Preservation Magazine, Spring 2018

The Last Air Traffic Control Tower of Denver's Former Airport Soars Into the Future

The exterior of Stapleton's Punch Bowl Social.

photo by: James Florio for OZ Architecture

The interior of Stapleton's historic air traffic control tower harks back to the "golden age of flight."

The national restaurant and entertainment company Punch Bowl Social has become known for adapting historic structures, and its revitalization and expansion of a building at Denver’s former airport certainly fits the bill.

Stapleton International Airport (formerly called Denver Municipal Airport) served as the city’s primary airport from 1929 until 1995, becoming a source of pride for the Stapleton neighborhood. But after it closed, the city tore down most of its buildings, save for a few hangars and an air traffic control tower built in the 1960s.

The Denver City Council approached Punch Bowl Social about saving the tower in late 2014, and work began in 2016. Workers patched its exposed steel, gave it a fresh coat of paint, and cleaned its precast concrete exterior panels. On the attached building, OZ Architecture had some of the concrete panels removed and incorporated into the expansion’s interior design. After three years of work, Stapleton’s new Punch Bowl opened in November of 2017.

“We did it because it was the right thing to do, and to set an example of what we think are the right ways to behave with some of these historic structures,” says Robert Thompson, Punch Bowl’s founder and CEO.

Nicholas Som is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He enjoys museums of all kinds, Philadelphia sports, and tracking down great restaurants.

The National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has awarded $3 million in grants to 33 places preserving Black history.

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