DENVER (KDVR) – A theater that sits between the Congress Park and City Park neighborhoods has been bringing relevant acts to the city for some time.
However, it wasn’t always the happening music magnet it’s become.
That venue, located at 3317 E. Colfax Ave., is the Bluebird Theater. The building was originally designed to be a movie theater and didn’t always have the name it presently carries.
According to the venue’s informative page, the Bluebird Theater was originally named after its founder, John Thompson, who was known across the city as a successful grocer and druggist. Construction on the structure began in 1913 and less than three years later, on Sept. 11, 1915, the Thompson Theater opened its doors to the public, serving as a movie house.
The person responsible for the architectural layout for the theater, which currently can house 550 guests, was Harry W. J. Edbrooke, who also designed 10 other prominent Denver buildings, according to History Colorado. These structures include the Ogden Theater, the First National Bank, Valverde Elementary School, the Denver Gas and Electric Building, and several others.
According to the Colfax Avenue Museum, Thompson also owned and managed the Ogden Theater, which carries a capacity of 1,600, and is a short 30-minute walk west from the front doors of the Bluebird Theater.
Thompson’s role in bringing cinematic experiences to downtown residents along Colfax lasted less than a decade, however, fully came to a close when he sold both of his venues in 1920. The new ownership would rechristen it from the Thompson Theater to the Bluebird Theater in 1922, according to the Colfax Avenue Museum.
Sometime before 1925, ownership of the theater would change hands once again, this time landing in the palm of the owner of the Colfax-based Bide-A-Wee Theater, Harry Huffman. The Colfax Avenue Museum said that Huffman continued running the venue as a movie theater through the 1930s.
The two-tiered theater went through several phases after that but didn’t really find its footing until it was reopened as a music venue in 1994. According to the venue’s informational page, this evolution occurred after Chris Swank and a business partner invested in the Bluebird.
According to concert archives, the first show was held on Nov. 24, 1994 and was headlined by Lisa Loeb. Over the next few years, the Bluebird would draw in acts including:
- Oasis: Feb. 9, 1995
- Wilco: Sept. 7, 1995
- Modest Mouse: May 2, 1997
- Queens of the Stone Age: May 18, 2000
- Good Charlotte: Nov 17, 2001
- Maroon 5: Feb. 8, 2003 (as an opening act)
Uncover Colorado said that in 1997, just a few years after Swank and his partner took over, the theater was put on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. AEG Live took over the theater in 2006 and has been managing it ever since.
So, next time you are out at the Bluebird Theater mid-show and you decide to pull out your phone to watch a video, a move that some may deem a bit of a concert-going faux pas, now you can tell them that you are simply performing an ode of sorts to the people who built the theater over a century ago.