Federal Garage Building, Denver, CO

The garage at 2106 California Street is a federally owned garage that was constructed in 1926 in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. The one-story building is rectangular in plan. The primary facade faces northwest. There is a second-story square tower located on the west corner of the building. The gross square footage of the garage is 19,892 square feet, providing 68 usable interior parking spaces. The exterior walls are reddish-brown brick laid in a running bond pattern. The roof is flat, with red Spanish style concrete tiles creating a small pent on the northwest and southwest elevations. Although all but one of the windows have been filled in with various materials from the exterior, the integrity of this early twentieth-century building remains. The main, northwest, elevation faces California Street. It consists of nine bays, three of which were added to the original structure in 1938. Two of the original six bays contain modern metal overhead coiling garage doors. The remaining bays contain inset window openings separated by brick pilasters. A 12-light steel sash window in the southernmost bay below the tower is still visible, with a metal security screen on the exterior. All of the other window openings have been filled in with concrete block and stucco from the exterior. The steel sash, divided light windows still exist behind the infill materials, covered with plywood from the interior. Above the windows are inset panels with stucco finish. There is no physical evidence to suggest that these ever contained transom windows. There is a header course between the windows and transom panels, and a header course outlining each individual transom. Lintels consist of four courses of corbel brick. There is a continuous brick-faced fascia above all of the openings on the northwest elevation, topped by another assembly of projecting corbel bricks. Two large brick pilasters exist, marking the original end of the building, and the current end of the building at the north corner. These pilasters project out from, and above, the brick fascia and the tile roof pent. They include additional decorative brickwork, corbel out near the top, and small inset stucco panels at the parapet. Windowsills are constructed of a projecting header course. Below the windows there is a subtle pattern that mimics the transom divisions above, created by header coursing that outlines running bond brick sections. The base of the building is delineated by a single header course at the pilasters, and a double header course within the inset sections. At the buildings primary corner, facing California and 21st Streets, there is a square second-story brick tower with a projecting hipped mansard sheathed in red Spanish-style non-historic concrete tiles. The projecting mansard is supported at the corner brick pilasters with paired wooden decoratively carved brackets. The soffit is covered with historic wood bead board. The tower wall transitions down to the first floor roof pent with a sloped brick parapet. The tower features ten wood sash double-hung windows, five on the northwest side and five on the southwest side. The windows still exist, but have been covered with painted plywood on the exterior. The plywood covering gives the misleading impression of one large opening, rather than five smaller ones, on each side. A continuous double brick header course forms the windowsills on both elevations. The northeast side has no openings, although physical evidence on the interior suggests a large opening has been filled in. Facing southeast, there is a single large wood sash window with simple wood trim. The window still exists, but is boarded up from the exterior. Also visible against the southeast face of the tower is the stair enclosure with stucco-faced walls and sloped roof. The stair enclosure does not appear to be original. The southwest elevation, facing 21st Street, is seven bays wide. The northwestern bay contains the two-story tower described above. Centered below the tower there is a modern metal pedestrian door with a wooden side panel and plywood transom panel. There are three inset transom stucco panels above, which do not appear to have ever contained windows. The second bay from the northwest corner is narrower and contains a small window opening filled in with concrete block and stucco. The remaining five bays of the southwest elevation are under a single brick cornice. Like the northwest elevation, each bay is separated by a brick pilaster, and contains one large opening with three inset transom panels above. Each window opening has a brick corbel lintel and each has been filled in with concrete block and stucco. All of the windows still exist below: steel sash divided light windows covered with plywood on the interior. The northernmost bay contains a garage door opening that has been filled in with concrete block and stucco. The garage door still exists inside. The southeast elevation of the building faces an asphalt alley that separates the California Street Federal Garage Building from the Welton Street Federal Garage Building, which was built in 1940 as an expansion of the California Street Federal Garage Building. This elevation is brick with a continuous modern metal gutter and four metal downspouts. There are several older openings of different sizes that have wood lintels and have been filled in with concrete block and stucco. These appear to date from different times and it is unknown how many are original. Three original steel sash windows on this elevation still exist below the infill materials. The southeast elevation has two pedestrian door openings that have been filled in: one with brick and one with concrete block and stucco. There are two large garage door openings. One has been filled in with stucco, and the door still exists inside. The other has a wood lintel and steel jambs, and has been filled in with brick. Within this old opening, two later, smaller openings were built. One is a modern pedestrian metal exit door with a steel frame and lintel. The other opening was a window with a brick sill. This opening has been filled in with concrete block and stucco. The window no longer exists. The concrete foundation is visible at the east end. The northeast elevation faces a privately owned parking lot. This elevation is the one-story addition built in 1938. It is a solid brick wall with no openings and a parapet. The parapet steps down in height towards the southeast. The concrete foundation is visible along this side, as grade slopes down to the northeast. The brick wall at the north end of this elevation is roughly constructed where it originally abutted an adjacent building that no longer exists. This wall is constructed of at least three different types of red/brown brick, possibly because this wall was not readily visible when it was built. Every sixth course is a header course on this elevation. In numerous locations, graffiti has been painted over with red/brown paint.

Historical Significance

The Denver Colorado Springs Pueblo Motorway Inc. Company (DCSPMW) Garage, now the Federal Garage Building, is located at 2106 California Street in Denver Colorado. It was constructed in 1926. The building is significant under criterion A, Events, in the area of Transportation, as it was built for bus storage and maintenance for the DCSPMW, a bus company subsidiary of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The railroad was established in 1870 by William Jackson Palmer as a means to connect Denver to the resort town of Colorado Springs (Massengill 2004). For several decades, the railroad was extremely successful. At the turn of the century, however, railroad companies experienced a decline in demand as trolleys, buses and automobiles became more popular transportation methods throughout the United States. In response, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad created the Denver Colorado Springs Pueblo Motorway Inc as a subsidiary bus company to transport passengers between Denver and southern Colorado. The California Street Federal Garage Building is significant for its important role supporting this key shift in tourism transportation patterns.

The Federal Garage Building is located at the corner of 21st and California Streets, in Denvers Five Points neighborhood. This area was an important location for the garage, as it was a key transportation hub. In 1871, the Denver Horse Railroad Company made its first connection to Five Points. By the 1880s, Five Points was a prosperous industrial and commercial center, with many transportation-related developments as well. By 1886, the city had over 150 miles of track for its first electric rail line, with several miles running through Five Points, creating Denvers first street car suburb.

During the nineteenth century, this culturally and economically diverse neighborhood was a mix of local aristocracy, European immigrants and African Americans who were legally precluded from living in other Denver neighborhoods. One important Five Points resident was Williams M. Hastings, a clerk for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (Mauck 2001:18). From the 1920s to the 1950s, Five Points supported a rich mix of local businesses, commercial enterprises and clubs where some of the most prominent jazz musicians of the time performed.

The Denver Colorado Springs Pueblo Motorway Inc. Company was formed in 1926 to provide bus service primarily to tourists. The company immediately had the garage built at 21st and California for bus storage and maintenance. They leased the building initially but did not own it until an unknown date prior to 1938. The original owner is identified in Denver records as the Auto Home Garage Company. Denver City directories list other businesses, but not the DCSPMW, at this address. The reason for this is not known, but it can be speculated that DCSPMW contracted with other specialized businesses to maintain its buses. These other companies and corresponding directory years are: Auto Home Garage Company, 1928; Costello Motor Repair Company, and Republic Truck Sales (or Republic Motor Trucks), 1927-1931; Fred L Adams Garage, 1934-35; Rainbow Garage, 1936.

The DCSPMW flourished during its first decade. The company's routes grew quickly, starting with service between Denver and Pueblo, but soon expanding to Walsenburg, Canon City and La Junta when the company acquired the Southern Colorado Motorway in 1929. This mirrored a nationwide pattern. Early bus companies, or Motorways, served as branch line feeders to the railroads that owned them, but they expanded as the publics interest grew in motoring as a leisure pastime. Numerous motorways companies, including the DCSPMW, began to duplicate the intercity routes of their parent railroads.

In 1936, the company became part of the Trailways Association, with Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific Railroads as shareholders. The establishment of the Trailways National Bus System in 1936 brought these independent motorcoach companies together as a strategically coordinated North American motorcoach scheduled route (intercity) passenger transport system (Trailways Transportation System 2011). Trailways was a conglomeration of smaller long-distance bus companies that banded together to compete with Greyhound. Within two years of joining Trailways, DCSPMW needed additional garage space. They purchased two additional lots to the northeast and expanded the building. In 1940, the company purchased four additional lots across the alley to the southeast, which they used for surface parking initially. In 1945 they built a second garage on that property, at 2101 Welton.

In 1948, Transcontinental Bus System purchased the bus operations of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, which included an interest in the Denver-Colorado Springs-Pueblo Motorway (Linsky 2005). At this point, the DCSPMW employed over 100 people and transported about 1500 passengers per day. The remaining portion of the Denver & Rio Grande railroad was sold to Continental Trailways (officially Transcontinental Bus System) in 1960. Continental became full owner of the DCSPMW at that time.

Shortly thereafter, the garage buildings on California and Welton Streets were sold to Four States Realty Co, Inc. in 1961. In 1967, Four States Realty sold both properties to A. Bergman & Co. for ten dollars. Six days later, A. Bergman & Co conveyed the properties to the current owner, the United States of America, exchanging the properties for other property in Arapahoe County, Colorado.

The federal government utilizes the California Street garage as an indoor parking structure. Extensive modifications have been made since the initial construction, but the dates of modifications are not known. The interior entrance vestibule at the corner of 21st and California Streets appears to be a non-original enclosure, based on evidence of windows on the interior, and varied styles of brick construction. The small upper floor above the vestibule, and its access stairwell may be later additions, probably dating from the same time as the vestibule enclosure. Although these features may be non-original, it is likely that they date from the period of significance. Two openings were created in the original northeast exterior wall when the addition was built in 1938. Exterior windows throughout have been enclosed with concrete block, stucco and painted plywood, but the original windows still exist between the plywood and block. A historic service door facing 21st Street has been enclosed from the exterior, but still exists inside. Interior evidence still remains of mechanical pits and lifts that were used to maintain the vehicles. A dry pipe sprinkler system, smoke relief openings through roof, and mechanical exhaust system with large exhaust hood on the roof, have been installed. Two metal coiling overhead doors have been installed facing California Street. In 1993, skylights were removed, clerestory windows enclosed, and new roofing, insulation, and gutters were installed.

Although the building has been extensively modified, the integrity of the garage remains. The garage played an important role in the development of transportation in Colorado and other western states throughout the twentieth century. The garage maintains its integrity as a good representation of a maintenance garage of this architectural style, which was a popular style in Denver at the time of the construction in the 1920s.

Bibliography:

Anonymous
1960 Continental Buys State Bus Line. Rocky Mountain News. May 27, 1960:66.

Denver Public Library
Denver City Directories: 1927 through 1936, annual.

Massengill, Pat
2004 Downtown Littleton Historical Landmarks. Accessed via Internet on April 23, 2012 at https://www.littletongov.org/building-development/historic-preservation/.... Updated January 2004.

Mauck, Laura M.
2001 Five Points Neighborhood of Denver. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishing.

Stewart, Alanna
2012 (draft) National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form: Federal Garage Building.
 

Year
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Year
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Description Architect
1926 1926 Original Construction unknown
Last Reviewed: 2019-07-18