Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Larimer Square

Larimer Square is Denver's oldest city block. It is traditionally understood to stretch between 14th and 15th Streets on Larimer Street. It is considered a unique historical district and is not a part of the larger Lower Downtown neighborhood.

The first construction in Larimer Square dates back to 1858 when General William H. Larimer jumped the claim of the St. Charles settlement and renamed the area Denver City. Larimer built a log cabin on what is now the corner of 15th and Larimer Streets. By 1861 Larimer Street had 25 buildings and it at this time that Denver City and Auraria, a competing settlement across Cherry Creek founded by the Russell Party, decided to unite and become one city.
Larimer Square housed a lot of Denver firsts. It was the site of Denver's first bank, bookstore, and dry goods store. Also, Denver's first post office, theater, and city hall.

The area had become run down and seedy by the 1960s Modern development had moved away from the downtown area and the buildings were left to decay. Denver city planners were working in what they called the Skyline Urban Renewal Project, a plan to re-develop downtown Denver using federal dollars. It was a success, in that it was around then that Denver developed the majority of its skyscrapers and gained the downtown skyline that we are used to, but it also cost Denver much of its historic architecture.  The success of Larimer Square today is largely due to the work of conservationist Dana Crawford. Beginning in 1963, Crawford directed the rebirth of the Larimer Square District and ensured that the buildings that comprised Denver's first city block would not be sacrificed in the name of re-development. This was one of several historic preservation efforts that would take place in Denver over the next two decades, eventually leading to the near total re-development of the Lower Downtown district and the creation of a lively city center.

Fun Fact...
Larimer Square, the entire city block, is owned by a single person, real estate developer Jeff Hermanson.

Getting There By Bike...
It's easiest for me to get to Larimer Square by heading north along the Cherry Creek Bike Path. This is a nice sheltered path that heads right into the middle of downtown Denver. You can exit the  Cherry Creek path and reach Larimer Square from either Lawrence or Larimer Streets.

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