Kevin Pharris remembers and laments the loss of the Denver streetcar

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Long before RTD's light rail system, Denver had another effective and extensive mode of public transit: the streetcar. With rails running all over the city, the system was a large part of everyday life until it was removed in 1950 due to the popularity of the car and changing trends in transportation. While giving bus tours to senior citizens, Kevin Pharris often heard tales of riding streetcars, which inspired him to compile the experiences into a book that traces the history of Denver's transit system: Riding Denver's Rails: A Mile High Streetcar History. He'll discuss his book Saturday afternoon in a lecture at the Forney Museum of Transportation at 1 p.m. surrounded by the museum's collection of railway relics. In advance of the talk, we spoke with Pharris about the loss of this system and anecdotes of the streetcar's past.

See also: Denver's streetcar routes are retraced by the Rail~Volutionaries

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Happy 40th birthday, Casa Bonita: We love you so much we could puke

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Kate Levy for Westword.
South Park exposed our secret. After an episode aptly titled "Casa Bonita" aired in 2003, the existence of Casa Bonita became known to the world outside of Colorado.

Up until that point, Casa Bonita was mostly a regional gem. If you grew up in Colorado, chances are you celebrated at least one birthday at the 50,000 square-foot Mexican Village/restaurant inside of a Lakewood strip mall. I'm not just talking elementary school birthdays where you dressed up like a Tex-Mex "criminal" and got to pose inside of a jail cell with your bogus loot and fake booze for a sepia-toned "Wanted" poster; I also mean adult birthdays like my own 21st, when I threw up into a planter after one too many Casa Bonita margaritas.

But now it's time to celebrate Casa Bonita's own big birthday, as the glorious pink palace on West Colfax turns forty years old on Thursday, March 27. If a monumental event like four decades of being Colorado's most fascinating eating establishment isn't enough to persuade you to take a trip there, I hope I can convince you with some of my own feelings on one of the best places in Colorado to eat sopapillas while watching a gun fight between a kid in cowboy hat and a guy in a gorilla costume.

See also: How to survive Casa Bonita, the world's weirdest Mexican restaurant

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Scary! Second annual Stanley Film Festival coming to Estes Park in April

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edwardfiederphotography.com
The most notorious haunted hotel in the world, the Stanley Hotel, inspiration for The Shining, will host the second annual Stanley Film Festival, April 24-27. Organized by the Denver Film Society, the festival fits right into the historic hotel, with a theme -- presented by NBC Universal's Chiller TV -- that celebrates the best in independent horror cinema.

See also: Murder by Death at the Stanley Hotel


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Waving the flag for Colorado artists

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Zach Thompson's painting of the Colorado flag.
There's something about the state flag that really brings out the creative side of Coloradans. In fact, it would be easy to assume that the C in the center of that design stands for Creative. And as a very last-second addition to Artopia, Westword's annual celebration of everything from fine art to street art that filled five venues on Broadway this past Saturday night, we set up an impromptu gallery celebrating Colorado flag art and asked readers to drop off their very individual homages to this state symbol -- in a preview of what could become a bigger event on August 1, Colorado Day.

See also: Colorado flag-art show next Colorado Day? A Capitol idea!

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Denver is no longer the Wild West, but you can still chase the gold rush in Victor, Colorado

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A friend of mine recently posted a video on Instagram of downtown Denver with the caption "I'm going to want to remember this Denver." While his ten-second panel of images was more of a humorous jab at things like the grossness of the 16th Street Mall, he also had some shots of the Paramount Theatre and Civic Center Park, older spots whose beauty can be captured whether you're taking photos of them with a nice camera or a crappy phone. As the wave of progress in this city continues to sucker-punch me right in the nostalgic part of my gut, I have an anxious desire to photograph as many of these relics as I can with my own crappy phone.

But this past weekend, I had a chance to see what Denver might have been like if not for all of our progress: I took a trip to Victor, Colorado, a town with a population of under 400. To put it in perspective, a little over a century ago, Victor was the fourth-largest city in the state. That made me wonder: What if Denver had become a casualty of the Gold Rush, too?

See also: Here, transplants, have Denver: It's all yours (except for Hooters)

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History Colorado presents a love letter to Valentine's Day

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Correspondence between Homer Evans and Estelle Siglin.
Today there are myriad ways of expressing affection on Valentine's Day; contemporary options for wooing one's sweetheart range from valenvines to skywriting. On the frontier, though, homesteaders had far fewer options. At "Love for the Ages" at History Colorado on Tuesday, February 11, you can see some of the historic Valentine-themed items in the state's archives.

See also:
The new History Colorado Center is an architectural triumph

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"How Can That Be Historic?" lecture highlights Aurora's mid-century modern architecture

Courtesy of the Aurora History Museum.
Big Top Store at 112 Del Mar Circle, c. 1967.
Though Aurora is a relatively new city in the West, it still has a rich history to share. This Thursday, February 6, at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, architectural historian Adam Thomas will take a look at the city's story through a mid-century modern lens. The lecture is part of Aurora's Historic Sites & Preservation Office's effort to educate the public on current and future preservation projects around the city.

See also: New owner of Mayfair Center to renovate the mid-century modern shopping area

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Climb to Glory: The Legacy of the 10th Mountain Ski Troopers to screen at Vilar Center

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Colorado Ski & Snowboard History Museum
10th Mountain Division soldiers trained in Colorado before fighting in Italy during World War II.
On Thursday, January 9, the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum will present a special screening of Chris Anthony's documentary Climb to Glory: The Legacy of the 10th Mountain Ski Troopers at Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek. Anthony's film featuring interviews with 10th Mountain Division veterans and re-creating some of their most famous adventures was produced in partnership with the museum and Warren Miller Entertainment, and won the Audience Choice Award when it premiered at the Vail Film Festival in March 2013.

See also: Get the Edge on winter fun in Colorado!

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Lake Steam Baths, gnomes on the range, and more drops in the 2014 bucket list

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Bucket lists, by their very nature, are a celebration of the ephemeral -- a wish list of fleeting activities to experience before the mortal coil goes into a death spiral. The following experiences, however, are united by a sense of enduring history, of continuing traditions that will persist past the expiration dates of our own lives.

See also:
Cruising Colfax, Casa Bonita and more drops in the 2014 bucket list

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Victorian Holiday Home Tour invites guests to experience living Denver History

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The fourth annual Victorian Holiday Home Tour kicks off tomorrow, November 30, inviting visitors to get an intimate look at some of central Denver's oldest and grandest homes. A tradition that has fast become a local favorite, last year's event featuring local mansions saw more than 800 people through the doors of the hundred-plus year old homes-turned-businesses.

Put on by the Colfax Business Improvement District, tours run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow, starting with a ticket and map pick-up at the Castle Marne Bed and Breakfast. The walking tour of five Upper Colfax homes will take visitors inside the estates and current owners and operators will share the rich history of each space.

See also: Lighthouse Writers will move into the historic Milheim House -- which has its own tale to tell

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