I’ve been reviewing some negatives of Denver street scenes from the 1950s in the Denver Public Works Records (WH1741). This collection of negatives was created by Traffic Engineers with the Public Works department to document innovations—and perhaps problems—with Denver’s traffic flow.
The photographs are fascinating. Photos depicting places that have changed drastically over time are among the most amazing. Anyone familiar with downtown Denver, South Broadway or Tennyson Street today will agree that a lot has changed. The image (above) of 16th and Champa is wonderful because it shows pedestrians nearly taking over the downtown intersection, crossing diagonally (an idea known as the “Barnes Dance,” which was minted in Denver during the 1950s). Some of the children in the center of the photo must have been waving at the photographer perched above, prompting the question - how exactly did they get that vantage point?
This image of a Gates Corporation parking lot shows the long-familiar Gates sign above the now-demolished rubber company plant at Broadway and Mississippi. But what also stands out is the parking lot full of workers’ cars. Today, RTD light rail can take you close to that spot.
Tennyson Street in North Denver will look strangely familiar to anyone who knows that intersection today. It was, and is, a commercial hub in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood, and many of the buildings still stand. The photograph above depicts Tennyson as a much quieter street than it is in 2019, and the neighborhood signs show more retail and services than you’ll find there today. Presently the commercial strip is dominated by restaurants and bars.
What stands out to you in these images of 1950s Denver?