December 15, 2022

Denver’s 10 Most Striking Architectural Landmarks

Denver, Colorado has some gorgeous vistas – but these natural wonders pale in comparison to the Mile High City’s man-made ones. Here are ten of Denver’s most striking architectural landmarks.

Photo by <a href="">Josh Berendes</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

Denver, Colorado has some gorgeous vistas – but these natural wonders pale in comparison to the Mile High City’s man-made ones. Here are ten of Denver’s most striking architectural landmarks.

1. Castle Marne

One of the oldest buildings still standing today, Castle Marne is located at the corner of 16th and Race Streets in the historic and stately Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver. And yes, it’s a bona fide castle, designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by renowned 19th century architect William Lane in 1863. The best part about this iconic edifice? It’s currently run as a bed and breakfast, which means it’s easy to book a room and get a close-up look at everything that makes this landmark unique both inside and out.

2. The Colorado State Capitol

Speaking of Capitol Hill, the Colorado State Capitol building located at 200 East Colfax Avenue is another architectural marvel that makes Denver stand out from the crowd. Completed in 1908 and modeled in part after the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, the Colorado State Capitol boasts a dome covered in more than 200 ounces of 24 karat gold leaf and wainscoting made from Colorado Rose Onyx, a material that has never been found anywhere else in the world. 

3. The Clock Tower

The only surviving remnant of the Daniels and Fisher Department Store that was torn down in the 1970s, the building’s original clock tower was preserved for posterity. Clocking in at nearly 400 feet tall and made from brick, stone, and terracotta in the Italian Renaissance style, the Clock Tower remains an iconic part of the Denver skyline to this day. Today, this nationally registered historic landmark serves as a concert, wedding, and event venue, but you can also tour the tower as well!

4. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Is there anything quite like the soaring architecture of a house of worship? The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, a French-Gothic Catholic cathedral opened in 1911, has everything you ever wanted in terms of grand style. More than 75 stained glass windows decorate the interior, more than any other cathedral in the United States, and the exterior is built from marble mined locally in Colorado and imported from Italy. It is an active church, however, so please be sure to be respectful when you visit!

5. The Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory

Located at the Denver Botanical Gardens located at 1007 York Street, the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory was built in 1966 to act as both a functional greenhouse as well as a striking work of sculptural art. Visitors can enjoy greenery even in the middle of the coldest Colorado winter, thanks to the geometric skylights created from plexiglass while marveling at the cast-in-place concrete construction, something unique among other conservatories across the nation. 

6. The Cash Register Building

Moving further and further away from Denver’s 19th century roots, we come across a prime example of some of the most iconic architectural approaches the city has adopted in the 1980s. The most prevalent example of this is the Wells Fargo Center in Downtown Denver, though it’s much better known as simply the Cash Register Building. The name comes from the unique silhouette of the top of the 52-storey office tower that resembles a cash register. Fitting, considering it was built for a bank! Interesting tidbit: this building looks even taller than its 698-foot height because it was purposely built on a large hill. It’s still the third largest building in Denver today!

7. Denver International Airport

Built in 1995, Denver International Airport offers up some of the most striking building and sculptural architecture you’ll ever see in a place designed to get people in the air. A peaked roof that calls to mind the Rocky Mountains that are the backdrop of the Mile-High City are just the beginning, as this roof is fabric – it’s held in place by a catenary steel cable system like the one used on the Brooklyn Bridge. Even more famous are the more than 40 works of art both inside and outside the airport, including the Blue Mustang horse sculpture, affectionately known as “Blucifer” for its menacing and almost demonic look.

8. The Colorado Convention Center

Most convention centers and event spaces are large but rather bland spaces. Not the Colorado Convention Center located in Downtown Denver! Built in 2004, the only thing more iconic than the building’s 660-foot-long sloping roofline is the huge, 40-foot statue of a large blue bear that’s leaning up against one side of the building, peering in through the windows as if taking a long, hard look at what’s going on inside. Fittingly enough, the statue’s official name is “I See What You Mean”, showing that Denver has a truly quirky sense of humor indeed!

9. The Frederic C. Hamilton Building

The Denver Art Museum’s Frederic C. Hamilton Building is a postmodern masterpiece that is the perfect counterpart to the artistic works housed within. Opened in 2006 and featuring a roofline that resembles both the Rocky Mountains and the hull of a gigantic vessel, this glittering titanium-clad edifice hosts a geometric wonderland of an interior atrium and an exterior cantilevered “prow” that dramatically juts out into the sky.

10. The Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorating Art

Situated just a block from the Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorating Art is a stark contrast to the soaring style of its close neighbor. Designed by architect Jim Olson, the building is dedicated to Vance Kirkland, a Denver artist known to be an inventive and visionary painter. The museum itself features striking elements including its so-called “eyebrow” overhangs, vertical glass “fins”, tall doorframes and an interior bisected by a long Promenade Gallery. 

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