Before being elected as Denver’s 43rd mayor on June 3, 2003, John W. Hickenlooper was a successful entrepreneur who helped revitalize Lower Downtown (LoDo), and also served as a leader on the boards of dozens of local nonprofits and civic organizations.
A Passion for Denver
Mayor Hickenlooper’s passion for Denver began in 1981 when his career as an exploration geologist brought him to Buckhorn Petroleum, where he worked for five years. After a regional collapse of the oil business in the mid-80s, he spent two years developing the Wynkoop Brewing Company, the first brewpub in the state of Colorado.
After renovating the historic J.S. Brown Mercantile Building (constructed in 1899), Hickenlooper opened the 10,000-square-foot Wynkoop restaurant/brewpub in October 1988 with a budget of $500,000.
The Wynkoop has since expanded several times to include many amenities, and is one of the largest brewpubs in the world, spanning over 32,000 square feet.
Continuing Denver’s Revitalization
The Wynkoop Brewing Company acquired Denver landmarks such as the Wazee Supper Club (LoDo), the Pearl Street Grill (Washington Park) and the Cherry Cricket (Cherry Creek), and moved and reopened one of Colorado’s oldest establishments, the Goosetown Tavern, located on East Colfax. In 2002, Wynkoop opened the Red Room—a small tavern one block east of the state capitol on East Colfax Avenue.
In recognition of his efforts toward preservation in downtown Denver and communities across the country, Hickenlooper received a National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Hickenlooper has been active in local community affairs and has served on the boards of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Denver Art Museum, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Civic Ventures, Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado, the Association of Brewers, and the Institute for Brewing Studies.
Additionally, he co-founded CultureHaus, the Denver Art Museum’s 600-member young adult organization. In 1987, he co-founded the Chinook Fund, a pass-through foundation that provides seed grants ($5,000-10,000) to community organizations that emphasize social change.
Education and Family
John attended Wesleyan University where he received a BA in English in 1974 and an MS in geology in 1980. His wife, Helen Thorpe, is a writer whose work has been published in the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, George and Texas Monthly. They live in Lower Downtown with their son Teddy.