Before the Denver REI Flagship store on Platte Street was the outdoors enthusiast’s gear hub we know today, it was the Forney Museum. Private citizens J. Donovan Forney and James Arneill used the cavernous turn-of-the-century structure to house a massive collection of train and street cars, automobiles, and railroad equipment (along with a random assortment of wax figures from the long-defunct Denver Wax Museum!) This photo shows the crumbling brick structure resting along the city waterway in 1975, next to the also-still-standing Harry H. Post paper goods and janitorial supplies factory.
The Forney Museum operated there until 1998, when Forney sold to REI and moved his shiny horde to Brighton Boulevard. But even before it was home to cars or camping gear, the 1901 brick building at the confluence was originally built to house the Denver Tramway Powerhouse, providing electricity for the Mile High’s expansive streetcar network.
After the demise of the street car, the powerhouse building was sold to a truck and tractor dealership in 1956. Less than a decade later, the 1965 flood hit and the South Platte swelled, damaging much of downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. In 1967, the Forney moved in; thirty years later, REI’s purchase of the structure signaled massive changes coming to Platte Street — development which you can see in motion today.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that the Harry H. Post building has not, in fact, been demolished, but was remodeled a few decades ago.
This section was written by City Cast Denver host and old Denver expert Bree Davies.