Telecommunications History Group Resources
Skyscrapers! (and Telephone Palaces) - Educational Resources
Associated Subjects: History, Social Studies, Architecture, Art
Grade Levels: 4-8
Time Required: One to three class periods
Skills Used: Critical thinking; essay writing; listening; research gathering (including Internet)
CO Curriculum Standards Addressed: History 1, 2, 4; Science 5; Visual Arts 1, 2, 4; Reading & Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
The historic telephone building at 931 14th St. wasn’t built in isolation; there were other buildings—even phone buildings—that reached for the sky, and there were (and are) many other buildings that are as tall and even taller. These skyscrapers represent a desire to reach the sky (and many other desires as well!), and are an architectural achievement that only came into being in the late 1800s (although there were certainly towers and other tall structures before this; mostly churches—again, reaching for the sky [or more likely heaven]).
This lesson will explore the history of skyscrapers; ask why they were built and became a dominant feature of US cities; and explore the reasons a telephone company might have for building them.
- The 931 telephone building exhibit
- The architecture section of your local or school library
- What goes into making a skyscraper, and why would you build one?
- Why would the telephone company need to build a skyscraper?
Depending on grade level, activities could range from gathering images of skyscrapers (from newspapers, books, and the Internet) and discussing their use, to researching a very specific building and writing about its development and architecture.
The Bell System palaces were built in the 1920s. Students could research (generally) the US economic situation in the 1920s and 1930s and discuss reasons why the phone company would build so many skyscrapers in one decade, but none the next.
Discuss with the class the ways in which a building could be seen as a work of art, and might not only serve a practical purpose (such as acting as a telephone company’s central office) but also an artistic one (or emotive one, such as indicating the company’s power, or protectiveness, or strength).
Another activity: Have groups of students try to build their own skyscrapers from toothpicks, popsicle sticks, etc.—or using the images of the 931 14th St building, have them build their own models of the telephone building!
Class discussion (or written reports) about skyscrapers and the telephone building in particular. What might the phone company have had in mind when it built its skyscrapers?
Written reports on various telephone buildings across the country, specifically their similarities and reasons for being built.
Written reports (or class discussion) on the United States in the 1920s, or specifically Colorado during the same time period.
Extension: Explore the ways in which city centers (particularly Denver’s) have developed, including cycles of decay and renovation, and the effect this has on the people living there.