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Effective Thinking

History Hunting in Downtown Denver: Who Was Here First?

Last fall, some colleagues and I took a trip to the Western History room at the Denver Public Library to see if we could dig up any history about the building we work in. With help from the awesome staff there, we hit the jackpot, and were able to find some amazing stories, dating back to 1887.

EffectiveUI office Denver
EffectiveUI’s Denver headquarters at 2162 Market Street.
Denver Library Staff, Western History Room
Our search begins: Helpful staff at the Western History Room.


The first thing the folks in the Western History Room will do for you is to help you find the relevant Sanborn fire insurance maps for the address you are looking for. In the habit of thinking all the information you need about anything is available online? It is not. Oh wait, it turns out Sanborn maps have been digitized. Well, go see them in person anyway. These huge books were originally created for assessing fire insurance liability in urban areas. Pink meant the building was made of brick, yellow indicated wood. The books are a delight, full of extravagant typography and complete with little pasted on paper flaps where updates were made over the years.

Jeremy with Sanborn book
Jeremy with the 1887 Sanborn fire insurance map book.
Title page 1929 Sanborn map
Title page of a later (1929) Sanborn insurance map book.


In 1887, Denver was booming, much like it is now. But it was still a city of less than 100,000 people. Would we find anything at all at our address, over on the edge of downtown, or would the area still be undeveloped?

2100 market block Denver
2100 Market (formerly Holladay) block, between 21st and 22nd.


Bingo. We found something.

2162 Market Denver detail building
L.A. Melburn Wagon Works in 1887, current location of EffectiveUI’s Denver office.


In 1887, Market Street was called Holladay (more on that in a future blog post). Our current location (2162 Market) used to be the L.A. Melburn Wagon Works. You can see the numbers 2156-8 – 2160-2 along the Holladay edge of the building. Underneath you see the number 584 and 586 – street numbers that had been used earlier. You can see that there was a woodshop, painting on the second floor, and storage and painting next door (a space that is still used as a workshop).

Behind us, where there is a gym and a parking lot now, was the Melburn Hotel, with a second floor bridge connecting the two. Doesn’t look like a very quiet place to stay – the hotel rooms were on the third floor above “trimming,” presumably woodworking for the wagon works.

I bet you could smell the pickle factory. It was a block north on the corner of 22nd and Blake streets.

pickle factory detail
Kuner Pickle Co. at 22nd and Blake in Denver.


So… L.A. Melburn. Who or what was that? Could we find out more? Turns out, we could….

Stay tuned for Part 2: Manufacturers of All Kinds of First Class

And Part 3: Murder on the 16th St. Mall