1530 16th Street
Sat and Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: Gove & Walsh
Architectural Style: Sullivanesque
Year Built: 1906, Annex 1912
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, Denver Landmark
Photo Restrictions: No
The Sugar Building’s buff brick aesthetic reflects Louis Sullivan’s Chicago style, and was built for the Great Western Sugar Company, an East Coast Company, that was part of the “sugar trust.” The building has been in continuous use as the administrative offices for Great Western Sugar since it was completed in 1906. The Sugar Building is unusual for the area because it is built of buff-colored brick while almost all of its neighbors and contemporaries are of red brick. In 1912, two stories were added to the building at a cost of $40,000, and the warehouse building to the west belonged to Great Western. In 1916, the neighboring warehouse added two floors and was then remodeled in 1920 to accomodate additional office space. All of the architectural work, including the additions, was done by Gove and Walsh.
The design is functional and reminiscent of the Sullivanesque (Louis Sullivan) style with its arrangement of the windows between vertical piers, and the use of terra cotta decoration based on geometric and stylized foliage forms. Additionally, new-classic ornamentation is combined with the geometric and foliage forms to present a very pleasing overall effect of exterior decoration. The building is a basic cube of buff-colored brick with light colored terra cotta frills. The façade has pavilion-like end bays and is complemented with corbelled brick pilaster capitals, drop pendants, and foliate forms, similar to the roundels of the cornice.
The main entrance, which sits on 16th Street, boasts a terra cotta rectangle sign that reads “Sugar Building.” The additions blend with the original building in style, and in the window arrangement, in that they sit between piers that follow the vertical flow of the floors beneath. A plain terra cotta band sits above the sixth floor windows, and projects slightly from the building face. Set at regular intervals between the band and cornice are medallions of terra cotta in stylized foliage design. On the Wazee side of the building there are three bays and the ornamentation is the same as on the 16th Street side.
The Sugar Building boasts an Otis iron cage type elevator that is still in use. The elevator is one of the few west of the Mississippi that is still operating.
Charles Boettcher was the face of Great Western Sugar Company, which was controlled by the American Sugar Refining Company in 1903. By 1905, the company was incorporated as a New Jersey corporation with Henry Havemeyer as president. The Boettcher family has been prominent in Denver since the early 1900s. Charles travelled west and made a fortune selling hardware to miners, after which he invested in insurance and cement. In fact, the offices at 17th and Champa have walls that are ten feet thick. Charles maintained an office in this building for forty years, and the cement company had offices here until 1975. In 1928, the building was sold to Denver National Bank, which is still in operation.
Ideal Cement was a big moneymaker for the Boettchers. Charles built the first reinforced concrete building in 1908 at the corner of 17th and Champa, and he required uniformity, as well as a high grade of cement, to be manufactured at the Portland Cement Company. Another successful enterprise was the Fifteenth Street Investment Company, which became the largest landowner in downtown Denver.
Son Claude Boettcher, trained as an engineer and an architect, once owned the Brown Palace Hotel. During the Depression, Claude was kidnapped and held for ransom though he was recovered after the ransom was paid and the kidnappers were caught. Claude’s interest and knowledge of flight patterns and aviation were helpful in locating the kidnappers.
In 1937, the Boettcher Foundation was founded by Charles and Claude. It is still active today and provides scholarship funds to local students, grants to civic and cultural programs, such as the Central City Opera, Boettcher Hall at DCPA, and the Conservatory at the Denver Botanic Gardens, as well as community and social services, and hospital and health services.
Restoration and Reuse
In 1999 the building exterior was restored and the interior adapted so that it could be used for modern office space.
Architect Aaron M. Gove (1867-1924) received his professional training at the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Illinois. He practiced architecture in Denver for 35 years. Thomas F. Walsh (1866-1948) started his architectural career with Edbrooke and Burnham in Chicago before moving to Colorado. After arriving in Denver, he supervised construction of architect Robert Roeschlaub’s Trinity Methodist Church. Gove & Walsh became partners in 1894. They were the architects for many of the warehouse buildings in the LoDo neighborhood and the 1914 Great Hall addition to Union Station.
Lower Downtown Historic District is a warehouse neighborhood that was developed around the railroads. Many of the buildings are “boxes,” and almost all are made of brick, though each has its own features, which distinguish them from their neighbors.. Some of the warehouses are primarily brick construction, while others have heavy timber interior construction, and even later buildings boast steel or concrete construction. The later construction materials came only after the advent of the railroads in 1870.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory: Nomination Form, October 31, 1977; Denver: the Modern City, Michael Paglia, Rodd L. Wheaton and Diane Wray, Historic Denver, Inc. 1999. Guide to Denver Architecture: Second Edition, Mary Voelz Chandler, 2013 Boettcher Family and Foundation History: Historic Denver Docent Information; Footprints in the Sugar: A History of the Great Western Sugar Company, Candy Hamilton, 2009.