The Wall Dogs of LoDo

June 27, 2010

 No, this is not a proposal for a reality show, sit-com, or band.  No, I am referring to a cultural, and historical, art form known as painted brick-wall advertising.  

Littleton Creamery

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 On a recent trip to Denver, Colorado, I stopped in one of the Ink! Coffee shops for some refreshment and had a conversation with Lauren, who later provided me a copy of  The Lower Downtown Historic District by Barbara Gibson.   As the title indicates, this book describes the history and architecture of Lower Downtown, or LoDo, as this area of Denver is known.  It also provided a focus to my walkabouts for the rest of the trip  

Wazee Street advertisement

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Ms. Gibson writes that the brick-wall painters were referred to as “wall dogs” and that they created their artwork between the 1860’s and the mid-1900s, when this form of advertising was replaced by electrical signs and billboards (10).  “Safety measures consisted of a single rope tied to the rooftop, which the painter held in one hand while painting with the other, as he sat on a platform called a swing stage.” (10)   Ms. Gibson adds “…very heavy lead-based paint was used.” (10)  Fascinating.  Many of these advertisements remain, although faded by time and weather.  In some cases, construction has obscured the artwork or the original advertisements have been painted over. 

Wynkoop Street Advertisement and Balconies

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Rockmount Ranch Wear advertisement

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 It appears that several businesses have returned to painted brick-wall advertising as a nod to LoDo’s past.

Wynkoop Street advertisement

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I also visited the Colorado Convention Center where I chanced upon a window washer at work.  While it certainly appeared that the safety standards have changed,  it was easy to imagine the wall dogs at work.  

Window Washer-Colorado COnvention Center

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Take care.

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