1621 Glenarm Place
Sat 10AM–2PM, Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: Temple Hoyne Buell, C.W. & George Rapp
Architectural Style: Art Deco
Designation: National Register of Historic Places – 1980, Historic Landmark 1988
Year Built: 1930
The Paramount Theatre opened on August 29, 1930 with the showing of the movie “Let’s Go Native”. Thousands of people gathered in downtown Denver to witness the opening of this remarkable and glamorous movie palace, a reflection of a broad social and cultural phenomenon that prevailed in the early decades of the twentieth century throughout the nation. This elegant theatre was designed by Temple Buell in collaboration with C.W. and George L. Rapp. The Paramount is an excellent illustration of Art Deco design and craftsmanship, and a tribute to the architect, Buell, who made considerable contributions to the Denver region. Despite his many successes, Buell was known to claim the Paramount as the finest example of his work.
As a representation of the Art Deco style, the building stands today as the last remaining “movie palace” in the metropolitan area. Designed in the period of silent film and opened when sound motion pictures were becoming the rage, the theatre bridges the gap between two eras of film history. Originally designed for the silent movies of the time, the Paramount houses a one of a kind Wurlitzer twin-console organ designed to produce varied sound effects in accompaniment with the picture show. The glamour of the building is heightened by its original architectural and design elements. The façade, with pre-cast concrete blocks enhanced by glazed terra cotta moldings, offers a striking contrast to the rusticated stone of surrounding buildings. The ornate details above the windows and on sills echo a recurrent interior motif of rosettes, leaves, feathers, and fiddle-head ferns. Green-tinged black marble at the street level and above each window, as well as the neon marquee, give contrast and more drama to the exterior.
The interior represents an excellent example of "Zig Zag Art Deco" design, the fanciful and ornamental architectural expression popularized in the Jazz Age. The building was also equipped with luxuries consistent with the golden age of film, such as a splendidly ornamented lobby, indirect lighting, a vaulted sunburst ceiling, cut glass chandeliers, Egyptian lights, and Italian marble. Exotic and flamboyant decoration, including Aztec figures, fern, floral, and leaf motifs, sun rays and the ziggurat form, are consistent inside and outside the building, and are repeated in many minute details including stair railings and radiator grilles. The interior of the building consists of three main stories with the stage reaching a height of twelve stories.
The colorful and dramatic false gold leafing and copper and bronzing in the auditorium frame silk tapestry murals created by renowned artist Vincent Mondo. The murals beautifully depict classic Commedia Dell'arte figures such as Herlequin, Pierrot, Columbine, and Pierrette, among others, and were heralded by the Rocky Mountain News as the first silk tapestry murals in the Denver area. Similar Commedia Dell'arte murals by Mondo were later repeated in various Public Theatres across the nation, as the Paramount's interior served as a model for at least three other theaters. The restoration in 1985 cost the Paramount some features, and its lobby orientation was shifted. The plaster and gilded detailing inside were preserved along with the wall tapestries.
The Paramount Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and was declared a historic landmark by the City of Denver in 1988. Today, The Historic Paramount Theatre remains a vibrant, multi-event facility where Denver Metro residents enjoy a wide variety of entertainment options.
Temple Hoyne Buell (1895-1990) was born in Chicago, received his B.S. in Architecture from the University of Illinois, and his M.S. from Columbia University. He located to Denver in the early 1920s and established his firm, T.H. Buell and Company, in 1923. He achieved public prominence in 1953 with the opening of the Cherry Creek Shopping Mall, one of the first shopping malls in the nation with a central pedestrian plaza. He built the retail complex on a former city dump that he purchased in 1925. It took years of zoning issues and political fighting before construction could begin. His firm, numbering 50 employees, designed numerous public buildings including many schools, the Stapleton Housing Project, and the central post office annex in Denver. Buell closed his firm in 1989.
W.C. Rapp (1860 – 1926) and George L. Rapp (1878 – 1941) were brothers of a three generation family of architects, both their father and grandfather were notable architects from Carbondale, Illinois where the brothers were raised. The most spectacular genre of the Rapp architecture were the movie palaces of the 1920s which brought enduring fame to the Chicago firm of C.W. and George L. Rapp Architects, founded in 1907.
History Colorado: Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation; National Register of Historic Places Nomination; rappandrapparchitects.indiemade.com; www.paramountdenver.com/history.