Denver's bustling Lower Downtown is a mile high and rising.
Photography COURTESY OF DENVER METRO CVB, DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, ART WORK © 2009 ESTATE OF LUISA . JIMÉNEZ, JR. / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY , NEW YORK
THE LOWER DOWNTOWN OF DENVER WAS ONCE A REDOUBT FOR GUNSLINGERS, cardsharps and other dubious personae. Saloons and flophouses lined the streets from Union Station to Larimer Square. This was what Dana Crawford saw when she arrived from Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1954. A housewife with an irrepressible gift for urban renewal, Crawford looked at the grimy notoriety of LoDo (as it would later be named) and saw only majestic Victorian buildings in need of some serious TLC.
“I just had this bee in my bonnet about saving those buildings,” says the 77-year-old Crawford, adding “Larimer Square used to be skid row.” Over the next half century, Crawford helped turn LoDo into one of America’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Sixteenth Street is now a thriving pedestrian mall lined with aspens, cafes, outlets and food carts.
She bought the nearby Oxford Hotel in 1980 and turned it into one of the best in the country, complete with the Prohibition-era Art Deco Cruise Room, which has the feel of a martini-fueled time machine.
“They say the Oxford was a brothel,” she says. “I dont know about that, but I do know I’m darn proud of it — and the rest of this city. We’ve done good.” — Mike Guy
Images of the Wild West have been so thoroughly mined, it’s hard to believe a sculpture of a mustang could raise so much as an eyebrow. But artist Luis Jiménez’s 32-foot-tall, bright blue, red- eyed stallion — installed last year at Denver International Airport — is a horse of a different color. The sculptor died in an accident while working on the piece, so he never got to witness the dust storm it has stirred up, pitting fans against detractors in a sort of high-art High Noon. “It’s an extraordinary piece,” says Denver public art administrator Kendall Peterson. “Jiménez’s goal was to make people see the iconography in a new way.” The sculpture reminds people that “Denver’s not about stereotypes,” she adds. “It’s about the future.”
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