Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Boulder, CO - Central

Join Historic Boulder Inc. on a self guided tour of some of the best Modern Era architecture in central Boulder.

Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Boulder, CO - Central

Boulder, Colorado 80302, United States

Created By: Historic Boulder, Inc.

Tour Information

The Historic Boulder, Inc. Mid-Century Modern Tour series is self-guided and encompasses several areas in Boulder. To date, Central Boulder is available while additional tours are in progress.

How to take the tours:

+ Be sure the PocketSights app has permission to access your location.

+ View the buildings from the public way – sidewalks and roads; do not enter private property.

+ Be discrete when viewing and photographing to avoid disturbance to occupants.

+ Visit each neighborhood (each tour) to get a sense of how Mid-Century Modern design evolved in different locations and in different time periods.

+ Tell family and friends about Historic Boulder's tours.


For over 50 years, Historic Boulder Inc. has advocated for the appreciation and preservation of properties that contribute to the heritage, culture, and spirit of Boulder. An emerging area of interest and importance is the contribution of Mid-Century Modern architecture that took place in the period from 1945 to 1975. Historic Boulder has surveyed the city and environs to identify notable examples of this design approach that are easily visible to the public. We hope these tours will inform you about the values of Mid-Century Modern architecture, will highlight its contributions to the progressive spirit of Boulder, and will educate you about Boulder's historic preservation program.

Key principles of Mid-Century Modern Architecture and its importance to Boulder:

The Mid-Century Modern (MCM) design movement began after WWII. It was a design response to the post-war optimism, especially in the United States as it emerged as the leading world power. The ensuing economic and population expansion utilized MCM design ideas in all building types from homes to churches to banks.

The MCM style was an outgrowth of the general Modern approach to design that began at the beginning of the 20th century. Initial MCM ideas were a combination of European advancements that began in Germany with the American ideals of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in combination with the burgeoning mobility culture of the automobile. European Modernist designers immigrated to the U.S. in the 1930s and 40s and spread their ideas to colleges, corporations, and residential developments. In Boulder, the university and the federal laboratories were early adopters of MCM design ideals.

Historical styles persisted alongside Modern design during this time due to America’s foundation in conservatism. However, Boulder was on the forefront of progressive ideas in education, science, religion, and culture, and the city embraced MCM design ideas. The result is that Boulder has a higher concentration of MCM architecture than any other community in Colorado.

The predominant characteristics of MCM architecture:

Clean lines: Exteriors and interiors have almost no applied ornament, expressing the nature of the materials and strong geometric lines.

Connection to nature: Buildings are sited to take advantage of natural features, such as daylight, views, and landforms. Interior spaces flow outside with large expanses of glass.

Open floor plans: Structural design is utilized to allow for interior spaces to open into each other without the interruptions of columns and walls.

Creative building shapes: Freedom of artistic expression resulted in building forms that are cubic, curvilinear, and angular.

Exploration of building materials: The Modern approach explored new ideas in construction materials and techniques that were both affordable and expressive.

Environmentalism: Buildings were designed to use less energy, to sit more sensitively on the land, to pollute less, to be efficiently constructed, and to utilize local materials.

Leaders in the MCM design movement:

Europeans of the Bauhaus Design College in Germany, including Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, influenced American architects such as Pierre Koenig, Craig Ellwood, Paul Williams, Quincy Jones, Walter Netsch, Bertrand Goldberg, Edward Stone, William Lescaze, William Pereira, Buckminster Fuller, and Albert Frey.

French architect Charles Edward Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, influenced American architects I.M.Pei, Paul Rudolph, Louis Kahn, Richard Meier, Michael Graves, Peter Eisenman, John Hejduk, and Charles Gwathmey.

Frank Lloyd Wright and his American followers included Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Gregory Ain, Alden Dow, and Joseph Eichler.

Other American practitioners of MCM design were Philip Johnson and Charles and Ray Eames.

Scandinavian architects included Alvar Aalto, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Jorn Utzon, Arne Jacobsen, and Gerrit Rietveld.

Latin American practitioners included Luis Barragan and Oscar Neiemeyer.

Architects responsible for the much of the MCM structures in Boulder:

James Hunter
Hobart Wagener
Charles Haertling
Roger Easton
Tician Papachristou
Everett – Ziegel
Nixon – Jones/ Bowen, Brockaw, Brown
Gale Abels
John Thacker
Carl Worthington
Wallace Palmer

Why it's important to understand and appreciate MCM Design:

By its nature, MCM design was innovative, and this created the setting that nurtured the progressive place that Boulder has become. However, over the past 30 years many MCM buildings have been torn down at an increasing rate as the population of Boulder expanded. Winston Churchill made a statement that explains how important buildings are to the spirit of humanity saying,We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” It is important to preserve great examples of MCM architecture because they tell stories and embody lessons about the values of Boulder.

Demolished or threatened MCM buildings:

First National Bank at Broadway & Canyon
Casey School gymnasium

13th, 30th and Baseline Street Fire Stations
Circular Bank at Canyon & 17th St
Williams Village Dining Hall
Fruehauf’s greenhouse
Harvest House Manor
Harvest House Hotel (currently Millenium Hotel)
Mecha Building
Baseline Junior High School
Numerous houses

Please support Historic Boulder Inc.'s efforts to protect Boulder's architectural history with a donation. Thank you.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

1636 16th Street/ Roger J. Easton, architect/ Formalism style/ Structure of Merit/ built 1964 This building was designed as the architecture office of Roger Easton. He was a graduate of the Iowa State University College of Architecture and ... Read more
1650 Canyon Boulevard/ Everett-Zeigel Architects architect/ Expressionism style/ built 1973 This site is included in the tour to illustrate that MCM buildings are being demolished, this one in 2018, as Boulder continues to grow. Small build... Read more
1700 17th Street/ Roger J. Easton architect/ Miesian style/ built 1972 This innovative design is composed of two apartment buildings elevated on columns that shelter the building entrances and parking. They are linked at the top with a sus... Read more
1604 Arapahoe Avenue/ Glen Huntington architect/ Art Deco -Streamline Moderne/ built 1937 While this building predates the MCM era, it is included on this tour because it was one of the first Modern buildings in Boulder.  At the height of ... Read more
2111 Arapahoe Avenue/ Heinzman & Kindig architect/ Rustic Modern style/ built 1964 This building is split between a lower base level, horizontal in orientation and clad in painted brick, and an upper floor which has a repetitive design... Read more
1444 Folsom Street/ Ralph D. Peterson & Associates architect/ International Style/ built 1958 The Harvest Manor Apartments were part of a large development that includes Arapahoe Village Shopping Center, the Harvest House Hotel, and te... Read more
1345 28th Street/ Ralph D. Peterson Associates architect/ International Style/ built 1958-9 This building was a part of the large development described under the Harvest House Manor tour stop which has had additions and modifications ove... Read more
1717 Folsom Street/ Harry McMichael Architect/ Miesian Style/ built 1970 The design of this one-story office building shows a strong influence of the work of Mies Van Der Rohe. Modernist design elements include the repetitive array of large... Read more
1909 26th Street/ Roger J. Easton architect/ Miesian style/ built 1970 This building, known as the Kellcourt Building, first served as offices and a retail space for IBM typewriters. The project was inspired by the Illinois Institute of Te... Read more
2546 Spruce Street/ unknown architect/ Googie style/ built 1971 This Googie-style building is included in the MCM tour because it is currently under review for demolition. Googie architecture represents an era when automobile use became wid... Read more
unknown architect/ Late Modern style/ built 1965 The MCM building here is the addition built onto the south side of an older house at the corner of Pine and 20th Street. The addition converted the single-family house into apartments. It is ... Read more
1419 Pine Street/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Expressionist style/ built 1965 This small chapel is one of several buildings on the MCM tour by the architecture firm of Hobart Wagener. He moved from Portland, Oregon to Boulder in the early... Read more
1421 Spruce Street/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Formalism style/ built 1960 The United Methodist Church was built in 1892 in a handsome style know as Richardsonian Romanesque. The MCM addition along Spruce Street doubled the capacity of t... Read more
1325 Pearl Street/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Formalism style/ built 1962 The iconic Art Deco Boulder County Courthouse was designed by Glen Huntington and built in the 1930s.  It replaced an earlier building that burnt down. The addit... Read more
1919 14th Street, James M. Hunter and Associates architect/ Meisian style/ built 1955/ Historic Landmark This is downtown Boulder’s only ‘skyscraper’ at nine stories, built when the city was trying to portray a progressive image and ... Read more
1722 14th Street/ Charles Haertling architect/ Formalism style/ built 1975 The Rink office building is a conversion of an old roller-skating rink into offices. The adaptation of the existing building uses a curved-roof motif to create a co... Read more
1300 Canyon Boulevard/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Rustic Modern style/ built 1969/ Historic Landmark The Atrium was built as a bank for Midland Savings and Loan in an area on Canyon Boulevard where four other banks were located as the st... Read more
1212 Canyon Boulevard/ Glen Huntington architect / Art Deco style/ built 1938/ gifted to the city and erected by the Boulder Lions Club/ Historic Landmark While this structure predates the MCM era, it is an iconic early Modernist design tha... Read more
1777 Broadway/ International Style/ Historic Landmark First Phase: James M. Hunter & Assoc. architect / built 1951 Second Phase: Hobart D. Wagener architect/ built 1962 The first phase of the Municipal Building was designed by the arc... Read more
1101 Arapahoe Avenue/ International Style/ First Phase: James M. Hunter architect/ built 1961 Second Phase: Roger J. Easton architect/ built 1974 (Third Phase: built 1990s) The library was built in three phases, this tour focuses on the fir... Read more
1800 Broadway Street/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Rationalist style/ opened in 1958 This building is on the tour even though it was demolished in the late 1990s.  It was one of the most significant MCM buildings to be built in Boulder. I... Read more
1913 Broadway Street/ unknown architect/ Googie style/ built 1963 Downtown Boulder has had several drive-thru banks beginning in the 1960’s. This one is built of local sandstone with a low sloping roof over the driveway. Its dynamic, Goog... Read more
2205 Broadway Street/ James M. Hunter and Associates architect/ International Style/ built 1948/ Historic Landmark This striking building replaced the original Masonic Temple (1895) destroyed by fire in 1945. The Masons joined the wave of o... Read more
1150 Maxwell Avenue/ L. Gale Abels architect/ Formalism style/ built 1967/ Mapleton Hill Historic District Originally a dental office, this building features three unique towers of windows, and an L-shaped wall leading to a double height, r... Read more
2401 Broadway Street/ Charles A. Haertling architect/ Expressionism style/ built 1967/ Structure of Merit One of the most iconic and creative works of Modern era architecture in all of Colorado is this former Boulder Valley Eye Clinic. It ... Read more
2300 Broadway Street/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Rustic Modern style/ built 1964 Prior to moving to Boulder, architect Hobart Wagener worked in Portland, Oregon for renegade Modernist Pietro Belluschi. This building is reflective of the ... Read more
1315 Mapleton Avenue/ Langhart-McGuire-Barngrover architect/ Expressionism style Auditorium: built 1959 Classrooms: built 1967 This school was built over many years in several phases. The tour focuses on the auditorium and classrooms build... Read more
1301 High Street/ Hobart D. Wagener architect/ Expressionist style/ built 1950? This portion of the Casey Middle School has been demolished but it is included on the tour for the following reasons. The addition of this new gymnasium was a ... Read more
2450 Broadway Street/ unknown architect/ International Style/ built 1950 This modest office building is an example of the International Style. The predominantly horizontal composition has a flat roof with large overhangs, an incised concret... Read more
2475 Broadway Street/ Hobart Wagener architect/ Expressionist style/ built 1969 This eye-catching office building features large windows that pop out of the façade, a flat roof, and vertical bands of paneling. (Just to the west is a Late ... Read more
825, 827 Dewey Avenue/ Elwood Grabow architect/ Rustic Modern style/ built 1966 This Modernist one of a kind version of a ski chalet has three apartments that stack on top of each other and step from the front of the property to the back ... Read more
545 Mapleton Avenue/ unknown architect/ Usonian style/ built 1961/ Mapleton Historic District This Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design strongly resembles the work of California developer Joseph Eichler. Key design elements include the single... Read more
2221 4th Street/ Hobart Wagener architect/ Usonian style/ built 1955/ Mapleton Historic District Addition: Late Modern style/ built 1977 The original version of this house was a simple design with a garage near the street and the living s... Read more
345 Mapleton Avenue/ James M. Hunter architect/ Rustic Modern/ built 1949 Consider how innovative this church’s design was when it opened in 1949! The original entrance was a two-story wall of gridded wood panels (today a wall of glass) ... Read more
165 Green Rock Drive/ Charles A. Haertling architect/ Miesian style/ built 1969-70 The design of this house references the work of Mies Van Der Rohe. The exterior composition is a cubist abstraction of the towering wall of red rocks that p... Read more


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