Recognizing Those Who Passed Away in 2018

One thing that I grapple with by specializing in mid-twentieth century real estate and design is that those who shaped the period that we so admire are aging and passing away, truly marking the end of their era. It is now our responsibility to carry on their legacy by recognizing the importance of their work, holding it high, and continuing their legacy both through preservation and by inspiring a continuation of their ideas and influences in both new and existing buildings.

There were three notable losses in 2018 among those who shaped mid-century modern metro Denver:

Brad Wolff

1924-2018

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One of Denver’s major mid-century residential developers, Brad Wolff will go down in local history as bringing innovative and contemporary design to the masses in Denver through his legendary Krisana Park and Lynwood developments.

Hy and Brad Wolff worked with architect Frenchie Gratts to create the Krisana Park “3-D Contemporary”

Hy and Brad Wolff worked with architect Frenchie Gratts to create the Krisana Park “3-D Contemporary”

Often referred to as “Like-lers” for their notable similarity to the homes that California architecture firm Jones & Emmons were designing for developer Joseph Eichler, the “3-D Contemporary” homes in Krisana Park sold quickly in 1955 leading to the development of Lynwood not long after. Stories about how Wolff settled on the designs, which were created by local architecture firm Gratts & Warner (with late architect Frenchie Gratts credited with the design) vary, from The Denver Post writing in 1954 “Hy Wolff, his son Brad and designer Frenchie Gratts took several trips both east and westward to find the ideas they wanted to build into this Rocky Mountain home of tomorrow. Their close teamwork continued after the design began to develop into a house.” to Atomic Ranch Magazine writing in 2006 that Brad had essentially taken an Eichler house he saw in California and brought it to Colorado, making minimal changes to the design.

Wherever the true story lies, Wolff and his design team created what was a truly innovative product in Denver, making good modern design available to the masses by keeping costs affordable, using a single floorplan in a variety of ways through the neighborhood. Now, over 60 years later, the pride of ownership in Krisana Park has never been higher, with homeowners successfully pursuing a zoning change to protect the character of the neighborhood through a “conservation overlay.” Although it doesn’t protect homes from demolition, the overlay does require that any new homes or additions to existing homes meet certain requirements in architectural form in order to remain consistent with the character of the neighborhood.

Ad for the 3-D Contemporary in Krisana Park by H.B. Wolff

Ad for the 3-D Contemporary in Krisana Park by H.B. Wolff

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With Lynwood, which is seeing a resurgence of pride in its own right, Wolff expanded the number of floor plans and made improvements to the original designs to appeal to more affluent buyers, while still offering a couple of models that were as affordable as those he offered in Krisana Park.

As tastes changed in the housing market into the 1960s and beyond, Wolff started building other styles of homes around the city, as you can see in the ads below. Other known Wolff developments include Lyndale in Arvada (by H.B. Wolff), Meadowbrook in Littleton (by H.B. Wolff), Southwood Park in Centennial (by Brad Wolff and Associates, Inc.; has a smattering of mid-mods), Sherwood Park in Greeley (built by Greeley-Wolff Construction Co.), and he even expanded into building multi-family housing in the mid-60s in Greeley.

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I have proudly restored/renovated the Wolff Home that I live in here in Lynwood, and although I never had the opportunity to meet him, I was told by his family that Krisana Park and Lynwood were the two developments for which he was most proud during his long career.

Obituary, courtesy of Horan & McConaty:

Brad Wolff
September 25, 1924-Ocober 18, 2018

Born in: Denver, Colorado
Resided in: Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Brad Wolff, of Denver, Colorado, died at 94 years of age on October 18, 2018. He was a Colorado native and lifelong lover of our mountains, a home builder and real estate developer, a family man, a generous and steadfast friend, and a Navy Veteran of World War II. He enlisted on November 20, 1942, and was honorably discharged as a second lieutenant on July 6, 1946. He served in the Pacific Theater.

He was also a lover and creator of excellent practical jokes, funny verses, and Christmas Morning scavenger hunts. He was a great wit, a troublemaker, and a person of great intelligence and integrity. He discovered to his extreme dismay that being a wit and troublemaker can come back to bite you when he met Benji Wolff, an illustrious beagle with whom Brad vied for superior position (and lost, repeatedly) for 15 years. Brad loved to fish, hunt, play golf, ski, and clown. He reveled in his status as the acknowledged Champion of the Kearney Drug (at absolutely everything). He also loved and supported his friends, never forgot widows or orphans, and built homes and designed developments that were ahead of their time. But he was probably most fulfilled by his work for the Colorado Christian Home.

Brad is survived by Faye (Pearce) Wolff, his helpmeet, partner, and inspiration for 71 years, whom he married joyfully on June 22, 1947; by his brother, William Wolff, of Columbia, Missouri; and by his children: Tracy Lon Wolff, Michael Scott Wolff (Tammi), and Jeffrey Matthew Wolff, all of Denver. He was preceded in death by his son, Craig Bradley Wolff, on March 24, 1978. Brad was an excellent grandfather to Ryan Michael Wolff (Laurel Simpson), Adam Clayton Wolff (Tori), and Jeremy Matthew Wolff (Keely); and was great-grandfather to Hailey, Ethan, Audrina, Caleb, Cody, and Cameron.

Brad Wolff’s life will be celebrated at a memorial service at the Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at 3:00 PM at Shelter A. Donations may be made to The Tennyson Center for Children and Families in Denver.

John Henderson

1921-2018

Photo by Paul Brokering

Photo by Paul Brokering

For as notable an architect and person as John Henderson was, it is unfortunate that he was not better known/recognized while he was still alive. In his passing, however, the City of Denver honored him by designating his own mid-century modern home north of City Park Golf Course (which he designed himself) as a protected historic landmark. His design style, which he credited to being inspired by the work of modern master Mies van der Rohe, was cutting edge and very modern.

Trained at Kansas State University, Henderson is notable for being the first licensed African American architect in the state of Colorado. He worked for some of the city’s most notable architects and firms during his career, including Fisher & Davis (today called Davis Partnership), Earl C. Morris, Wheeler & Louis, James Sudler Associates, and Hornbein & White, contributing to major commercial, institutional, healthcare, and government projects as well as residences. He also spent time working for the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, and in his retirement, consulted on residential projects. His home was the work of his for which he was most proud, for on the larger projects his contributed to, he was but one of a team of architects, but his home was a design all his own. Due to the recent landmarking of his home, I think the conversation about John Henderson is only starting, and I look forward to learning more about his house and work in the coming years.

Learn more about John Henderson and his now landmarked house through the designation application here . . .

Photo of the Henderson House, by Paul Brokering

Photo of the Henderson House, by Paul Brokering

Obituary, courtesy of Newcomer:

John R. Henderson, Jr.
1921 - 2018

John R. Henderson Jr., was born to the late John R. Henderson, Sr., and Olymphia (Smith) Henderson on June 15, 1921 in Wichita, Kansas.

He attended Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Wichita, Kansas. John served in the United States Army from 1943-46. Upon being honorably discharged from the US Army, he returned to his hometown of Wichita and enrolled at Friends University; a Quaker school where in 1948 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English; John also married Gloria E. (Thomas) Henderson this year in Wichita, Kansas

He then attended Kansas State University School of Architecture where he received a Bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1952.

John applied for planning positions at the planning departments of several cities in Ohio. Some cities requested photos of the applicants and when they saw that he was Black, he was turned down. John continued to apply at other sites and was eventually hired at Youngstown, Ohio as a junior city planner. There were some subtle racial reminders that came up again however when he was not allowed to eat at certain restaurants when he worked in architect offices in Akron, Ohio.

John and Gloria moved to Denver, Colorado with their son, Lynn B. Henderson in 1959. He worked for the architecture firm of Fisher, Davis and Sudler when they were designing the federal office building and courthouse between 19th and 20th Streets and Stout in downtown Denver. He also helped design other buildings including the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Botanic Gardens. John worked at the Bureau of Indian Affairs until his retirement in 1981. He ran a small business, the African and American Trading Company, LTD on a part-time basis.

John and his lovely wife, Gloria traveled internationally to places such as South Africa, Paris, Hong Kong and Japan, and went on several jazz cruises.

He was an active parishioner of St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church for 57 years. John was the head usher at the 10:00 a.m. Mass where he welcomed all parishioners especially visitors with a warm smile and also took the time to get to know them.

He is survived by his son, Lynn B. Henderson of Denver, CO; sister, Ruth H. Adams of Marietta, GA; brother, Kenneth S. (Gwendolyn) Henderson of Petersburg, VA; sister-in-law, Glynne (Paul) Gervais of Old Park, IL; nephews, Charles (Gwen) Allen, Jr., Michael T. (Alice) Allen, Marlon (Kim Marie) Allen and Ronald (Terri) Stevens of New Orleans, LA; nieces, Patricia Adams of Marietta, GA; Katrina, Kerry and Kacey Henderson of Petersburg, VA; nieces-in-law, Gladys Smith Allen and Gloria (James) Stevens-Allen of New Orleans, LA; church niece, Angela T. Anderson, MD of New York, NY/Philadelphia, PA; and a host of great-nieces, great-nephews, cousins and friends.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Gloria E. Henderson and parents, John R. Henderson, Sr. and Olymphia (Smith Henderson) Jones; brothers-in-law, Gerald Thomas, Jr. and Joseph Thomas; sisters-in-law, Elizabeth Allen, Geraldine Stevens, and Judy Barrett.

Tician Papachristou

1928-2018

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An extremely rare export of Colorado modernism, Tician Papachristou primarily practiced in Boulder, although there is work credited to him both in Denver and in the mountains as well. Born in Athens, Greece, Papachristou moved to the US in 1947 and was trained at Princeton University, where he started studying theater-scenic design but switched to architecture in his junior year. He started his career in New York where he struggled to express himself as a young designer in a large firm, and in 1954, he decided to quit and move west to Colorado. He worked for Boulder architect James Hunter before striking out on his own, after earning his architect’s license in 1956. Another Boulder notable, Charles Haertling, worked for Papachristou, and he was a professor at CU for four years before heading back to New York in 1965 to work for modern master Marcel Breuer, where he spent the rest of his career.

As the story goes, it was architect I.M. Pei who suggested that maybe Boulder was too small for a talent like Papachristou, and that he would be better suited for New York.

Photo by Albert Moldvay. The Denver Post, 1961

Photo by Albert Moldvay. The Denver Post, 1961

The work that Papachristou left behind in Boulder is exceptional, and worthy of celebration. In his reflections about working in Boulder, which he shared for Boulder’s modern architecture survey in the year 2000, he said . . .“The city’s small population provided an impetus for the making of interesting, experimental, even outrageous works of architecture,” a characterization that sounds similar to why Palm Springs was such a fertile ground for modern design.

Learn more about Papachristou here . . .

Jessor House. Photo by Albert Moldvay. The Denver Post, 1961

Jessor House. Photo by Albert Moldvay. The Denver Post, 1961

Obituary, courtesy of The Berkshire Edge:

Tician Papachristou, 90, of Sheffield, died June 18, 2018. Born in Athens, Greece, Tician came to the U.S. in 1945. He studied architecture at Princeton University and practiced in Colorado and New York City where he was a partner of Marcel Breuer. Among his many works are award-winning houses, a new city in Egypt and his own houses in Springs, New York, Hydra, Greece, and here in Sheffield.

In support of peace and opposition to nuclear war, he was a founding member of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility in the U.S. and co-chair of its international organization.

With Judy Papachristou, his wife of 67 years, Tician had two sons, Alexander and Nicholas, and seven beloved grandchildren.