy Ghost Catholic Church.  To supplement its core monopoly phone business, U S WEST at the time was moving into some internet growth businesses, including becoming an internet service provider and offering web-hosting/web design services.  These were called unregulated businesses and monopoly law required that they be maintained separately on the accounting books. Anyway, a few leased floors of the Holy Ghost building seemed to contain a lot of U S WEST's unregulated enterprises.  I worked there frequently and remember seeing a lot of high-priced lawyers and sports agents (accompanied occasionally by one of their athletes) in the elevators.  Overall, a pleasant and energizing place to work, and a notably different work environment from the other telephone buildings.


Finally, at 1005 17th Street was the U S WEST Denver Service Center (DSC) building.  This was built in 1976 by Mountain Bell to house their various call centers, and included an auditorium we used to attend for large all-hands meetings.  In the U S WEST strike of 1998, I worked two uneasy weeks here, filling in for striking customer service representatives.  The building was sold and vacated in 2006 by then-owner Qwest but it's nice to see the Bell symbol has been preserved.  


Missing from my pictures was another leased space at 1475 Lawrence near Larimer Square which I also remember as a beehive of activity and a likeable place to spend time.  

One more view of 1801 California at dusk from near Coors Field.  In the early 2000's, Qwest had an extremely bright Vegas-style neon sign on top of this building whose blue light would pierce through curtains in surrounding neighborhood homes.  Qwest toned down the light a few years later after all of the complaints


Friday, February 13, 2015

Eastward St. Vrain Greenway Progress

A spectacular week of early summer-like weather in February is coming to an end soon but we still have a few days left to enjoy.  Checking out eastbound St. Vrain Greenway, including this portion below that was just re-opened last week from the 2013 flood damage, just west of 119th Street.


Heading further east, you can even go under CR1 now, it's no longer blocked off:


Hard to believe that it's been over a year and a half since I've seen this bench.  The clump of trees provide some nice shade in the summer.


You can only go a little further east from the bench.  The rest of the way to Sandstone Ranch is closed.


Westbound on the return.  Hello Indian Peaks!



 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Longmont Butterball Plant Demolition Update

Demolition progress on the Butterball plant in Longmont.  The view is not much different yet from 1st & Main:


But the eastern side of the plant is almost gone:





Blocked from view for decades, you can now see the Justice Building in the background from 1st Street, even with the trains in the way:
 

It won't be long until the old train station is prominent again, until at least the new property goes up.


Long's Peak in the background:


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Longmont Then and Now #16: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

A striking picture of the old St. John the Baptist Church in Longmont caught my eye the other day:

From the Longmont Museum Photograph Collection
and made me wonder what happened to this structure.  Started in 1905 at a cost of $14,050, the Gothic style church was architected by Frederick Paroth of Denver who had just completed the Annunciation Church at 3601 Humboldt Street in Denver (still standing today, now on the historic register).  In 1898, Paroth had designed the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church at 1062 11th Street in Denver. It also still stands today as a registered historic structure and bears a resemblance to Longmont's previous St. John church (in my humble, non-architect opinion):


"StElizabethsDenver" by Jeffrey Beall - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StElizabethsDenver.JPG#mediaviewer/File:StElizabethsDenver.JPG




The St. John church was built out of red standstone and its spire was 100 feet high.  Another view from the early 1900s:


From the Longmont Museum Photograph Collection

To understand how the church was named, we have to go back further to 1882 when a fledgling Catholic community raised $1,170 to build the first Catholic church in Longmont on two donated lots, on the east side of Collyer between Third and Fourth Avenues.  It was a small frame structure, measuring 20x40 feet and was blessed on the day of its first service by Bishop Joseph Machebeuf of Denver, who was Colorado's first bishop (a high school in Denver and a 12,800 foot mountain near the Loveland ski area are named after him).  That day was June 24, 1882 and it was a practice of the bishop to name new churches for the saint of the day.  The Feast of St. John the Baptist day falls on June 24, thus the name of the new church in Longmont.  

Back to the 1905 church,  Bishop Nicholas Matz from Denver presided over the dedication and opening service on July 22, 1906. 

A large pipe organ was installed in 1914 via a matching $1,000 grant from the Carnegie organ fund, six years after the Carnegie Foundation helped fund the Longmont Library just a block away. 

In the early 1960's, a growing Longmont population and a congregation of 2200 was proving that the existing church was too small.  Church leadership began planning a new $325,000 church which would seat 700 people and be constructed on the same site, also facing north at the corner of Fourth and Collyer.  The 1905 structure would be no more.  

June 27, 1962 Times-Call picture taken just a few days before demolition of the 57-year old church started.  The last service was a few days earlier, on the 24th.  I could not find out if the stained glass windows were preserved, described in 1905 as "some of the most beautiful in the state" by the Longmont Ledger, including a large rose over the main entrance.  Also, what happened to the organ?



Razing in progress.  Times-Call picture from July 17, 1962:



Artist rendition of planned new St. John the Baptist Church, Times-Call, June, 1962:


 St. John the Baptist Church today, 51 years old:




Cornerstone showing the year 1963 and U. I. O. G. D.  Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Dei  (Latin: so that in all things God may be glorified). First service at the new church was Midnight Mass, December 25, 1963. 


A summary of the informal "Longmont: Then and Now" series so far:
It's hard to believe that the most recent (#15) was over four years ago!     

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fight the Ice with Screw Shoes

Longmont has been under a rare covering of ice since yesterday.  It started on Thursday night with some sort of rain/sleet mix that came down on mostly dry pavement and then froze overnight.  With below freezing temperatures and no sun on Friday, driveways, sidewalks, and roads (with the exception of treated main thoroughfares) were turned into ice rinks.  Nice for Dorothy Hamill, not so much fun for us. 

What to do, if you need to walk the dog, go to the mailbox, or visit a neighbor?  Screw-shoes to the rescue!

They're well known by Boulder trail runners who use them for traction on icy rocks but they mostly work fine for traversing your slicked-over driveway too.  All you need to get started is a pair of old running shoes, a screwdriver, and a visit to the hardware store:


The well-written defacto tutorial is here from legendary Colorado Springs runner, Matt Carpenter.  Pay close attention to the length of the sheet metal screw that you're buying, and don't go longer than 1/2 inch unless you want some continuous acupuncture on the bottom of your feet while walking.  

Here's the bottom of my screw shoes but I'm missing a few screws on the top (they occasionally come out):
 


These work best on small patches of the frozen stuff and will not save you on Zamboni-smooth ice. For questionable surfaces ahead of me, I like to gently scuff the toes of my shoes on the ice to see if I'm getting any traction.  If not, I'm taking very small steps until I'm past the danger zone.  I imagine that you'd have to take extra caution if you're walking a dog, especially one that pulls on the leash.

The screws are removable so you don't have to permanently sacrifice your shoes to do this.  And one more thing, be sure to remove your screw shoes before you walk into your friend's house with nicely finished wood floors!

There are more expensive ice traction options out there but given that these ice situations are rare in Longmont, the homebrew screw shoe solution is an acceptable alternative. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bird's Eye View of St. Stephens Labrynth

Back in September, I mentioned the future satellite view of the St. Stephens Episcopal Church labrynth.  Since then, Google Maps has updated their images and you can see it clearly from above:

Before:
 

Now:
 

Google Earth gives us a closer look:



Back to a ground level perspective from today, you can see that it gets visitors even when its covered in snow: