The growth of Denver,
expansion of telephone service nationwide, and the introduction of dial service created a need for a new central office and administrative building in the Mile High City. But how to build it? Using which materials?
The Bell System "palaces"—the skyscrapers built in New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cleveland, Newark, and Montreal—represented not only the power of AT&T but also its ideals of "utility, beauty, appropriateness, modernity, solidity and forethought."1
The New York building was described by a French commentator as possessing "a certain barbaric majesty."2
AT&T would have found this description apt in some ways, incorrect in others--but certainly correct in expressing the idea that the building itself must express something, must have its own personality, must stand for something "more than stone and steel and mortar."3
The Denver building was no different: it would be as much a representative of the phone company as its employees, and it would be the tallest building in the Rocky Mountain region, from New Mexico to Montana. By itself, it created a new skyline for the city.
Completed in 1929, the fiftieth anniversary of phone service in Denver, this was one of the last of the Bell System palaces to be completed (along with the Newark and Montreal buildings); the subsequent stock market crash and worldwide depression made it impossible and unwise for any company to be so extravagant for years to come, and while at one time a company’s reputation would be enhanced by displaying its power and wealth, in the 1930s such a display would bring the public’s wrath.
The Denver building cost $3 to $5 million (with furnishings) in 1929 dollars—$32.4 to $54.0 million if it were built today (2006)—and became the headquarters of the entire Mountain States territory, which extended from Canada to the Mexican border (see map
To learn how this building was designed, built, and used, click on the links below. To continue a Guided Tour, click here
1 From "The Telephone Building," in
The Mountain States Monitor, September 1929.
2 From Richard Storrs Coe, "Bell System Buildings--an Interpretation" in
Bell Telephone Quarterly, v. VIII (July 1929) 201-217. New York: American Telephone and Telegraph Co.