Guests by the thousand arrive at Purple Rocks practically day by day of the yr. We come to run, bike, picnic and hike within the park. We take within the breathtaking view of plain and metropolis from the amphitheatre, and crane our necks to admire Ship Rock and Creation Rock, sandstone formations 300 million years outdated which by no means fail to astonish. We take heed to music at a live performance facility with out peer. We come from Denver and each metropolis in Colorado, from each state within the union, and each nation on the planet.
But Purple Rocks shouldn’t be proof against pressures of business growth which can be threatening Denver’s historic heritage and making elements our beloved metropolis nearly unrecognizable.
Purple Rocks as we all know it’s the product of a inventive collaboration between George Cranmer’s parks division, the Nationwide Park Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), whose crew of principally teenage youngsters from rural Colorado constructed the amphitheatre underneath the route of Denver architect Burnham Hoyt over the last years of the Nice Melancholy. Purple Rocks, which displays the progressive and egalitarian period of its conception, turned a singular mix of stylish modernist structure and gorgeous pure magnificence. Purple Rocks obtained nationwide recognition on its 75th anniversary in 2015 when the secretary of the inside designated it a Nationwide Historic Landmark.
The amphitheatre, whose live performance schedule now logs in at 150 a yr and climbing, is capably managed by venue director Tad Bowman and his devoted crew. The town of Denver added 98 acres to the park in 2016 and has just lately undertaken a restoration venture on the CCC Camp in collaboration with Historicorps. Hats off to all these efforts!
But in different areas the town has been much less foresighted and delicate to its historic heritage. Plans to venture company promoting on Ship Rock and Creation Rock have been turned again by a vigilant Landmark Preservation Fee in 1999, as was a proposal to transform the historic planter packing containers into “company field seats.”
Now the town has fielded a brand new proposal to change the planter packing containers. Half of every field would develop into a everlasting spectator space, with flooring that may pose a menace to the survival of the unique juniper timber planted by these youngsters within the 1930s and with railings that shall be an eyesore and degrade Burnham Hoyt’s easy modernist design. We shall be midway again on the highway to “company field seats.” This doesn’t must occur. The town cites security and legal responsibility issues, regardless of an utter lack of great planter box-related accidents. Nor has the town explored options to railings, like warning indicators, waivers, or really restoring the packing containers to their authentic objective as planters.
Historic landmark standing sadly brings with it no protections or safeguards. It merely asks us to contemplate Purple Rocks as a nationwide treasure like different landmarks, akin to Mesa Verde or the Statue of Liberty and to protect it, not change it or develop it. The planter field proposal has not but been formally submitted for evaluate by the Landmark Preservation Fee.
Let’s take this chance to start out a community-wide dialog about Purple Rocks. Do we wish “enhancements” or preservation? What’s the correct stability between the amphitheatre (notice that exploding live performance schedule) and the wants of the park? Ought to Purple Rocks, like Civic Heart Park (Denver’s different Nationwide Historic Landmark) develop into a Denver Historic District with its personal enforceable tips?
Vincent Scully, dean of American architectural historians, known as Purple Rocks “one of many few works of up to date civilization that may be known as elegant. There isn’t a different phrase, and it’s valued in these phrases by architects, planners, and theater individuals all around the world, as by hundreds of thousands of extraordinary individuals in all places. For a lot of of them, Denver is thought solely by it and with a type of particular respect due to it.”
Any Denverite who has been to Purple Rocks and felt its particular magic — and most of us have — is aware of precisely what professor Scully was speaking about. All of us want to come back collectively and say no to paving and metallic railings within the planter packing containers. Purple Rocks is way more than a business venue. Artwork, historical past and nature matter too. Let’s protect what makes Purple Rocks distinctive and particular.
Steve Good is a founding member of the nonprofit Buddies of Purple Rocks.