If you think looking at pictures is a breeze, DU archivist Steve Fisher’s new book of vintage photographs, University Park and South Denver, may prove you wrong. The 120 images Fisher chose for his newly published collection take close scrutiny to fully appreciate the wealth of people, landmarks and historic context.
The book is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. It shows page after page of fascinating glimpses into the history of DU and the environs, most notably the University Park neighborhood and former town of South Denver.
Take a look at a 1940s shot of the DU campus, for example, that peers north from the Mary Reed tower. The bird’s eye photo shows the old DU football stadium where the Ritchie Center is today and an empty field where Interstate 25 now roars. There’s no Sturm Hall, no Driscoll South, no Ricketson law building, just two “old row” fraternity houses on a pokey country road that today is busy East Evans Avenue.
Even the cover photo requires careful inspection.
“I’ve had several people comment that it looks like a public execution,” Fisher chuckles. “It’s the April 3, 1890, cornerstone laying of University Hall, the first building on campus.
“It never even crossed my mind that it might look like a public hanging. But it does actually.”
Other pictures in the book are a wealth of detail on the area’s earliest years — the seven-member class of 1894 is there as is the 1915 faculty all the way up to the opening of the University of Denver light-rail station in late 2007.
The photos are “the tip of the iceberg,” Fisher says — maybe one percent of the visual archives available to him in collections at Penrose Library, the Colorado Historical Society, the Denver Public Library and the Washington Park Profile newspaper.
“I looked at thousands and thousands [of pictures],” he says. “It was really a question of narrowing down, culling. That was the hardest part.”
Fisher’s book was released in the middle of June to metro-area bookstores including the DU Bookstore, Tattered Cover, Barnes & Noble and Borders for their local history sections. University Park and South Denver is one of about 30 volumes that Arcadia has published on Colorado, ranging from the prisons of Canon City to the railroads of Pikes Peak and from the Colorado National Monument of Grand Junction to the Five Points neighborhood of Denver.
All in a photo-and-caption format that relies on scores of pictures to tell thousands of words.
“We’re letting people see a lot of photographs that have never been published,” Fisher says. “You’re getting a brand new view of everything. And you get a little bit of history behind each picture.”
Fisher, an associate professor, will be reading from the book, answering questions and signing copies on Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover LoDo store, 1628 16th St. in Denver. Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-3428.