1031 33rd Street
Sat Closed, Sun 10AM–4PM
Original Architects: Unknown; tres birds workshop
Architectural Style: 19th Century Utilitarian
Year Built: 1872; 2012
Designation: Curtis Park Historic District
The Horse Barn was a simple two-story building with a flat roof constructed to shelter livestock and store trolley cars in early Denver. It had few architectural pretentions and was a straightforward, practical structure built to serve a purpose and to do it as cost-effectively as possible. The loadbearing masonry exterior walls were built with multiple layers of common brick and had low segmental arches over each window and door. The arches were structural rather than ornamental, and they were incorporated into the wall as a means to support the masonry above each opening. Heavy timber columns and beams provided the interior structure to hold up the second floor loft and the roof.
The only non-essential decorative elements on the building were found in the ornamental brickwork surrounding the two main entry doors on the south side of the building. Here the masons chose to build an extra layer of brick, thickening the wall and calling attention to the doors. This wide decorative layer of brick terminated in a stepped lintel over each door.
The story of the Horse Barn dates back to 1867, when the Colorado Territorial Legislature granted The Denver Horse Railway Company exclusive charter to operate in Denver. Operation began in 1871 with two miles of track between 7th and Larimer to the area now known as Curtis Park. In 1872, with a modified name, The Denver Railway Company built the Horse Barn in the city’s northeast hinterlands at 33rd and Arapahoe to accommodate a growing fleet of horses, mules, and streetcars. The Horse Barn contained three sections: a two-story stable and hayloft in the center; an office and storage space behind the stable; and a two-track car barn at the corner.
Ultimately, The Denver City Cable Railway Company (its third and final name) operated on 50 miles of track, with 85 cars and 600 horses. New demands for rapid transit led the company to abandon horsepower in favor of cable-driven cars. Horse-drawn streetcars, still reliable and efficient, were banished to the suburbs. By 1890, the Horse Barn at 33rd and Arapahoe was no longer used by the streetcar industry. Although horse-drawn streetcars were no longer commonplace in Denver, other services relied heavily on horsepower, and the Horse Barn was still a desirable property in a prime location to stable horses.
As Colorado’s economy frequently rose and fell, people were constantly moving to and from Denver. Denver businessman George Turner started a moving and storage business to help people safely move their possessions. Turner Moving & Storage experienced success no matter what the economic climate. Turner used the Horse Barn as a storage facility and renovated the corner car barn into his home. Shortly before his death in 1932, Turner sold his company to another moving company, and the Horse Barn continued to serve as a storage facility until it was abandoned in the mid-twentieth century.
Turner is perhaps best known as the founder of Tiny Town, a miniature mountain town attraction near Morrison, Colorado, which contains over 100 one-sixth-scale buildings.
The Denver Housing Authority (DHA) purchased the Horse Barn in 1992 as part of a community revitalization effort in the historic Five Points area of the city. Their original plan was to replace the building with townhouses. DHA and the community soon realized the historic significance of the Horse Barn and jointly committed to preserving the building and its history.
After a collaborative design and planning process with all partners, the design-build firm of tres birds workshop broke ground on the building renovation in 2012 and began to transform the collapsing roof, crumbling brick walls, and rotting floors into a place of renewed strength, beauty, and purpose. The Horse Barn re-opened its doors in 2013 to serve as a community meeting space with office space for nearly 60 international development organizations that work to create solutions to global poverty.
tres birds workshop is a full-service architecture and general contracting firm that was founded in 2000 and based in Denver. As a design build firm, they try to simplify the building process by having the people who design the building be the same people who build it. Each person on their core team is knowledgeable about both architecture and construction.
Sustainable, environmentally sensitive design is a cornerstone of their firm in that they always seek to increase natural daylight and to connect humans to nature. They also try to use reclaimed materials wherever possible because this approach reduces material costs for their clients and keeps the salvaged materials out of landfill.
Just northeast of downtown Denver, the Curtis Park neighborhood is an area that was developed in the 1860s and 1870s as a fashionable residential suburb. It is Denver’s oldest residential neighborhood. Curtis Park has always been a diverse neighborhood where 19th century mansions sit next door to smaller homes built by immigrants who came to Denver to join the workforce during the city’s early years. Back then, residents took the streetcar to jobs downtown or took a 15-minute walk to the city’s center. Today, neighbors can ride the light rail to get downtown.
Curtis Park is bounded by Downing Street on the east, Larimer Street on the northwest, California Street on the southeast and Park Avenue West on the southwest. Curtis Park is part of a larger neighborhood locally known as Five Points.
Curtis Park Denver Neighborhood by William Allen West; history.denverlibrary.org; posnercenter.org/our-space/building-history; http://tresbirds.com/HORSEBARN.