I first ventured into Uptown on one of Phil Goodstein‘s tours of Swallow Hill, back in April. It used to be one of Denver’s swankest areas in the 1870s, and although many of the houses are on what we would now say is the small side, they are striking.

As we walked down from 16th Avenue and Pennsylvania toward the Bump and Grind (reviewed here), Phil pointed out the Italianate house. There used to be five of them total, but four were razed for a parking lot during the urban renewal boom of the 1960s and 1970s.

Why? Well, Uptown was a Boho neighborhood then, with hippie hangouts in both directions down 17th Avenue. The Mayflower Hotel, on the downtown (western) side of Uptown Denver, housed both a hippie bar and another bar that cowboys frequented during the stock show.

You can imagine how well that went over in the 1960s. It is reported that some hippies left Uptown with much shorter hair.

To the east, a 7-Eleven glowers where the Green Spider Café and the Denver Folklore Center once promoted roots music, sold and repaired acoustic instruments, and even built a concert hall. Although the center and its progeny, the Swallow Hill Music Association, live on in more southern parts of Denver, the Boho side of Uptown is hardly to be seen anymore. The Avenue Theater sits at the downtown end of 17th Avenue and the Vintage Theater at the other—that’s about it.

There is a youth hostel at 16th Avenue and Washington.

And the Bump and Grind at 17th and Penn—you’d better hurry over there for Petticoat Bruncheon before it gets sold!

The main legacy of Bohemian culture in this part of Denver is the outcry caused by the Denver Urban Renewal Authority’s renovations in downtown Denver (and Uptown), starting in the 1960s. DURA loved to tear down old buildings for parking lots, like the one kittycorner from Bump and Grind, and people eventually realized that they actually preferred those century-old buildings and started preserving them.

If you walk east on 17th Avenue to Ogden and turn right, you’ll find all sorts of quirky touches: a cross on a door, the “Flower House” with no flowers in front, the Methodist Deaconess’s house. Turn right again on 16th Avenue, and you’ll eventually walk by U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder’s old headquarters, complete with “dragon lady” carvings.

And one more thing Phil told us: in the nineteenth century, Denver statutes were published in Spanish, German, and English. Take that, Tom Tancredo!

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Leave A Comment

  1. BernardL October 15, 2008 at 10:13 am - Reply

    I’ve always liked porches as in the lower middle picture.

  2. Beth Partin October 15, 2008 at 10:43 am - Reply

    You mean in the dragon lady house? When I was on that tour, Phil pointed out some houses that had had their porches removed. I guess they’re difficult to keep in good shape.

    I like porches now. I wish I had one. All I have is a stoop.