A. C. Foster Building

Also known as: University Building
912 16th St., Denver, Colorado


Photo taken by Outspoken1 in July 2010



Architectural History 

From building owners website

"The University Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1978. At the time of its construction, the University Building was considered a marvel of architecture and fire proof engineering. At the time, the Denver Post hailed the buildings bold upper facade as "the most colorful in Denver" and called it "among the most unique and elaborate" of U.S. office buildings.

The A.C. Foster Building, on the northwest corner of 16th and Champa Streets, consists of three buildings; the main building, seen from the street, is a twelve-story office building (built in 1911), a six-story addition fronting the alley between Champa and Curtis Street, not visible from the street (also built in 1911), and a one-story commercial store building in the angle of the first two and fronting on Champa Street (built in 1936).

The exterior is constructed of brick and Bedford stone. The interior features Colorado Yule marble for common area floors and wainscoting. The masonry construction of the building includes a flooring system of reinforced poured concrete. The entryway doors, mail boxes, elevator trim, and hand rails throughout the building are of brass. Upper floor windows, which can be manually opened, are single pane glass in wood frames. The main lobby features elaborate marble, carved alabaster, and distinctive rosettas in the ceiling. The solid brass frame clock in the main lobby has internal mechanisms dating to the 1850's which are still working. The tenant directory in the main lobby is framed by intricate brass.

The twelve-story office building is by far the most significant architecturally and is the most distinctive in the use of dark brown brick in the corner bays which contrasts dramatically with the wall surfaces. White terra cotta has been used for the sills, in horizontal bands at intervals between the second and fourth floors of the building.

Both street facades of the building are similar in exterior wall material, in massing, and in the division of wall surfaces into bays divided by vertical piers running the height of the building. The flat lintel windows are arranged into groups of three within each bay.

The ground floor and second floors are surfaced with smooth-cut granite. Seven bays are created by vertical rusticated granite piers. Above each pier are capitals which are an interpretation of the Doric order. The main entrance is in the center bay of the 16th Street facade. Framing the stone piers at the entrance is quarter-round terra cotta molding in modules of an elaborate linear panel. Directly above the entrance is a large terra cotta panel, added in 1929 when the name of the building was changed, of floral motifs done in a very geometric manner. The entrance surface, recessed about ten feet from the facade surface, is glass framed with gilt brass. Halfway up the bay over the entrance is a frieze bearing the legend UNIVERSITY BUILDING. Above this frieze is a gilt-brass screen of naturalistic and linear design.

The upper portion of the eleventh and all of the twelfth floors compose the cornice treatment of the building. All surfacing and design on these top floors is in white terra cotta. On the corner bays of the eleventh floor is a wide band of ribbed terra cotta beginning halfway up the window opening up to window head height. Above the central window of each bay is an elaborate cartouche with ribbon-like molding extending over the flanking windows. This ribbon molding is interrupted at the window mullions by molded torch-like devices.

The twelfth floor facade is completely surfaced with white terra cotta ribs with green tile interstices. The windows in the corner bays are flat linteled as on the other floors while the remaining windows are round headed and grouped in threes. Above the windows, the ribbed terra cotta surface flares out, forming a cavetto cornice with a flat, geometric 'leaf' motif at the edge. The top of the flare consists of a blue terra cotta frieze with an elaborately molded repeating pattern picked out in gold. Above the frieze is a parapet of terra cotta which is slightly higher at the corners.

The rear surface of the office building has a U-shaped plan surrounding a light court. The exterior wall treatment is plain brown brick up to the lower portion of the eleventh floor, then beige brick to the parapet. The 16th Street facade treatment is 'returned' about eight feet onto the south, or back side of the building. This returned section is one bay wide.

The entrance bay leads to a T-shaped lobby. There is a bank of four elevators flanked at the ends by a stairway to the right and entrance to a ground floor space to the left. The floor of the lobby is terrazzo, while the walls are of beautifully-veined Colorado Yule marble. The stairway contains marble stairs with elaborate gilt-brass railings. The elevator doors are also of brass.

The upper stories also have corridors floored and wainscoted with Colorado Yule marble. Except for the eighth floor, the office partitions remain the same as the day the building opened in 1911, in many cases even down to the type face of the suite numbers." (from http://www.universitybldg.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=60 )

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 9, 1978
Reference number
NR name
Foster, A. C., Building
Areas of significance
Commerce; Education; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction; B - Person
Property type
Historic function
Current function
Period of significance
Significant year
ca. 1911
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2
Non-contributing buildings: 1

Update Log 

  • January 25, 2013: Essay added by Outspoken1
  • January 25, 2013: New photos from Outspoken1