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When cartoonist Karl Christian Krumpholz flew to Denver fifteen years ago to visit his girlfriend, he looked out the window of the plane and was confused by what he was seeing. Where is the city? he asked himself. Why was he in the middle of the plain when Denver was certainly in the Rocky Mountains?

Krumpholz, who had lived in Philadelphia and Boston, had been warned by his girlfriend that Denver was a cowtown. When he told her he wanted to live here anyway, she warned him that he might be unhappy. But he was in love, was looking forward to experiencing something other than East Coast culture, and was quickly fascinated by Mile High City – so he left Boston and headed west. He and his girlfriend eventually got married and he’s here and has been drinking his way through the town’s dives ever since.

“I still don’t consider Denver my hometown,” he said.

But the city regards Krumpholz as its own. Westword has been dealing with local venues and bands since 2015. His illustrations of local establishments hang on banners on East Colfax Avenue. The City of Denver commissioned him to document the stories of people who have become homeless as part of their Denver Smart City urban planning initiative. Bars and restaurants proudly display his cartoons on their walls, and he has regularly recorded his life here in zines and books, and in the series The Lighthouse in the City even documented the restricted life since the beginning of the pandemic.

The late, great Avenue Grill.EXPAND

The late, great Avenue Grill.

Karl Christian Krumpholz

For the past fifteen years, witnessing the boom and bankruptcy of the Denver economy, watching many of the dives and haunted spots he once visited closed their doors: Barracudas, Denver Streets, El Chapultepec, Tooeys Off Colfax and so on.

While grief has spread throughout the city after each closure, Krumpholz has an existentialist attitude towards incessant change. “You look at the ephemeral nature of a city,” he says. “Places come and go.”

Still, this transforming cityscape is the backbone of his latest book Queen City: A Brief History and Illustrated Architecture New and Old of Denver, Colorado, a collection of illustrations of iconic buildings, bars, theaters, and much more from the city’s founding in 1858 through 1858 the current rash of closures.

Depicted in Krumpholz’s signature breeding palette of cyan, gray, black, yellow, and white, the book takes readers through Denver’s filthy and cherished past, and gives a glimpse into some of the colorful characters and spaces that make up the spirit of this place have shaped more than 160 years.

The legendary Brown Palace Hotel.EXPAND

The legendary Brown Palace Hotel.

Karl Christian Krumpholz

City history students will recognize the big names like Titanic survivor and celebrity Margaret Brown. Mattie Silks, brothel owner and “Queen of Denver’s Red Light District”; and Dr. Justina Ford, the first licensed black doctor in town. While quotes from Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg set the mood, the book also features little-known stories about popular dives like the Bar Bar, legendary jazz hubs like the Rossonian and Roxy Theaters, and some of the artist’s personal favorites, including Mutiny Information Cafe and streets of London.

While Krumpholz was working on the book with Denver’s Tinto Press last year, many of the stories and cartoons had already appeared in Westword in the Denver Bootleg series, which ran weekly from 2015 to 2017. During those three years, Krumpholz spoke with staples of the city’s music scene ranging from Mercury Cafe owner Marilyn Megenity to AEG Presents promoter and Fox Theater co-founder Don Strasburg.

The Bluebird Theater.EXPAND

The Bluebird Theater.

Karl Christian Krumpholz

Queen City was first conceived as a thin ribbon based on banners that Krumpholz had drawn to commemorate Denver venues like the Lion’s Lair and the Bluebird Theater for the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District. But when the city was hit by stalemates, he and Tinto Press changed their approach. “I wanted to draw everything that we knew would go away,” explains Krumpholz.

When it became known that he was working on the project, the venue’s owners and clients began contacting him with ideas about spots. Krumpholz ‘criteria for choosing places and stories were that they had to be either iconic or meaningful to him personally, and he focused on buildings with interesting architecture or signage.

The Croke-Patterson Mansion, now the Patterson Inn.EXPAND

The Croke-Patterson Mansion, now the Patterson Inn.

Karl Christian Krumpholz

Compiling and illustrating the book during the pandemic proved to be more difficult than the cartoonist could have imagined at the start of the project. Some places he documented were already closed before the COVID hit. A staggering number of entries have tags such as “Gary Lee’s Motor Club & Grub closed in November 2018”. Other places like Streets Denver (formerly Streets of London) have closed after the book, which will be available in stores on April 10, such as Mutiny, Kilgore Comics and Online – went to the press.

Queen City is a selective story, leaving out West Colfax, Park Hill, and other areas where Krumpholz spent less time hiking and biking. But any Denver resident who tries to understand what this place is about – especially Five Points, Capitol Hill, downtown, and the Northside – will find a treasure trove of trivia and substance.

Mutiny Information Cafe on South Broadway.EXPAND

Mutiny Information Cafe on South Broadway.

Karl Christian Krumpholz

Music critic Jason Heller, who wrote the introduction to the book, notes, “He has lived in this town for many years, but his eye is still curious and fresh. He has not lost his fascination for shapes and lines as well as shapes and legends that make up the constantly changing skyline of the adopted metropolis he loves. ”

Despite all the changes, Krumpholz insists that the city still has depth, even if it often appears to be drowning in an ocean of ugly condos and trendy new shops. And he looks forward to seeing how things change and what new bars, venues and restaurants will become essential for the community as Denver comes out of the pandemic.

“There’s a story here that goes all the way back to the west and the beats, a dirty, dark story in this town. If you look, it’s more obvious than in cities on the east coast, ”he says, pointing to the noir of Colfax Avenue. “It’s being papered, but it’s still there.”

Further information can be found on the website of Karl Christian Krumpholz.

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Kyle Harris stopped making documentaries and started writing when he realized he could tell hundreds of stories in the same amount of time it took to make a movie. Now he’s the arts editor for Westword, writing about music and art.