Reimagining Denver’s Livestock Exchange Building means respecting its distinctive past

The $8.5 million sale to a consortium clears the path to a modern beacon for agricultural ingenuity and preserves the building’s architectural finery

Nancy Lofholm / Colorado Sun
The upper facade of Denver's Livestock Exchange Building is pictured in north Denver on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.
Andy Colwell / Colorado Sun

Back when Denver was a true cowtown and well over half a million cattle, sheep, hogs and horses moved through the city’s bustling livestock center each year, the Livestock Exchange Building was the grand red-brick heart of the city’s agricultural industry.

With an $8.5 million sale that was finalized Monday, that ornate, turn-of-the-20th-century building is set to become a key part of Colorado’s agricultural-related future and an iconic centerpiece of a billion-dollar overhaul of the National Western Center complex.

“Now, we’re going to make some new history,” said Brad Buchanan, the CEO of the non-profit National Western Center Authority, one of the partners in a consortium that purchased the exchange building from the City of Denver. “This exemplifies the huge economic impact agriculture has had and will have for the state of Colorado.”

The new owners, which include EXDO Development, Elevation Development Group and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, have big plans for a building that is currently empty except for the authority’s office, a temporary construction contractor’s headquarters, a saloon — and heaps of history. They hope to fill it with food- and ag-related businesses and agencies, just as it was more than a century ago.

The exchange building was constructed in three phases and three wings between 1898 and 1918. It was a time when “cowtown” was a proud moniker for Denver. The no-expenses-spared, million-dollar building reflected the high-flying agricultural industry of the period – an industry that buoyed Denver after gold let it down.

In architectural embellishments that remain to this day, floors in the exchange building gleamed with terrazzo-tile. Walls were decorated with marble wainscoting. Cherry wood lined windows and doors. Intricate wrought-iron railings accented a grand staircase.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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