• University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
  • University Building - Offices Denver
Home Our History

History of the University Building

The University Building, originally named the A.C. Foster Building, is significant because of its architects, William E. and Arthur A. Fisher; its architecture; and the great and important role played by its owners in the social, political, and intellectual life of Denver and the Rocky Mountain region.

The panic of 1893 marked a turning point in commercial building construction in downtown Denver. At that time there was a height limitation ordinance of nine stories in effect. However, with recovery, leading Denver entrepreneurs, anxious to take advantage of increasing prosperity, were successful in having it modified.

One of the first Denver entrepreneurs to take advantage of this change was Alexis C. Foster, who had come to Denver in 1890 and entered the real estate business. In 1904 he became cashier of the Daniels Bank and by 1910 he was vice-president of its corporate descendant, the United States National Bank (later known as the United Bank of Denver). Also in that year he formed a partnership with two other prominent Denver businessmen, William Ellery Sweet and James H. Causey, in the investment brokerage firm of Sweet, Causey and Foster. Mr. Foster went on to become President of the U.S. National Bank, a director of the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and was a member of many of Denver's most prestigious clubs. Shortly after 1922 he moved to Bronxville, New York, where he died in 1945 at the age of 77. His home at 730 Pearl Street later became the French Consulate and is a Denver Landmark. William Sweet went on to become a Governor of Colorado (1923-1925).

It was the firm of Sweet, Causey and Foster which created and sold shares in the Foster Building Company, providing the major financial backing for the Foster Building. Immediately upon the passing of the amended height limitation ordinance, Mr. Foster began making financial arrangements for a twelve-story skyscraper on the northwest corner of 16th and Champa Streets. This building would be of steel and concrete, completely fireproof, and sumptuously decorated -- truly "...class A1 in every particular", to quote a contemporary newspaper report. The financial arrangements and the plans of the building were completed by December of 1909, and the building was ready for occupancy by January 1, 1911. A six-story addition to the main building for Dr. John Foster (A.C. Foster's brother and noted Denver surgeon) was built concurrently. A local Denver newspaper hailed the twelve-story tower as "one of the handsomest structures in Denver." Its final cost was $800,000.

The architects of the A.C. Foster Building were William E. and Arthur Addison Fisher. By 1910 these two architects had already made a name for themselves, with such works to their credit as the Ideal Building (1906), and several homes for the wealthy denizens of Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood. They were heavily involved in the Denver building boom of 1910, being the designers of the Foster Building, the Tramway Building, and the Colorado National Bank Building, all under construction in that year. Subsequently, they continued to design major downtown office buildings, including the U.S. National Bank (later Guaranty) Building (1921), Midland Building (1926), the Security Building (1928), and the remodeling of the Railway Exchange (now Title) Building (1937). They also designed the Voorhees Memorial in Civic Center (1919) which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the B'nai B'rith Building of the National Jewish Hospital (1926?), and Denver South High School (1926) as well as continuing to design homes for prominent Denver citizens (including Mr. Foster). Almost all of these buildings are standing today, each unique, and a testimony to the creativity and success of this important architectural firm.

Many arguments can be presented supporting differing interpretations of the style of the Foster Building, but no matter what label one attempts to attach to it, one must finally acknowledge its great uniqueness and originality. One must remember that all of its contemporaries in Denver (with the exception of the Tramway Building) are strictly derivative from Renaissance or Classical prototypes consistent with the practices of Academic Classicism in America in the first decade of the 20th Century. The contrasting colors and textures of the dark brown brick and white terra cotta, the colorful (almost gaudy) cornice of green, white, blue, and gold terra cotta, the vertical emphasis caused by the contrast, the measured rhythm of the segmental arches, and the sudden, flaring termination of the cornice create a building of tremendous visual interest and excitement and make the Foster Building's facade the most colorful in Denver. A contemporary newspaper article stated that the "exterior decorations of the Foster Building are among the most unique and elaborate ever used on an office building in the United States".

The Foster Building was owned from 1911 to 1921 by the Foster Building Company and the Bankers Trust. In 1921 several real estate transactions resulted in ownership by the Retail District Investment Company, of which James H. Causey was the principal owner. Causey came to Denver in 1900 as a seasoned businessman and established a municipal bond brokerage firm which merged with Sweet and Foster. After World War I he established James H. Causey & Co. with offices in Denver and New York City. A man of wealth, he was a member of many clubs in Denver and New York. Although an extremely sharp businessman he was an active political Progressive, and he donated most of his money to philanthropic causes.

Mr. Causey became acquainted with Dr. Heber Reece Harper, Chancellor of Denver University, who influenced him to donate the Foster Building to Denver University as an income-producing property. The gift of approximately $1.5 million worth of property was somewhat controversial. The earnings of the Foster Building were to be used to found a Chair of Research in order to "create international, social, and industrial goodwill", and they were still used for that purpose until the Denver University sold the building.

Due to his experiences in Europe during and after World War I and his involvement with the violent Denver Tramway strike of 1920, Causey had been exposed to the results of both international conflicts and labor disputes. From these experiences he deduced the need for education of the public and its leaders in international affairs. It was a giant step forward at a time when most Americans were retreating into isolationism. The Social Science Foundation was created by Causey and Dr. Harper to deal with these problems. The mission of the foundation was to be twofold; to educate the community and its leaders on important questions of foreign affairs, and to train a new generation of leaders who would be involved and familiar with international relations. The purpose of the foundation was, therefore, to "create international, social, and industrial goodwill."

With degrees from the University of California and Columbia University, Dr. Ben Mark Cherrington was Director of the Social Science Foundation from its inception in 1926 until 1951. During that period he gained a considerable reputation in international relations. In 1938 he was invited by Secretary of State Cordell Hull to organize the Division of Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. He was an advisor to the U.S. delegations to several important scientific and cultural conferences and was an Associate to the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco in 1945. The next year Dr. Cherrington was invited to be a consultant on the establishment of UNESCO, on which he served for six years, a portion of that time on its Executive Committee. A man of tremendous character, personal magnetism, and leadership ability as well as a great scholar, Dr. Cherrington was Chancellor of Denver University from 1943 to 1946. In 1956 Queen Elizabeth appointed him an honorary member of the Order of the British Empire. Subsequently, Dr. Cherrington was active in various educational and scientific associations concerned with international affairs.

From the beginning, Cherrington closely adhered to Mr. Causey's request that "students, faculty, and community become informed on the vital issues of the day, both domestic and international." To that end, such controversial figures as Maud Royden and James Mallon, as well as persons well-known for their involvement in international affairs such a Anthony Eden, Ralph Bunche, John F. Kennedy, and Max Beloff were invited to lecture under the auspices of the Foundation.

Its academic program now thoroughly integrated with that of Denver University and its role in community education thoroughly established, the Social Science Foundation is recognized today as the leading center for international studies between the Mississippi River and the West Coast. The A.C. Foster (now University) Building provided the necessary funding over the years that allowed the Foundation to prosper and grow in importance.

United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White had an office in the University Building in the 1930’s.

In 1980, the University of Denver sold the building to the University Building Investment Co. An article in The Denver Post, Midweek Business News section said the new owners announced they would spend $1 million to restore (the building) "to its original perfection"...funds would be "spent on remodeling both the exterior and the interior. All architectural features will be retained, and we will go back to the original design wherever possible." Improvements made by the owners to the University Building included bringing the structure up to city and county code by installing, replacing and/or upgrading the electrical, HVAC, and fire systems.

Due to the economic downturn in Denver in the 1980's, the University Building was taken back by the Balcor Company in 1986. Balcor did the refinancing for the investor group. Unfortunately, Balcor Company neglected the upkeep of the building and it fell into disrepair. Many tenants, some of whom had been in the building for over 50 years, left; the vacancy rate fell to sixty percent. In 1991, the building was purchased by the current owners, 910 Associates, Inc. And the rest is history...