In 2014, the Denver Public Library's Western History and Genealogy Department acquired an interesting collection of over 400 color photographs of modern Denver. The Thorney Lieberman Photographs (C Photo Collection 445) document the 16th Street Mall just before the streetscape was redesigned and transformed into a pedestrian mall. The images capture a distinctly less thriving and less congested downtown Denver than what you'd see there today.
In the 1970s, an era of sprawling suburban shopping malls, Downtown Denver Inc. spearheaded a redesign of 16th Street into a pedestrian mall in hopes of attracting people and business back to downtown.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Lieberman was an architecture photographer for I.M. Pei & Partners, the world-renowned firm who designed downtown Denver’s 16th Street pedestrian mall. Lieberman was hired to photograph the expanse of what would become the 16th Street Mall from just about every angle, capturing the buildings and streetscapes as they looked in 1979.
The 16th Street Mall opened to the public in October 1982, at a cost of $76 million, complete with wide, walkable sidewalks, benches, trees, an artful street-bed of granite pavers, and free RTD bus access running the length of the street.