The Denver Eye's Tom Lundin talks mid-century modern and Lakeside's Masonic roots
Tom Lundin is an accidental historian: Through blog and The Denver Eye, his Facebook page, he shares images of the Mile High City's fascinating past. Lundin's collection is a curated mix of images that tell the story of a great city, with everything from hundred-year old photos of Lakeside Amusement Park to snapshots of Colfax legend Sid King flanked by beautiful women to newspaper ads for the first King Soopers, which opened in the '40s.
thedenvereye.com One of architect Richard Crowther's many designs.
Many of the photos, magazine clippings and postcards he shares are from his own collection; some are from his journeys through the archives at the Denver Public Library (which he is meticulous about crediting). Westword recently spoke with Lundin about his keen eye for Colorado-centric imagery, how he goes about sourcing the photographs and paper artifacts he displays, and what he's learned about Lakeside Amusement Park's not-so secret historical link to Freemasonry.
Westword: Where do you get the photos that you share?
thedenvereye.com The Isis Theatre, designed 1913 by Robert Fuller at 1724 Curtis Street, and demolished in 1955.
Tom Lundin: Some are mine -- postcards and printed materials from Denver magazines. Sometimes I get them from the library too, and I will credit them. Sometimes I buy them off of eBay, stuff like that.
You post so many different kinds of images, from historic buildings that are long- gone to advertisements to renderings of mid-century modern structures that still exist today. Why and how do you choose what you post?
It's completely self-driven. My interest has grown over the years. I just started digging up microfiche at the library, originally looking up music history, and it just kept spreading. Then I started looking at nightclubs, then I started looking at restaurants, then I started looking at buildings and it kind of moved on from there.
I even have Alan Gass on there; he's a really fascinating guy. He's like a city-planning hero. He's been involved in so many projects -- he's done some buildings that are probably gone by now, but he's also done some great houses that are still around. He did a tour for Doors Open Denver -- it was a foot tour all over downtown where he covers I.M. Pei and things like that. When he was in New York as a college student, I think, he got to see the model for the Mile High Center and he got to go in there and work on some minor stuff. He was really young at the time.
Being on his good side is a great thing. (Laughs.) He's a busy man. One time, my wife and I got roped into doing a modernism tour for an organization and we went into the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Cherry Creek -- that is an amazing Usonian building. The guy that was our guide showed us around; he was just a nice, congenial old man. It was only after the tour that we found out it was Alan Gass. (Laughs.) That was the first time I met him.
Why did you decide to start the Denver Eye in the first place?
modmidmod.com A Tom Lundin illustration of a Sinclair Super Station, circa 1965.
I started out doing an illustration blog and started drawing modern buildings in 3D; then I started taking photos so I could have source material for the drawings. I started to like photography more because there is considerably less time involved than drawing. Then I moved over to doing the Denver Eye, because I was doing less illustration. I ended up doing a lot on the Denver Eye Facebook, just because it was a little bit faster (to post).
I don't know if you can tell, but there are typos in a lot of my posts (Laughs.) I just try to post and get the hell off of there because I have a job in Boulder that keeps me busy most of the time, so I'm not home all that often. If I am, I'd rather being illustrating or doing photography.
From a photographer's perspective, is there a type of architecture you're attracted to?
Obviously, '40s and '50s -- modern architecture. I like International style and I love Usonian architecture. There are plenty of structures still left in Denver -- maybe not commercial structures so much, but there are still a lot of houses left. My wife (Shannon Stanbro) is a midcentury modern architecture real estate agent; she has taken me in and out of a lot of them. They are amazing and I am just shocked at how many more there are hiding around. Denver is a mid-sized city, so there's a slower rate of destruction, then say, Los Angeles, where the same buildings would have been built over four or five times by now.
Keep reading for more from Tom Lundin.