Most of the day was spent chasing abandoned buildings - though not before lunch. My first stop was the abandoned Byers Junior High School in the Washington district of Denver. Built in 1921 on the site of the house once occupied by wealthy industrialist William Byers, the school was hailed as one of the most beautiful in the country.
However, the changing local demographic and cuts in state and federal school funding meant that the school was no longer a viable institution in suburban Denver.
Entrance - Byers Junior High School
The school looked more Stately Home than State School
Rumour has it that on the day the school closed in 1982 the staff and students staged a mock funeral for the school complete with a ruler, notebook, and other common school items inside a miniature coffin to complete the mourning of the school's closure.
Since the 80s there have been numerous re-development plans for Byers Junior High, but none have come to fruition - despite huge local pressures for the city to do something with the massive site. Unfortunately for me, however, so far as abandoned buildings go, Byers Junior High has weathered well and has been well-maintained and protected against the inevitable decay of abandonment and damage of vandals. Finding nowhere to gain access inside, I stuck to admiring the exterior.
Blacked-out and Boarded-up Windows
The playground, with its basket ball hoops and fading painted lines conveyed an eery sense of emptiness.
With the blazing Denver sun doing its best to defeat me, time wearing on, and my next building a half-hour walk away, I left Byers Junior High in the sad state of emptiness as I found it.
My next building, the Gates Factory, was once the largest non-tire producing rubber factories in the world - I'd heard and read great things about the abandoned structure in south Denver which apparently retains most, if not all, of its original machinery, fixtures and fittings since it was abandoned many years ago. However, it turned out to be another of the 'duds' I'd come to know well on my travels. Whilst a portion of the building is currently being re-developed for commercial and residential use, the vast proportion of it remains abandoned and disused. But, when I arrived at the site I was confronted with new, high, sturdy fences; builders mulling around the grounds; and 24hr security who keep a look out for people just like me.
I tried to walk through an open drive-way in the fence, but a security guard popped his head out of his car to warn me off. We got chatting. It turned out that since a teenage girl fell the full 45ft from the roof of the factory to the ground (obviously) seriously injuring herself, though (remarkably) surviving, 24hr security had been in place and was to remain so until the builders secured the site for redevelopment. I was told I Shall Not Pass. So, once again, I stuck to some un-gratifying exterior shots.
Gates Factory - Santa Fe on Mississippi
Some interesting original features remained on the exterior of the building.
Peter was returning from Atalanta that night and had planned to take me out for dinner, so I returned back to the loft - but not before another visit to the Tattered Cover to further laden my suitcase with yet more impulse-bought books.
I arrived back to the loft just in time for Peter's return and soon afterwards we made our way to one of Peter's favourite restaurants in Denver: the Vesta Dipping Grill. What is a 'dipping grill?' I hear you cry? Well, turns out it's pretty much just a normal restaurant, but with the addition on the menu of over 30 dipping sauces which you can mix and match with your dishes to add extra flavour, spice and excitement to an otherwise run-of-the-mill dish. We started with a shared starter of pitta dipping bread with a handpicked selection of sweet and spicy sauces and I then moved on to a surprisingly delicious tuna steak (I say surprising since Denver's hardly the natural place one would think of for good fish restaurants) the highlight of which had to be the wasabi dipping cream that was served along side it. A bottle of Malbec completed the meal, and all too soon my last night in Denver was over.
Wednesday, 10th August 2011
An early start to the airport provided a sharp-shock to my system after three consecutive days of glorious lie-ins. The plane lifted off from Colorado soil and two hours later I touched down in New Orleans, Louisiana, for my 4-day trip to the hot, sweaty, sticky, South.