Sunday, January 13, 2019
--- Terminus: Union Station ---
Gold drew people to Colorado, but the promise of gold in the area that is now Denver proved to be illusory, so Denver restructured as a supply hub and thrived. Early settlements lay south of present Denver along the South Platte River and it's tributaries - Petersburg, Montana City, Auraria. Denver City grew across Cherry Creek from Auraria and when a bridge was built across Cherry Creek, the two settlements merged to become Denver.
The Union Station area was the location of early Denver.
On 1/8/19, I took the RTD E Line from University Station to it's terminus at Union Station, the central hub of the Regional Transportation District in Denver. At this point, 17th street is a mall with the light rail station at one end and the old Union Station building at the other.
[17th Street mall]
[Light rail station]
The mall includes the underground buss terminal and the Amtrak station, which will soon be the terminus for the light rail G Line out to Wheatridge.
The Amtrak station has light canopies that are sturdy because of their curvature. You can see the effect for yourself by holding a sheet of paper by one hand and trying hold something like a pencil or marble on it. The paper, of course, just collapses. Give it a slight valley and it will hold up a surprising amount of weight.
[Train station canopy]
The old station, built in 1881, burned in 1894, but was rebuilt in 1914. The whole complex was completed in 2012. The station house, reminiscent of many large city central stations with it's high arched windows, now houses the 112 room Crawford Hotel, several restaurants and shops, and a large train hall.
They were taking down the tall Christmas trees while I wandered around.
I once took the Flatirons Flier bus to Boulder. It leaves out from the Union Station mall. I wandered around the LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver) area for sometime before asking where the buses were.
They were underground. There are two pavilions at street level that house stairs and elevators to the underground bus terminal.
The ticket sellers are located in the underground bus terminal and I had some expired ticket books I needed to exchange. This time, I knew where I was going.
Merging back out into the sunlight at Chestnut Place, I was back at the light rail station and, looking west, saw the Millennium Bridge. I've seen a lot of reviews of the Millennium Bridge that remarked, "What's so special?"
Well, that's easy. It was the first of it's kind. It was one of three bridges begun in 1999 to connect the Highland community with LoDo. Before then, pedestrians would have to cross an interstate highway, a river, and a train yard to get to downtown Denver.
The Millennium Bridge crosses the train yard. It had to fit between some high bridges and the design was to provide a relatively small incline from street level, so an innovative cable-stayed design was used with a single 61 meter steel mast (the whole thing looks a lot like a pontoon boat with a single sail mast) to support the cables that support the walking deck. It is only 8 meters above street level, and it spans 40 meters (130 feet for you Imperial measurists) with a clearance of 61 meters (200 feet).
The Wikipedia has an informative article on the bridge here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denver_Millennium_Bridge
[The Millennium Bridge]
It's also famous for having been in a movie (The Frame) and engineering documentaries - notably Stephen Ressler's Teaching Company presentation - Understanding the World's Greatest Structures.
I was a little unsure about how to proceed from the Millennium Bridge to see the other two bridges but I shouldn't have been. From the deck of the Millennium Bridge, the other two were in sight just to the north.
[Commons Park from the Millennium Bridge]
Just north of Union Station is a strip of greenway along the South Platte River - Confluence and Commons Parks. If I had continued my hike north of Alameda on the Platte River Trail instead of moving east into Denver on my station-to-station hikes, I would have ended up here. Historically, this was a popular meeting place for Native Americans until gold was found here in 1858. Gold and water was the reason Denver was built here to start with.
[Speer Boulevard Bridge]
Looking west along Commons park (see the mountains?), I saw the Speer Boulevard Bridge over the South Platte River. This is a classic steel arch cable suspension bridge. Cable risers hang the road bed from the arch. Just this side of Speer Boulevard is a more modern looking single span bridge that carries 15th Street and pedestrian traffic across the South Platte.
[Platte River Bridge]
The second of the Highland access bridges is a light sidewalk held up by cables from two thin towers anchored midway the span. This bridge carries pedestrian traffic across the South Platte.
The 15th Street bridge separates Commons Park from Convergence Park, where Cherry Creek joins the South Platte. Here, the South Platte takes a turn to the east where it will join the Platte River far down stream in Nebraska near Ogallala. Cherry Creek, one of the larger tributaries in the Denver area, arises on the high plateau south of Denver and flows through Castlewood Canyon before becoming an urban stream.
The Highland Bridge crosses Interstate 25. It is one of the three cable stay bridges and is the latest, having been completed December 16, 2006. The 325 foot long walkway is suspended under the sweeping arch constructed of steel pipe.
[Shoe hanging on the arch]
I thought this was a Southern thing. Down there you can see shoes hanging on power lines.
Cherry Creek isn't terribly spectacular, but the Platte River and most of it's main tributaries can become impressive when the weather is right - during the infrequent rain storms or when the snow pack melts from the mountains.
19th Street crosses the Platte River at the eastern end of Commons Park over an ornate steel trestle bridge.
[19th Street Bridge]
Following 19th Street back into town (I wanted to see Sakura Square and it is on 19th Street) is not as simple as it sounds. You have to get back across the train yard. Fortunately, there is a pedestrian bridge at the eastern end of Union Station that will do the trick.
[Amtrak station from pedestrian bridge]
Sakura Square is a city block at 19th and Lamar Streets with a two story building with shops. The Japan American Society of Colorado has an office there on the second floor that (apparently) provides exhibits, but they were closed.
There is a small Japanese garden that commemorates three key figures in the Japanese American community.
Yoshitaka Tamai was a Buddhist priest who, born in 1900, moved to Denver in 1930 to establish the Buddhist temple at 20th and Lawrence Streets. The apartment complex at Sakura Square, Tamai Tower was dedicated to his memory in 1977, and the statue in the garden was placed on Sakura Square in 1996.
The engravings on the other statues, in white stone, didn't turn out well in the photographs, so you'll just have to visit Sakura Square to read them.
Minoru Yasui (1916-1986) was a Japanese American lawyer and activist who was born in Hood River, Oregon. After internment in an American concentration camp during most of World War II, he moved to Denver in 1944. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2015.
The Wikipedia has a good article on the life of Minoru Yasui here:
Colorado governor from 1939 to 1943, Ralph Lawrence Carr (1887-1950) supported the Japanese American cause during their internment in the concentration camps of World War II and afterward, the establishment of the Japanese American community in Colorado. He was the only elected official in the United States to publicly apologize for the treatment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and that, arguably, cost him a U.S. Senate position.
I plan to visit the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in a few days and I will report on my trip afterward.
After eating at Sakura Square, I headed down Lamar Street to 15th Street and back to the light rail station at Union Station. From University Station, I walked to La Belle Rosette's for a signature espresso, and then to home. (jiggledy jig)
Bridges can be fascinating if you know how they work. There may be a famous one close to you. Take some time to really look at the bridges around you and see if you can figure out how they support their load.
If you want an in depth analysis of any of the interesting structures in Denver, Steven Ressler provides it in Understanding the World's Greatest Structures. Actually, I would recommend anything by him. He's knowledgeable, has a knack for getting difficult concepts across, is playful, and loves a good demonstration.