Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In which we go up a tower and get some free Wurlitzer

When we left the Governor's Mansion, we walked up Logan Street to head toward downtown and the 16th street mall, and along the way we passed by the Denver Women's Press Club. This is a funny little brick building in the middle of a sea of parking lot, and we used to walk by it nearly every day, so I was always curious about it (and about why it was the only building on the block). It happened to be participating in the Doors Open Denver event, so we decided to stop in for a minute to see the inside. The members of the club (which is 111 years old!) had fruit and snacks available, and were super friendly, chatting up everyone who came in. Because of National Poetry Month, they handed out poems to each visitor. We poked around a little bit and then Dan realized that it was a good opportunity to work on the final project for one of his classes (a flash-based online tour of Capitol Hill) and he got to interview one of the members about the club, the history of the building, and the club's role in the neighborhood, using the video function on my camera. I didn't get any photos, but it was still a pretty neat experience.

Because of our detour, there was only an hour and a half remaining during which time the two remaining places we wanted to see would be open. We hightailed it across the capitol building area and hopped on a free mall shuttle (normally, we would have walked, but were pressed for time) and also, I desperately had to pee. Since it was Sunday I wasn't sure what my options were (and I spent a good amount of time fruitlessly searching the Tabor Center for open restrooms) but finally realized that I could go in the basement of the D&F tower, which was our next stop. This tower has been around a long time and was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi. It's been a Colorado landmark since it was built in 1911 as part of a department store. The store is long gone, but the tower remains, primarily serving as office space. We tried to go up the tower last year (the public is welcome to tour the 17th through 21st floors during the Doors Open Denver event) but the small lobby was super crowded and I got a little bit panicky and claustrophobic so we left. This year, Dan held our place in line while I looked for a bathroom, and by the time I came back it was our turn. Score!

We started on the 17th floor, admiring views and taking photographs. At this point, we were underneath the clock face, and had fun seeing the vantage point from all four sides of the building. Also, there were a ton of other people up there, most of whom had either cameras or babies strapped to themselves (or both).

View from 17th floor of the mountains.

Under the clock

16th street mall from the tower, also visible: the state capitol (capped with gold).

After we'd had our fill of 17, we headed up the metal staircase to the remaining floors. I found something interesting or unusual about each one, and enjoyed the minimalist '30s decor (black chandelier!). There were interesting chairs on some floors and objets d'art on others. It was interesting to see that the mechanism that ran the clock was not very big at all (as compared to the ones you see in the movies.) On the topmost floor, there was one final super-narrow balcony (above the clock faces) and I leaned out to get a photo of the top of the tower, complete with flag. I'm glad the bell didn't ring while we were there; we would have been deafened!

The clockworks.

Looking up the tower. I leaned out pretty far to get this. Luckily, the railing is about 4 feet high so only my head/shoulders actually leaned.

Flag detail.

Swanky and jet-black!

On the 21st floor, stairs leading up to the bell and the rest of the tower. Obviously not accessible to the public.

Finally, my vertigo got the best of me and I needed to get out of the cramped tower, so we headed back down the elevator and walked quickly up the mall to the Paramount Theater, which was once a movie house but is now a place where people like Patti LaBelle perform when they come to town. The sign outside said Organ - Free so we went inside and watched an old man play a Wurlitzer pipe organ. (Gee, Dad, it's a Wurlitzer!) He played a few show tunes (including a rather dirge-like "Surrey with the Fringe on Top") while we sat and rested our weary bones.

The organs were set on platforms that were lifted up to the stage.

What a cool machine.

By this time, I was pretty much starving, so instead of taking advantage of any of the other free museum days (free Modern Art museum, free CO History museum), we went home and ate homemade guacamole. It was a great end to such a grand Sunday adventure.

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