A Buttoned-Up Bohemian

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Capitol Hill and its northern neighbor, North Capitol Hill, make two contrasting neighbors with a common history. Part all-business, part Bohemian, this area just east of Colorado’s capitol, which it includes, has a double-sided, buttoned-up, Bohemian personality. Here’s my summary of our Capitol Hill urban hiking adventure.

Grandiose for Sure

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Capitol Hill, bounded by Broadway, Downing Street, Colfax Avenue, and 7th Avenue, sits just south of North Capitol Hill, which extends the boundary up to 20th and diagonal along Park Ave. Sitting proudly on the western boundary is Colorado Capitol. Thus, at one time, mansions of the rich and powerful surrounded the Capitol.

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Both neighborhoods have gone through similar changes. First came the historic silver bust, then came the Depression, and then came the white flight of the 60s. All three of these boom/bust elements combined to take their tolls on the once grand Denver mansions. Some survived by becoming apartments and condos. A few thrived, never getting compartmentalized, or they became commercialized. But many met bulldozers or fire. Thus, when you come across one of these amazing mansions, be sure to take a good look.

Art and Sculpture, Too

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But don’t let the homes distract you from historic sculptures and recent art pieces. From pillow cairns and giant root systems to historic Native American sculptures, every corner seems to show up a surprise. Did you know the sculpture behind the Capitol, “The Closing Era,” has a face that was originally supposed to be that of Native American Chief Ouray? Or that the pillow cairns along Pennsylvania were made by the same artist as the Blue Bear (“I See What You Mean”) by Lawrence Argent?

Oh, Yeah, the Buildings!

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Scrunched along the western boundary of the two neighborhoods, you’ll find some of Denver’s best buildings. Be it the Capitol, original churches, or the Wells Fargo complex, you’ll find as many types of architectural flair as you’ll find Bohemian styles within the ‘hoods. Be sure to also grab a bite at many of the hippy (City O’ City) or buttoned up (Charlie Brown) places. You’ll be sure to find something good.

The route:

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Start at the Crawford Mansion at 150 E 10th Ave, Denver, CO 80203. Once the home of Denver’s “snootiest hostess,” or so said Molly Brown, you’ll head north up Sherman Street past Poet’s Row. These apartment buildings named after the architect’s favorite literary characters continue to keep their charm. But don’t get their names wrong–none of the authors, including Jack Kerouac, ever lived in these buildings.

Continue north toward the Capitol. If you have time, be sure to catch the free capitol tour, which is excellent. Rather than walk to the west of the Capitol, walk on its east side. Stop at the statue of the Native American and the bison. The face of the Native American was originally petitioned to be Chief Ouray, but the sculptor settled for just a “generic” face.

Continue north along Grant St past the Wells Fargo center, the public art of the US, and even past the Warwick Hotel which used to be the Denver Playboy. Enjoy the various building architecture along the way.

At E 20th Ave, take a right. Benedict Fountain Park will be on your left, and across from there is the Five Points Neighborhood. Be sure to go to the fountain and read about it and its creator. Once you’ve enjoyed the fountain, head south on Pennsylvania Street.

Along the way, you’ll pass Steuben’s Diner on your left, a great all-American Diner, you’ll see the pillow cairns sculpture on your right, and further down, you’ll pass Molly Brown’s house on your left. Many of these homes are on the Historic Register, so be sure to read plaques and signs.

At E 10th Ave, take a right, returning back to the Crawford Mansion, completing your 2.5 mile urban hike through Capitol Hill and North Capitol Hill.

Please post below any questions, comments or suggestionsClick here to see the route, map, and turn by turn directions.