1970 Larimer Street, 1970
Larimer Street, 1970
The city of Denver is now, and has always been, a work in progress. For proof of this point, you needn’t look any further than the stretch of Larimer Street between 14th and 15th Streets.
This block has been a central player in Denver’s downtown ever since there’s been a Downtown Denver. Over the years, it’s seen pioneers, miners, riots, skid row alcoholics by the hundreds, and lately, scores of well-heeled shoppers and diners.
But Larimer Street’s best known days may have been its worst.
Right up until the mid-1960’s, Larimer Street was home to dozens of dive bars and cheap motels known as flop houses. Larimer Street’s grit and distinct lack of glamor is eloquently described in Neal Cassady’s classic autobiography The First Third: And Other Writings, as well as other skid row histories such as as An Office on the Street: A Poignant Story of Survival and The Unattached Society: An Account of Life on Larimer Street Among Homeless Men.
Suffice to say, scenes like the one depicted in this picture were an everyday, probably every few minutes, scene on Larimer Street for a very long time.
By 1965, however, the City of Denver embraced an aggressive urban renewal strategy that was in vogue across the country. As part of that strategy, city planners were keen on knocking down the entire block and starting all over.
Fortunately for Denver, a preservation-minded developer named Dana Crawford stepped in and convinced urban renewal fans that, perhaps, something else could be done with Larimer Street. The result of her efforts is now known as Larimer Square and, within a few years, the Denver Police Department was spending a lot less time pouring rotgut into Larimer Street gutters.
Today, Larimer Square bears almost no reminders of rowdy past as a skid row as throngs of shoppers, diners and fun seekers crowd the street every weekend. (Of course that doesn’t mean the problems of alcoholism, homeless, and mental illness are gone; they’ve just moved to different parts of the city.)
It’s just another example of how change, whether we like it or not, maintains a constant presence in the city of Denver.
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