It’s Throwback Thursday and that means it’s time for our next historical condo building featurette. As a condo expert with Denver High-Rise Living, we aim to become educated in all aspects of the condo market. A part of this that brokers don’t often seek to understand is the construction of the buildings and the materials and styles that were used to create the condos that we sell today. For this week’s article I wanted to showcase a building with historical significance not because of its age or its use, but primarily for the methods and materials used to build it. Having been completed in 1896, it is the oldest building I’ve featured so far. Located in the heart of downtown at 1617 California St., our historical condo building for this week’s Throwback Thursday is The Baldwin Lofts.
The pictures attached are from the corner of 16th and California, facing the Colorado building, with the Baldwin Lofts off to the right. Locating pictures of this building was quite a challenge but we wanted you to be able to relate to the building from historical times.
Originally developed by Philip Feldhauser, a partner in the development of the Hayden, Dickenson and Feldhauser building next door, the building was formerly known as the Feldhauser-Baldwin Building. Feldhauser was a fairly well-known developer in Denver at the time having been widely recognized for his participation in the development of Denver’s renown Oxford Hotel. Although he was responsible for the structure’s initial build, Feldhauser’s namesake was later removed from the building’s title leaving behind the name of the longtime commercial tenant for which the building is still named today, The Baldwin Piano Company.
Initially a two-story structure, the building was designed in the Chicago, turn of the century Renaissance revival look and was expanded in the early 1900’s in accordance with Feldhauser’s original curtain wall construction style. To build using curtain wall construction means that the exterior walls are not structural but rather aesthetic, usually covered with a lighter exterior material. While it was an innovative and rather new concept at the time this building went up, it is now a common form of construction that has been modernized with the use of glass panels for exterior façades.
The façade of The Baldwin Lofts is another feature that makes this building so historically significant. During the mid-1800’s a New York developer by the name of James Bogardus proposed an idea of using cast iron for complete building facades. Refinements developed during the late 18th century made cast iron relatively inexpensive in comparison to carved stone and as it could still be painted, it was easy to make it look like stone while spending significantly less. With cast iron having been replaced by modern steel and concrete in the early 1900’s, Feldhauser’s use of it for The Baldwin Lofts makes it the last remaining building with a cast iron façade in Denver.
It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that The Feldhauser-Baldwin Building became The Baldwin Lofts and was converted to residential homes. Redeveloped by the well-known Charles Woolley of St. Charles Town Company and completed in 1999, Denver real estate agent Jane Wallace remembers selling the initial condos as Woolley’s salesperson for the building.
“Back then we marketed the property using only the postcard mailers and print ads in The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News. Even so, I remember our grand opening weekend and it was packed with people,” Wallace said. “The units were rather easy to sell and we had so much interest in the building it didn’t take very long for them to sell out completely.”
Wallace, a prominent figure in Denver’s downtown real estate market to this day, has fond memories of working for Mr. Woolley and of The Baldwin Lofts and selling the downtown location. Several notable individuals including current Colorado Governor Jared Polis were original residents of the building. The units were positioned as an affordable alternative to the luxury lofts that were saturating the market at the time with some units selling for under $100,000. With its unique architectural qualities including radius (curved) walls, The Baldwin Lofts brought character and attainability to ownership in Denver’s inner city and still to this day offers prospective buyers significantly lower purchase prices for a downtown lifestyle that’s becoming more desirable.
So, if you find yourself on downtown’s 1600 block of California St, be sure to stop and appreciate that which so often gets overlooked or passed by without a thought. These historic buildings nestled between modern new structures in our city bring such unique character to Denver’s street fronts. I, like so many, am so proud to be a Denver resident and find myself touring my guests all over this amazing city. Hopefully, with the historical knowledge of buildings like this one, we all will be able to sound a little more nostalgic as we give those tours to our Denver visitors in the future.
Currently, The Baldwin Lofts has only one active listing on the market. An 840 square foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo priced at just $360,000 and listed by the RE/MAX Alliance. If you’re interested in learning more about The Baldwin Lofts, the current available listing or any other historical condo buildings in Denver, contact Denver High-Rise Living today.
**Photo Credit to the Denver Library**