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'A very powerful symbol': Civil rights lawyer likely to have Denver home honored as historic landmark

Irving P. Andrews served on legal defense team for Brown v. Board of Education
Prominent civil rights lawyer likely to have Denver home honored as historic landmark
Posted at 9:01 AM, Jul 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-26 11:02:27-04

DENVER — Near the intersection of 23rd Ave. and York is a home full of history that likely will receive a landmark designation.

It belonged to Irving P. Andrews, a prominent civil rights trial lawyer in Denver who had to use his home as a law office.

“Irving Andrews, despite being one of the best trial lawyers in Denver, in Colorado, he couldn't have a law office downtown. That was barred from him through the 1970s. And so, he made his office here on the upper story, and had the family home on the lower levels," Becca Dierschow said.

She's a senior city planner who has been researching the history of the home.

Dierschow said the home, which is located in the City Park West neighborhood, tells the entire story of Denver.

“It was an area where Black families couldn't live, where they were restricted from living," Dierschow said. “In the 1950s and 60s, Black professionals started moving both into the City Park West neighborhood and into the Skyline neighborhood. And they called this area Struggle Hill, because they were reflecting that it was a struggle to be able to even live in these neighborhoods.”

Dierschow said Andrews was an acclaimed trial lawyer who marched for racial equality, served as the president of the NAACP for both Colorado and Wyoming, and worked with the legal team that brought Brown v. Board of Education to the Supreme Court. The landmark decision ruled racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

“I am the daughter of Irving Andrews, which may surprise some because he was born in 1925," said Dr. Liz Andrews from her Atlanta home. “He saw education as the way to freedom, frankly. Because in his lifetime, when he was born in Denver in 1925, there were not many options for a young, gifted, black child. So he turned to the library and books to hopefully make a better life for himself.”

His daughter said her father did not speak much about what life was like in Denver before she was born.

"I think it was a pretty painful thing to remember," Andrews said. “I think that, honestly, at the end of his life, he was feeling a little disappointed by the fact that so many of his generation had worked so hard toward justice and equity. And we were seeing it in some ways, but systemically, I think many of the things [he fought against] continued, I think that was very painful for him.”

The Andrews family still owns the home, and they brought the designation application before the city. Dierschow said it was part of Historic Denver's 50 Actions for 50 Places initiative, which aimed to identify sites that had previously gone unrecognized.

“It's a very powerful symbol, I think, for our family and hopefully, for the general public," Andrews said. “Sometimes, we can think of history as full of these single, charismatic leaders. When in actuality, the civil rights movement, for instance, was a movement because of people who were lawyers, people who were pastors, people who went to church, just regular people. It's much more empowering to make sure that we honor all of the heroes of our communities, especially at a time when histories are being erased actively."

In the presentation for the proposal, planners note 87% of all historic designations in Denver are focused on the history of white men.

“We recognize that in Denver, most of our landmarks are looking at a very small segment of society. And it's been our goal over the last five or more years to make sure that we're telling the story of all Denverites in our historic designations," Dierschow said.

On Tuesday, the proposal passed out of Denver City Council's Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The next step is a public hearing on August 28 where councilors will vote. Those behind the plan believe Denver City Council will be in support of this designation.

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