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Researching Denver Buildings and Neighborhoods

Denver Building History Tutorial

The Denver Public Library’s Building and Neighborhood History Collection in the Western History/Genealogy Department contains a wealth of resources for researching the history of Denver buildings, neighborhoods, and architectural styles. Included are early building permits, real estate and fire insurance atlases, and directories.

The best place to begin is with the building itself. You may find a copy of the original building permit or blueprints or other clues that will help you get started. A neighbor may have early photographs of the area or information about previous owners.

The Building and Neighborhood History area in the Western History/Genealogy Department of the Central Library includes neighborhood histories, walking tours, architectural guides, maps, directories and other published research resources. Other useful collections include indexes of newspaper articles and clipping files on Denver neighborhoods, buildings, streets, etc.

About the Real Estate and Fire Insurance Atlases

The Library’s extensive collection includes Sanborn fire insurance maps and 1887 Robinson and 1905 Baist real estate atlases showing building footprints and basic construction data. By comparing maps from different years, you will be able to estimate the date of construction. These maps also show the legal description (addition name, lot, and block numbers) of your building, which is necessary for locating early building permits.

Many Denver street names changed in 1904. For further information on the history of street name changes and to determine current or former names, see Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic by Phil Goodstein.

In general, a building colored pink is of brick construction and yellow wood or frame. More detail can be found on the Index plate of the Robinson Atlas and the individual plates of the Baist Atlas.

More Resources:

Search Tips for Denver Building Permits

The Library has Denver building permits from 1889 through 1892, and 1900 through 1955. Early permits have been transcribed and re-indexed to improve access. These will give names of original owners, costs, and may indicate names of builders or architects. Later permits may show additions or changes to the building.

Microfilm copies of the original handwritten ledgers are available in the Western History/Genealogy Department of the Central Library. Many permits are missing or were never filed.

Permits for the years 1915 to 1955 are on microfilm in the Western History/Genealogy Department. More recent permits may be obtained from the Denver Building Permit Records office.

More Resources:

Denver Building Permits

Denver Building Permit Index: 1906-1914

The Digital Collections include transcriptions of building permits for the City of Denver from 1906 through 1914.

Permits for 1889 through 1892 and 1900 through 1905 will be coming soon.

Search Tips for Denver Directories

Digitizing these directories now allows for searching both by name or address. Selected years have been digitized.

More Resources:

Denver Directories

Denver Householder Directories

Denver Householder Directories date from 1924 and are arranged by address and show owners, residents, and business names.

Denver City Directories

Denver City Directories date from 1873 and are arranged by name of resident or business name. Many also list occupations.

Search Tips for Denver Assessor Records

The Denver Assessor Records provide an index to City of Denver Grantor/Grantee information and can give a chain of ownership of Denver property by legal description (addition, name, block and lot numbers) or parcel number, but there is generally no indication of whether or not there is a structure on the property. The Digital Collections include handwritten Assessor block and lot index ledger volumes for the City of Denver from the middle 1800’s to the early 1950’s. Later records are filed by parcel number and extend into the 1980’s.

1. The earliest records, known as the Denver Lot and Block Index 1860-1917, are on microfilm in the Western History/Genealogy Department. 

2. The records from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s form a 27 volume collection that has been digitized and is searchable by Addition or Subdivision name in the Digital Collections.

In order to search these volumes, you will need the Legal Description of the property:

  • Subdivision or addition name
  • Block and lot numbers of the specific property

These can be found on title deeds or tax records. You can also obtain this information online through the Denver Assessor’s Office.

The records for each block are arranged by lot number (the Description column). New pages were added on top of older ones so the earliest transactions are usually found on the last page. By following the chain of Grantor/Grantee numbers you will be able to follow the ownership of your property.

The Block and Lot Indexes refer to the Grantor Grantee deed books which are the legal documentation concerning property transfers. These may give additional information about the property transfer. The State Archives has the deed books up to 1902 and many after that time until approximately 1913. The other source for these books is the Clerk and Recorders Office of the City of Denver.

You can now access the Grantor Grantee Records for 1859-1884

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3. More recent records from the 1950’s into the 1980’s are on cards filed by Parcel Number. 

Contact the Western History/Genealogy Department for help in interpreting these records. For more information about tracing the history of a Denver building, visit the Denver Building History Tutorial.

More recent records can be found at the Denver Assessor’s Office.

More Resources:

Denver Assessor Records

Assessor Records

The Digital Collections include handwritten Assessor block and lot index ledger volumes for the City of Denver from the middle 1800’s to the early 1950’s.

Interactive Map

New! Interactive Denver Assessor Records Index Map: Late 1800s to the 1950s

Zoom in and locate an address on this interactive map to view the Assessor Records from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s.

Denver Assessor Master Property Records: Early 1950's - Mid 1980's

Later records are filed by parcel number and extend into the 1980’s.

Denver History

Denver Municipal Facts

Published by the City and County of Denver from 1909 until 1931 the Denver Municipal Facts contains a wealth of general information about the City of Denver, from politics and elections to sewer lines and public health.

History of Denver by Jerome C. Smiley (also known as Story of Denver)

Published in 1901, Smiley’s History of Denver was originally compiled for the Denver Times. Smiley’s book gives a very detailed early history of Denver and the region. Beginning with the development of local geological formations, Smiley takes the reader through prehistoric inhabitants, Spanish and French exploration of the area, fur traders and trappers, early settlers, the growth of Denver, and finally Denver’s prospects for the future.

Clerk and Recorder, City and County of Denver Records

About the Denver Neighborhoods Collections

Through an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant called Creating Communities, the Denver Public Library and its partners digitized archival materials to tell the rich history behind the people and places that shaped Denver’s neighborhoods. These materials were brought together in the Digital Collections.

Materials digitized include: maps, photographs, neighborhood plans/reports, letters, architectural plans, oral histories, objects and historic building applications/photos for state and national registries. More information on Denver neighborhoods can be found on the Creating Your Community website (coming soon).

Please note, more images and documents about each neighborhood can be found in other Collections.

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About the Creating Your Communities Collections

The Creating Your Community project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, has made it possible for the Denver Public Library, its partners and the public to share their history through an online participatory archive. Community members can share their digitized content and stories through the Creating Your Community website. Some of the content has also been stored in the Digital Collections to be preserved and shared with the community for future generations.

Creating Your Community

Partner Collections:

About the Historic Buildings Interactive Map

History Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, or OAHP, “creatively engages Coloradans and their guests in partnerships to discover, preserve, and take pride in our architectural, archaeological, and other historic places by providing statewide leadership and support to our partners in archaeology and historic preservation.”

OAHP and the Creating Communities Project have combined resources to highlight different historical buildings within the boundaries of specific neighborhoods. These buildings are just a small sample of the historical buildings located throughout the Denver area.

Historic Buildings

Historic Buildings Interactive Map

New! Historic Buildings Interactive Map

This interactive map highlights different historical buildings within the boundaries of specific neighborhoods. These buildings are just a small sample of the historical buildings located throughout the Denver area.

Helpful Links

DPL Digital Collections

Western History/Genealogy

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