Like many other businesses across the country, Historic Denver had to improvise with how to successfully and safely operate this summer.
This will be their eighth year of giving walking tours of historic neighborhoods in the Denver area, but this time, you don’t even need to strap on your best walking shoes to enjoy it. Weekly in-person tours are still offered for those wanting to get the full experience, but the company has added two new ways to safely learn more about the history of Denver.
“We just wanted to be as accommodating as possible. It’s a tough moment that we find ourselves in and we just wanted to offer our guests flexibility,” said Alison Salutz, Historic Denver’s director of community programs.
By meeting on a Zoom call, a docent will virtually explain Denver’s History through photos and videos of a walking tour previously constructed. According to Salutz, the interesting part of the virtual tour is that older photos can be pulled up to show what the historic buildings used to look like, as well as the people that lived in them.
This virtual tour can be the safest option for Denverites wanting to participate, but it also is available to out-of-staters or those who might have a hard time walking for 90 minutes in the July heat. From the comfort of your own home, learning about the architecture and experiencing the history of the city is what makes this option so appealing, Salutz said.
Many of the docents are retired, and having an opportunity to continue their volunteer work safely, is an option a lot of companies don’t have. The virtual tours include Larimer Square and diving into Colorado’s suffrage journey for women, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
“We figured out where they were living and are able to talk about their contributions to both Colorado’s suffrage in 1893 as well as the national one in 1920,” Salutz said. “It’s kind of cool to think about Colorado being ahead of the nation.”
Life in a pandemic can become habitual and boring, being outside is one of the only ways to change up the workweek. Historic Denver’s new option of Dial-A-Docent is a way to take a tour with a docent in real-time but safely navigate the streets alone.
By calling a docent, they guide you through the streets with a provided map and explain the stories, architecture and history of the neighborhoods nearby. After doing a test run, docent Dianne Travis said wearing earphones are recommended for single-person tours.
“Walks are one of the ways we can still feel like we’re doing stuff and getting out,” Salutz said. “A lot of times in our lives, we’re passing these buildings but we’re not really getting a moment to think about, who lived there and what was their life like and what was Denver like when this building was built?”
Right now, Dial-A-Docent is available for the Capitol Hill and Lower Downtown neighborhoods. There are plans to launch more tours as the summer progresses Salutz said.
“I think you always have to look for the silver lining in these pandemic disasters. One of the silver linings here is that it can be very personable and customizable to what you want to know about,” Travis said.
Masks are required for the continuation of the offered in-person tours. While most virtual tours and Dial-A-Docent have tickets available to purchase and reserve on Historic Denver’s website, Salutz says she is asking in-person tours to be booked directly with her.
For the safety of all guests and guides, she says it is easier to explain over the phone what is necessary to remain cautious throughout the trip.
For more information on the walking tours and new virtual options, visit their website.