Bronze and mosaic relief designed by Thomas Jay Warren. Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library Home Page

About the Building

Level One | Level Two | Level Three | The Grand Staircase | Design | Artwork

The Site

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library is the gateway to Five Points and the Welton Street Historic District. The building merges with Sonny Lawson Park via a plaza connecting the two. The Blair-Caldwell AARL is conveniently located immediately across Welton Street from the light rail. Parking is available next to the building.
Get directions

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library has three spacious levels, each with its own unique purpose.

Level One: A Full-Service Branch Library

Children's Section Computer Area Staff behind the checkout desk Videos and Magazines Craft Time

Entering Level One is an inviting experience. This space, awash in natural light, features a 5,800 square-foot gallery. A conference room with seating for 100 people, and a smaller meeting room which seats 20 are also located on this level. Please call 720-865-2401 for information on using the meeting rooms. The Library’s circulating collection of more than 32,000 items includes books, magazines and DVDS. Public computers with Internet access are available. The Library features individual areas for children, teens, and adults, and a circulating collection with items in English and Spanish.

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Level Two: Collection Archives and Research Library

Archives The Archives provide a wide range of primary sources including photographs, manuscript collections, letters, and diaries. It also features audio and video oral histories, including the Trailblazers series: a collection of oral histories from a cross-section of Coloradans. Showcased in the archival collection are the stories of African American musicians, politicians, educators, artists, business owners, religious leaders, scholars and everyday hard-working pioneers.
The Archives are available to the public and to researchers who visit the Library in person. This floor is enhanced by a gallery.

More than 150 archival collections are housed here and come from African American gold miners, cowboys, homesteaders, suffragettes, politicians, physicians, artists and musicians. They include:

  • Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, world-renowned company based in Five Points

  • Omar Blair, school desegregation leader and first Black president of the Denver Public School Board

  • John Mosley, Tuskegee Airman of World War II

Learn more

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Level Three: The Western Legacies Museum and Exhibit Space

From early pioneers to present-day heroes, follow the footsteps of African Americans who settled the West. An exhibition space spans more than 7,000 square feet and includes an African American Leadership Gallery, a replica of the Office of Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, and a changing exhibit. Exhibits highlight historical periods, notable individuals and local Denver artists. Tours and programming for adults and families are available throughout the year. For details, call 720-865-2401. Learn more.
Photo from Museum Space

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The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase

The most dramatic architectural feature of the Blair-Caldwell AARL is the grand staircase that connects all three gallery levels. Dramatic views of downtown Denver can be seen from the top of the staircase, symbolizing the success reached by African Americans in Denver, Colorado, and the Mountain West.

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The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library is the design of Denver’s
OZ Architecture and Harold Massop Associates Architects, P.C. Creating a modern, 21st century structure that exemplifies its historical context was a design challenge for the Blair-Caldwell AARL and an opportunity enthusiastically embraced by OZ Architecture. “We accomplished this by using masonry, but with modern detailing,” said Jim Bershof, AIA, who led the project's design team. “Our model was Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in Florence, Italy.”
A view of the Blair-Caldwell AARL showing off the masonry and modern detailing
A view of Sonny Lawson Park from the Library The Blair-Caldwell AARL is a three-story brick structure with a long, enclosed front porch facing Welton Street. The building gives views to Welton Street and Five Points, allowing visitors to understand the building’s historic context. The major interior spaces, main library room, research library reading room, and museum all provide dramatic views of Sonny Lawson Park and downtown Denver.
During design and construction, OZ Architecture faced the challenge of creating a building that fit into the existing architectural character of other structures on Welton Street, as well as Sonny Lawson Park. As a result, the Blair-Caldwell AARL’s front facade is elongated with punched openings similar to other Welton Street masonry buildings. “We stopped the height of this front brick wall above the second floor and used glass and a sloping tile roof above,” Bershof explained. Exterior of the Library
“This kept the height of the main building mass lower, to be consistent with the height of other buildings on Welton Street.” Jim Bershof ’s team of designers included Joe Levi, Tracy Tafoya, Dan Miller, Kate Fields and Chad Holtzinger.

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Several artists were selected to create unique works of art for the Blair-Caldwell AARL.

Bronze and mosaic relief of man by Thomas Jay Warren.
Two 15-foot bronze and mosaic reliefs representing the noble strength, bearing and pioneer spirit of African American men and women in the West are located in the large niches on either side of the front facade of the Library. These striking sculptures were designed by internationally renowned artist Thomas Jay Warren.
Bronze and mosaic relief of woman by Thomas Jay Warren.

Yvonne Muinde Renowned artist Yvonne Muinde was selected to create “Freedom’s Legacy” for the mural just inside the library in the entrance foyer. “Freedom’s Legacy” depicts figures from the community and the civil rights movement who fought and died for their right to be free. Her oil-on-canvas mural features historical figures from the West, Colorado and Denver.

Freedom's Legacy

Freedom's Legacy

Omar Blair
On the main floor, beautiful oil paintings of Omar Blair (the first black president of the Denver school board) and Elvin Caldwell (the first black City Council member) are hung at the foot of the grand staircase. These paintings by Robert Evans pay tribute to the two great men for whom the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library is named.
Elvin Caldwell

The Archive area includes "The Essence of Huey P. Newton," a rendering by Darrel Anderson from A Huey P. Newton Story, a Black Starz original film directed by Spike Lee.

The Essence of Huey P. Newton

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Bronze and mosaic relief designed by Thomas Jay Warren.
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Updated: May 08, 2013
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