To View Dana Crawford “Saving the Soul of Denver” life story video, produced by Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and aired on Rocky Mountain PBS, February 8, 2018, click here
Dana grew up in Salina, Kansas—a community rooted in tradition. She was the only child in a family that maintained a strong interest in history and family heritage; her grandparents lived in an important and beautiful home on the Ohio River. She graduated from Monticello, a women’s college founded in 1835 by a man who had twelve daughters and who believed that if you educate a woman, you educate a family. Monticello was set on a lovely campus that sparked Dana’s interest in architecture and landscaping. She went on to attend the University of Kansas and the Business Management Program at Harvard-Radcliffe.
Dana moved to Denver in 1954 to enter the public relations field and soon found herself loving the city “for being so liveable. If you grew up in a town like Salina, you’ve experienced heat and bugs. You could never have big patios there and enjoy eating outside. Beyond that, Colorado people are divine and Denver was beginning to feel like home.”
Dana went on to meet and marry a geologist named John W. Crawford III in October of 1955. The couple raised four sons.
As Dana explored Denver’s older downtown neighborhoods, she was reminded of historic buildings she had admired in Massachusetts when she atttended Radcliffe College. She couldn’t help but wonder why the people of Denver were so unconcerned about losing their early landmarks. Denver’s preservation movement began when a group of volunteers formed in 1970 to save the Molly Brown House from demolition. Dana was the founder of the resulting organization and she suggested the name Historic Denver Inc. The group also worked on the area of Auraria Campus which is known as the Ninth Street Historic District.
Historic Denver and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority emerged as bitter antagonists. Larimer Street fell into the middle of this battle. Dana, inspired by a development in St. Louis, formulated a plan for Denver. She studied major cities back East, and after visiting St. Louis, learned what not to do.
Larimer Square in downtown Denver stands as one of her premier accomplishments, a wedding of preservation and development in lower downtown (LoDo). Other projects include Union Station, various restaurants, loft and office complexes, the Ice House, Coors Field, and the renovated Oxford Hotel. Her research on lower downtown properties and on development has thrust her to the forefront as a speaker and consultant to over 50 cities on housing in historic buildings and on mixed-use development. As a civic and business leader for over three decades, she has received many awards and much acclaim. A group of historic preservation organizations established the Dana Crawford Award for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation. Crawford is a founding member of Historic Denver, Inc., as well as Lower Downtown District, Inc. danacrawford.net
Today, Crawford is part of a consortium of Denver movers and shakers turning forsaken Union Station into a transit hub, hotel and cultural gathering place. Here is a recent interview where she discusses the Union Station project.