Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Tour of Denver Bell-System Properties

An hour to kill before a meeting on a very mild Thursday evening in Denver gave me the chance to walk around some of my old workplace buildings when I was an employee for the telephone company U S WEST in the mid to late 1990s.  I was based out of Boulder but was frequently a vagabond Denver employee for days or weeks at a time, in various locations downtown.

First on the Denver tour, the gothic revival style Telephone Building at 931 14th Street.   Built in 1929, this was the original headquarters of the old Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company:

This was my favorite building in Denver to work in, perhaps because I liked its history.  It was referred to internally as the 931 Building.

A telephone construction mural is outside the front lobby of 931 and there is also a telephone booth on display so that we'll never forget where Superman transitioned from Clark Kent:

There is more mural artwork inside the building lobby, and on one of the top floors, where I would guess that the executive dining area used to be.  It was just a lunch/break area with vending machines when I worked there. 

Two particular 1995 dates that I'll never forget while I was working on the 9th floor of 931:  the shock of the Oklahoma City Murrah building bombing on April 19 and the extreme buzz around the Netscape IPO on August 9.

Directly attached to the 931 building is 930 15th Street, built in 1980, and was known as the 930 building.   Meeting locations in the two buildings were often confused but you could easily walk between the two, since they were connected via certain floors.  For whatever reasons, perhaps the lack of windows, I never liked this building as much, and tried to avoid it.

Next up is the second tallest building in Denver, what used to be called the Mountain Bell building internally.  Built in 1983 at the time of the AT&T breakup, it served as the US WEST headquarters for all 14 states. As part of a real-estate divestiture effort, they sold it in 1991 and leased most of it back.  I never worked much here other than a few week-long stints and an occasional meeting, and it naturally seemed to have the most corporate feel of all out of all the properties.  

Two blocks from 1801 California was 1999 Broadway, commonly called the Holy Ghost building because it was built directly over the Holy Ghost Catholic Church.  To supplement its core monopoly phone business, U S WEST at the time was moving into some internet growth businesses, including becoming an internet service provider and offering web-hosting/web design services.  These were called unregulated businesses and monopoly law required that they be maintained separately on the accounting books. Anyway, a few leased floors of the Holy Ghost building seemed to contain a lot of U S WEST's unregulated enterprises.  I worked there frequently and remember seeing a lot of high-priced lawyers and sports agents (accompanied occasionally by one of their athletes) in the elevators.  Overall, a pleasant and energizing place to work, and a notably different work environment from the other telephone buildings.

Finally, at 1005 17th Street was the U S WEST Denver Service Center (DSC) building.  This was built in 1976 by Mountain Bell to house their various call centers, and included an auditorium we used to attend for large all-hands meetings.  In the U S WEST strike of 1998, I worked two uneasy weeks here, filling in for striking customer service representatives.  The building was sold and vacated in 2006 by then-owner Qwest but it's nice to see the Bell symbol has been preserved.  

Missing from my pictures was another leased space at 1475 Lawrence near Larimer Square which I also remember as a beehive of activity and a likeable place to spend time.  

One more view of 1801 California at dusk from near Coors Field.  In the early 2000's, Qwest had an extremely bright Vegas-style neon sign on top of this building whose blue light would pierce through curtains in surrounding neighborhood homes.  Qwest toned down the light a few years later after all of the complaints

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