Denver is having an architectural identity crisis. All around the metro area we are seeing new construction. Many of the new built “contemporary” houses take their cues from one of the most notable architectural periods in American History . . . Modernism is a movement and architectural period that came to be in the 1950s and ’60s. This architectural style and philosophy has sleek, futuristic, and defined lines. It also has an unprecedented use of natural light and a seamless flow from indoors to out; all driven by big ideas around the relationship between buildings and the people that live in them. These homes are commonly known as California Contemporary or Mid Century Modern (MCM) and Denver is fortunate to have many MCM enclaves; some of them nationally known.
We are at a crucial point in Denver’s march through history. As Denver has grown and changed, some local MCM masterpieces have been lost, while others continue to be threatened in the name of “progress.” We don’t have to accept the destruction of Denver’s heritage of modern architecture; the remaining masterpieces and enclaves can still be saved for future generations to enjoy, understand, and be inspired by.
My Cause for Alarm
It’s probably not news to anyone at this point that the Denver real estate market is HOT right now! The good news about this is that home values are skyrocketing. This is changing the face of many neighborhoods as investors see an opportunity to make a lot of money by repairing or completely demolishing distressed properties, and homeowners find an opportunity to upgrade their homes by tapping into their newfound equity. While this has resulted in some spectacular “restovations” (renovation + restoration) of many MCM properties, it has also revealed a lot of mis-understanding of the value of the MCM aesthetic and ideas, as renovations destroy original features of MCM homes, pop-ups are constructed among neighborhoods of ranch homes, or worse, homes are demolished completely. I was saddened to learn of a house in Englewood’s iconic Arapahoe Acres that was recently taken almost completely down, contrary to the spirit of its recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. If it can happen in one of the most well-known MCM neighborhoods in the country, it can happen in any neighborhood. I am keenly interested in seeing as many MCM homes as possible in Colorado protected from the same fate. I know we probably can’t save them all, but through awareness and education, as well as matching homes up with the right buyers when they sell, we can make them last many more decades into the future.
What You Can Do
- Educate yourself and your neighbors about the history of your MCM home.
- Work with your local community to obtain legal protection for MCM homes through the establishment of historic districts or restrictive covenants.
- Find an MCM house of your own to restore and protect by learning its story, architectural features, and modernize it in ways that respect its architectural history.
- Work with Adrian Kinney as the real estate broker for your MCM home sale. I care about the preservation of these iconic MCM homes. I believe these homes should be the model for the future. I stand up for, and invest in their restoration. I am a connector and teacher of mid-century modern enthusiasts.
Colorado’s MCM homes are not a “thing of the past;” let’s save them today for future generations.
Restoration in Action
I have restored four classic Cliff May Homes in Denver’s Harvey Park neighborhood (one of which won the 2016 Mayor’s Design Award), with another ongoing restoration in Denver’s Lynwood neighborhood. Bringing these houses back to life is a tremendous amount of work, but worth the effort, every time! Visit my blog to see the latest!