Drawing the Denver Map, Part I

Drawing the Denver Map, Part I

What goes into a hand drawn map?

Creating completely hand drawn maps from scratch is no joke—these babies are carefully researched, labeled with hundreds of tiny hand lettered features, and detailed. And the wild part is that we actually love every minute of this painstaking process.

There are a lot of map posters out there—many of them generated from online mapping data with a minimal, digital feel. Our maps are not that. When looking into what else is out there, we realized what’s rarely available on shop shelves are colorful illustrated maps that feature local favorite spots, colloquial neighborhood names people actually use, and little-known gems—or at least spots that everyone in town might know, but map generating software definitely doesn’t.

So we’ve set out to start designing these maps, one by one. The process ain't quick and we're okay with that. We're making the stuff we'd want to see hanging in a local coffee shop or cute Airbnb or a friend's home. We put so much effort into these maps before going to print, so we think it’s worth sharing that process and highlighting the details and why we chose them. The first in this series: our Denver neighborhoods map. Enjoy!

Spots we highlighted on our Denver map:

Arvada (neighboring city):
Olde Town Arvada water tower
The water tower in Olde Town Arvada was decommissioned in 1977, so it no longer holds water. But it stands as Arvada's most recognizable and photographed landmark.

Elitch Gardens
Elitch Gardens is a seasonal amusement park that opened in 1890, originally in the West Highland neighborhood. It moved to Downtown Denver in 1994. In 1998 it became Six Flags Elitch Gardens, but in 2007 was bought by CNL properties and dropped the Six Flags name.

Tivoli Student Union
The Tivoli Student Union acts as a student center for three colleges: the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Community College of Denver. The building was originally part of a brewery founded in the late 1800s, and didn't become the student union until 1994. In 2012 Tivoli Brewing Co. began brewing beer in its original location again.

Aurora (neighboring city):
The Fox
The Aurora Fox Arts Center opened in 1946 as a movie theatre. It experienced decline in the '70s due to new commercial shopping malls, and a fire in 1981. It was restored and reopened in 1985 and has been home to the Aurora Fox Theatre Company ever since.

Coors Field
After two seasons at Mile High Stadium, the Colorado Rockies moved into their home at Coors Field in LoDo. The seats in the 20th row of the upper deck are purple to mark one mile above sea level.

Bonnie Brae:
Bonnie Brae Ice Cream
The Bonnie Brae neighborhood was developed by George W. Olinger, who was inspired by Bonnie Brae, Missouri (the name means "pleasant hill" in Gaelic). Landscape architect Saco DeBoer planned the neighborhood around the land's natural topography rather than using a grid system. After ice cream shop Dolly Madison closed after 40+ years, Bonnie Brae Ice Cream opened in 1986 and remains a staple of the neighborhood.

Bluebird District:
Bluebird Theatre
The Bluebird Theatre opened in 1914 as a neighborhood movie theatre and eventually became the music venue it is today in 1994. Recently the Colfax neighborhood surrounding the theatre was coined as the "Bluebird District".

CBD (Central Business District): 
Cash Register Building
The Cash Register Building (Wells Fargo Center) is the third tallest building in Denver. It's one of the most recognizable buildings in the Denver skyline and has its own unique zip code: 80274.

Blue Bear at the Colorado Convention Center
"I See What You Mean", the 40-foot-high blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center, was installed in 2005. It was inspired by creator Lawrence Argent seeing a photo of a curious black bear looking into a window.

Daniels and Fisher Tower
The Daniels & Fisher tower was built on 16th Street in 1910 as a part of the Daniels & Fisher department store. After the stores demolition in 1971, the tower was saved and renovated as a residential/office space.

Capitol Hill 
Colorado State Capitol Building
The Colorado State Capitol Building opened in 1894, and in 1908 the dome was covered in real gold leaf commemorating the Colorado Gold Rush. The 15th step of the building is engraved with the words "One Mile Above Sea Level". After the steps were resurveyed by CSU students, a second mile high marker was set in the 18th step in 1969. A third marker on the 13th step was installed in 2003.

Cap Hill:
Molly Brown House Museum
The Molly Brown House was the home of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", who survived the Titanic on Lifeboat No. 6 after helping with the ship's evacuation. Her home was saved and restored by Historic Denver, who hosts daily tours.

Lakewood (neighboring city):
Casa Bonita
Casa Bonita opened in 1974 with indoor 30' cliffs designed to look like the cliffs of Acapulco. The outdoor fountain was shipped in pieces from Mexico.

Cheesman Park:
Denver Botanic Gardens
The Denver Botanic Gardens is a 23-acre park on the edge of City Park. The conservatory is made entirely of concrete and Plexiglass panes which channel condensation to the sides of the walls so it doesn't drip on visitors.

Cherry Creek State Park:
Cherry Creek Reservoir
Cherry Creek State Park surrounds an 880-acre reservoir in Arapahoe County. It features an REI boathouse with SUP and kayak rentals and a marina with boat slips.

Cherry Creek Trail
The Cherry Creek Trail begins at Confluence Park at the Platte River, and travels south along Cherry Creek for 40 miles. Sections of it have both bike and pedestrian paths, and features dozens of murals commissioned by the Urban Arts Fund.

City Park:
Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo is located in City Park and was founded with the donation of a black bear given to the Denver Mayor in 1896. In 1950 the zoo aquired its first elephant, Cookie, and the Denver Zoological Foundation was created.

City Park: 
City Park is the largest park in Denver and was designed in the tradition of English pastoral gardens and NYC's Central Park. It contains the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Ferril and Duck Lakes, and a boathouse.

Commerce City (neighboring city)
Rocky Mountain Nat'l Wildlife Refuge

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal was originally a chemical weapons manufacturing facility completed in 1942 to support World War II. Cleanup began in the '80s and the site was designated as a national wildlife refuge in 1992. It's now one of the largest urban refuges in the country at 15,000 acres, and is home to wildlife like bison, black-footed ferrets, deer, coyotes, bald eagles and burrowing owls.

Curtis Park:
The Rossonian
The Rossonian opened as The Baxter Hotel in 1912 and is the most prominent building at the Five Points intersection. It was renamed in 1929 and was where Black musicians visiting Denver for performances stayed when white hotels downtown turned them away. It became known as the best jazz club between the Midwest and West Coast, with performances by the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.

Denver Tech Center:
DTC Identity Monument
The DTC is a business and economic trading center in Southeast Denver and Greenwood Village. It was established in the 1970s when companies like AT&T and Cablevision started there. The DTC Identity Monument was designed by Barber Architecture and is meant to look like the framework of a skyscraper.

Denver International Airport:
Blue Mustang (Bluecifer)
Blue Mustang (Bluecifer, as Denverites lovingly call it) is a sculpture greeting visitors at DIA. Known for its glowing red eyes and for having killed its creator Luis Jiménez when a section fell on him at his studio, Bluecifer is 32 feet tall and weighs 9,000 pounds.

Englewood (neighboring city):
Gothic Theatre

The Gothic Theatre was built in the 1920s as a movie theatre and was later revitalized in 1998 to become the music venue it is today. While the art deco exterior was updated in the '40s, the interior was preserved.

Saint Joseph's Polish Roman Catholic Church
The Globeville neighborhood in North Denver was settled in the 1880s around the Globe Smelting and Refining Company. It was incorporated as a town and then annexed by Denver in 1902. Saint Joseph's Polish Roman Catholic Church is a Gothic Style landmark of the neighborhood and is on the National Historic Register.

Golden Triangle:
Denver Art Museum
This neighborhood is officially called Civic Center, but most Denverites call the area the Golden Triangle. The DAM's current home was completed in 2006 and is made up of angular titanium panels inspired by the Rocky Mountains.

Golden (neighboring city):
Downtown Golden Welcome Arch
The downtown Golden welcome arch was inspired by the Denver welcome arch that stood outside the entrance to Union Station at the time. The arch originally had neon lights and proclaimed "Where the West Remains" but has been renovated several times, and now says "Where the West Lives."