Civic Center Park’s structures are over 100 years old and part of what makes it a historic, architectural gem. Much of Civic Center’s design was inspired by the City Beautiful movement, which Mayor Robert Speer championed in Denver from his election in 1904 to his death in 1918. Mayor Speer believed in the power of civic beauty is to provide an uplifting environment. He was instrumental in public improvements that changed the face of Denver forever. He was particularly drawn to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the Court of Honor reminded him of Civic Center Park.
The Greek Amphitheatre (1919)
Designed by Denver architects Marean & Norton in collaboration with Chicago architect Edward H. Bennett, the Greek Theatre was built to fulfill Bennett’s vision of commemorating park benefactors and providing an open air theatre. Construction began in 1917 to create an open stage on a central pavilion in front of a sunken orchestra and theatre floor with seating for up to 1,200 spectators. The theatre is framed by a 210 – foot semicircular Colonnade of Civic Benefactors, which has murals by local artist Allen Tupper True on its interior walls. True would be commissioned in later years to paint murals in the State Capitol Rotunda and the nearby Brown Palace Hotel lobby.
Upon completion in 1919, the Greek Theatre began to host regular vaudeville performances, concerts and other entertainment. One hundred years later, the Civic Center Conservancy , as part of its Art in the Park program, brought a temporary public art display to the historic theatre. “A Narrative Landscape,” created by local artist Theresa Clowes and pictured at right, was a floating fabric installation that celebrated the centennial anniversary of the park. Learn more about the piece’s creation and meaning from the artist here.
The Voorhies Memorial (1919)
A successful miner, Denver resident John Hart Pemberton Voorhies left his fortune to fund a memorial gateway on the northern end of Civic Center. The Voorhies Memorial was completed in 1919, firmly positioning the Bates triangle as an integral park space and requiring that Colfax Avenue be re-routed around the park. Designed by noted Denver architects Fisher & Fisher, the Voorhies Memorial includes murals by local artist Allen Tupper True, who would be commissioned in later years to paint murals in the State Capitol Rotunda and the Brown Palace’s lobby. Voorhies’ name is listed on the park’s Colonnade of Civic Benefactors, which flanks the east and west edges of the Greek Amphitheatre.
Notably, the Voorhies Memorial was home to a temporary art display and candlelight vigil in honor of the 2020 World Day of Remembrance, which honors victims of traffic crashes and their families.
The McNichols Civic Center Building / Carnegie Library (1909)
The Carnegie Library, completed in 1909, was the first building constructed on the new Civic Center site. The Greek Revival – style library was designed by Albert Ross of New York and funded with a $200,000 gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Its architecture was consistent with the neoclassical aesthetic of the City Beautiful movement and its principles of order and harmony. The building served as Denver’s central library until 1956 when it was converted into municipal office space.
In accordance to the 2005 Civic Center Park Master Plan which prioritized the building’s revitalization as an active, public facility that is respectful of its heritage, it underwent major renovations in 2012 and 2015. Restoration of original architecture both inside and outside, the addition of public restrooms and mechanical system improvements were included in these projects. Today, the McNichols Civic Center Building serves as a contemporary hub of arts and culture for Denver residents and visitors.
Guided Tour of
Civic Center Park
Put your headphones on and step into the urban oasis that is Civic Center Park. Enjoy this guided walkthrough of the put together by the Denver Architecture Foundation. A great way to spend the afternoon if you ever visit Denver.