The Origins of the “Denver Square”

The streets of certain older neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado are peppered with sturdy homes, which, if you take away the brick facades and the dormers, resemble nothing more than big square boxes. Known as “Foursquares” in most other parts of the country, houses of this style are called “Denver Squares” in Denver. There are many of these houses in the city, especially in older areas, such as Capitol Hill and Congress Park. 

The square, boxy shape of the Foursquare style is often enhanced by dormer windows in the center of the roof and front porches that extend the width of the house. The plain construction of the basic building lends itself well to modifications that improve space usage and aesthetic appeal. The Denver Square, in particular, is known for its brick construction, lead glass windows, and 2 tier fireplaces.

Foursquares are usually two stories high. The home is laid out in a series of quarters – entryway, kitchen, dining room and living room on the ground floor (with a front door offset from the center to allow access to the foyer) and three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. The Denver Square often has a full basement and/or attic space as well.

The origins of the “Denver Square” name are somewhat mysterious. The Foursquare style suddenly proliferated in America after the Civil War, due to its affordability, flexibility and ease of construction. There are examples of Foursquare architecture all over the country, some dated years before the style made its way to the Rocky Mountains. 

One of the reasons that Denver has so proudly labeled this home style with its name could be the Grodavent Brothers, who submitted a design for a brick Foursquare house in an 1895 edition of the magazine “Carpentry and Building”. This is one of the earliest designs for a Foursquare house to be noted in a building publication and is a classic example of what Denver residents refer to when they say “Denver Square”.

While Denver certainly does not have claim to the origins of the Foursquare, many of the century-old homes on its streets are arguably some of the earliest examples of the style. The name “Denver Square” points to a proud tradition, begun by Denver architects and furthered by Denver residents, of homes that represent a nation’s resurgence after a devastating conflict. Today, renovated Denver Squares are much sought after by people looking to live in a modernized piece of Denver history.

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