16th Street Mall Tour
By Sarah Ford
Photos by Chase Doelling
Thousands of people pour through the 16th Street Mall each day. The mix of working Denverites and visitors means the Mall is full of chain stores, restaurants, and tacky souvenir shops. But dotted along the street are hidden gems of the city’s culture and history, and the hidden lives of some of the city’s poorest citizens.
1. The Dikeou Collection
Few people know about the Dikeou Collection, hidden in the Colorado Building and sharing space with a Jamba Juice and a souvenir shop. Here, viewers can do more than look; the art is interactive and encourages crawling and manipulating. Going off the beaten path is well worth spending time exploring the unique contemporary artwork, escaping the mainstream of the Mall for a feature most Denverites haven’t even heard of.
Location: 1615 California St., #515
Hours: Wed–Fri 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Contact: 303-623-3001; dikeoucollection.org
The 16th Street Mall is where many vendors first encounter the VOICE. Vendor Dwayne Pride saw his first paper in front of the Walgreens at 16th and Stout Streets.
Vendor Lando Allen: “I’ll go to Marlowe’s and I’ll eat there but I won’t eat anyplace else downtown. They make better hamburgers than most other places.” Lando first sold the VOICE at 16th and Curtis Streets.
2. The Daniels & Fisher Clock Tower
The historic Daniels & Fisher Tower, built as part of a department store with the same name, was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi. For $10 a person, guests can take tours of the tower that cover the storied history of the landmark, and have a chance to look from behind the face of the clock at the city and mountain landscape, a view that will be impressive even to longtime locals.
Location: 1601 Arapahoe St.
Contact: Call 303-293-0075 to schedule a tour
3. Cafe 180
Surrounded by big chain restaurants,
Cafe 180 sits unpretentiously in the center of the mall. The menu offers boxed lunches which include a wrap, chips, fruit, and a cookie for $10, or a soup-of-the-day option. Not only is the stand a convenient and easy stop for the lunch crowd, but Cafe 180 is a charitable restaurant that employs people experiencing poverty and benefits those struggling to make ends meet.
Location: 16th St. between Arapahoe and Lawrence Streets
Hours: Mon–Sun 11 a.m. –4 p.m.
4. The Chess Boards
The Mall offers another way to relax and enjoy the day for free! Keep an eye out for the chessboards set in granite tables, waiting to provide a break and some fun for anyone wanting to burn some time. It’s a neat and quirky way that the Mall entices people to sit back and enjoy a day of sun and leisure in downtown Denver. Who knows, you could end up playing against VOICE vendors Richard Moore or Brian Augustine.
Location: 16th St. between Curtis and Arapahoe Streets
Vendor and board member Brian Augustine has slept outside at 16th and Curtis Streets: “The tin buffalo, there used to be a lot of homeless that slept in between the buffalo.” Brian avoided the buffalo, but made his bed nearby.
Vendor Lando Allen once slept in the doorway of the fire station at 19th and Lawrence, just three blocks north of the Mall.
5. The “Carpet-Runner” Pavement
One of the more unique features of the Mall is hidden right beneath the feet of passersby. Paving stones along the Mall are arranged in a special pattern that imitates a rattlesnake’s back. Take a look while strolling the Mall, and the unique patterning becomes visible as another of Denver’s hidden art pieces.
Richard Moore, VOICE vendor, has slept outside at 16th and Wazee.
Vendor David Gordon: “I miss the old warehouses that are now bars and stuff in LoDo. Those were places where a lot of homeless people slept. Taking those warehouses and making them into clubs and bars and stuff, I think it was good for the city economically. I just miss it. It was an old run down area. It was the homeless people’s; it was their home.”
David never slept in the warehouses, but he did sleep downtown: “I slept on the Mall, before the camping ban. I slept on the Mall down by Blake, Wynkoop.”