Native American Trading Company
213 West 13th Avenue (13th and Bannock)
Golden Triangle, Denver
Bus directions: take the mall shuttle from Market Street Station and walk down Colfax to Bannock, or walk down Broadway to 13th
Church bells rang out across the Golden Triangle last Wednesday as I walked up Bannock toward the Native American Trading Company, and my conversation there did seem like a blessing.
I think Robin Riddel Lima, who has been operating the trading company with her husband Jack since 1983, knows all there is to know about the Golden Triangle. And I also learned quite a bit from Kevin Gramer, director of the Byers-Evans House Museum across the street. Both of them gave generously of their time, even though it was obvious I wasn’t there to buy art, and he needed to talk to Robin about a meeting.
The corner of 13th and Bannock, where the trading company takes up two former houses (we were conversing in what used to be the courtyard between them), is a center of art and history. Camera Obscura Gallery is around the corner, the Byers-Evans House across the street features an exhibit of photographs by the former’s octogenarian owner, and the Denver Art Museum‘s North Building looms castle-like over both.
The Golden Triangle Museum District (GTMD) claims eight museums extending all the way over to Pearl, which most people would consider to be in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Robin said the police station nearby might be turning into a police museum, raising the total to nine. Boundaries for the triangle depend on who you’re talking to—Denver Infill sets its northern boundary at 12th Avenue, the Golden Triangle Association extends it farther north to Colfax (15th Avenue), and the GTMD extends it east to Grant and even to Pearl at its northeastern edge.
Robin and Kevin and I talked for quite a while, about her favorite gallery (Gallery 1261); about First Friday art walks in the Golden Triangle, which have been going on for more than a decade; about how she didn’t think there were any more empty storefronts in GT than in other parts of Denver; about how the last 3 years have been the best in the 20-year history of the Byers-Evans House.
She even knew the name of the mysterious red building with construction fencing all around it: the Evans School, named for the same family that lived in the Byers-Evans House. (When she and her husband opened the Native American Trading Company, two sisters were still living in that house. One of them had helped established the Denver Artists’ Club in the 1890s, which eventually became the Denver Art Museum.)
Finally, I let Robin and Kevin talk to each other, stopping to admire the large, gray-haired storyteller doll displayed near the stair rail that Robin designed. (I was asked not to take pictures of items for sale in the store.) After Kevin left, Robin showed me into the locked section of the store where they keep the most precious items: rugs, photographs by Edward Curtis (two were of Hollywood starlets, the others from his series “The North American Indian”), large pots, a cape (she said it was Apache, I believe), and many other lovely old things.
She told me the Native American Trading Company was the fifth-largest dealer of Edward Curtis photographs in the country and had sold two of his collections.