By Aimee Wismar
The exterior of the Tivoli Brewing Company circa 1938 or 1939. Image courtesy of the Denver Public Library Picture Image courtesy of the Denver Public Library
History of the Tivoli Brewing Company
In 1866 Sigi Moritz, a German immigrant opened the brewing company on Tenth Street between Market and Larimer Streets. He named it Sigi's. Moritz operated the brewery for a little over a decade until he sold it to Max Melsheimer, another German immigrant. Melsheimer renamed the brewery the Milwaukee Brewing Company and made many improvements to the property. Most of what is now the Tivoli Student Union was during Melsheimer's tenure. He constructed the now iconic tower building, the Turnhalle, and the two adjoining buildings on the corner of Tenth and Larimer Streets. In 1900 Melsheimer sold the brewery to John Good, another German immigrant. Good renamed the brewery in honor of the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The Good family operated the brewery until 1969 when, after the disastrous 1965 flood and a series of labor strikes, the brewery closed its doors for good.
The Tivoli and the German Community
With the industrialization emerging in West Denver, many German workers settled in Auraria to be close to work, and the Tivoli became the social center for the neighborhood. The Denver chapter of the Turnverein, a German gymnastics club, called Sigi’s brewery its headquarters during its early years. The Turnverein sponsored debates, scientific lectures, shooting competitions, traditional German feasts, and Oktoberfest. Turnverein leaders were also able to push legislation through the Colorado State Legislature that put physical education in public schools. In 1882 Melsheimer built the Turnhalle Opera house adjacent to the brewery. It served as a place where the Turnverein could hold music concerts, lectures, plays, and debates.
The Tivoli Becomes a Student Union
In 1973 officials placed the Tivoli on the National Register of Historic places. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority bought the building that same year and transferred ownership to the Auraria Higher Education Center(AHEC). But, when renovation costs skyrocketed, AHEC was forced to lease the building to a private development firm which built restaurants and shops in the complex. In 1991, Auraria students voted to buy back the lease on the Tivoli and use it as a student union. In 1994 the Tivoli was reopened. The Tivoli now houses restaurants, the campus bookstore, and study areas. The original Turnhalle is used for large meetings and conferences. In 2005 AHEC completed another renovation that restored the original red brick on the outside which had been hidden for seventy years.