Lawrence Argent :: Ghost Trolley

"Ghost Trolley"

Public Art Project / City of Aurora, Colorado

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"Ghost Trolley"

Location: City of Aurora, Colorado

Completed: 2007

After much uncovering of the history of the City of Aurora it became evident that there needed a link that could somehow glue the past with the present with the future. The artwork needed to be an entity that could transcend time. It needed to fit within the site constraints of being in a median. It needed to reflect the nature of growth that is evident – from the new Martin Luther King Jr. Library to the housing development opposite and to that, which lies ahead. It should not compete with this architecture but complement the shared environment. The link ended up being the Street Rail Systems. It was here I found the stimulus for the project.

Rail first linked Denver to the rest of the nation in 1870. Within a year, the city began to create its internal rail system. By 1883, the Denver City Railway had laid over fifteen miles of track. Another rival company (The Denver Tramway) consolidated with the original in 1899 as the Denver City Tramway Company. The streetcar system advancing from Denver triggered the first waves of urbanization into Aurora. In 1900, the unified company completed the conversion to an overhead trolley system, laying 156 miles of track. The Colfax and Broadway trolleys were the trunk lines of the entire system. Service on East Colfax extended all the way from 15th Street in downtown Denver to Geneva Street in Aurora.

The streetcar was a major force in urban development. Trolleys allowed urban dwellers to put greater distance between their places of work and their residences. People responded eagerly to he promise of a suburban home that provided a haven from the rougher side of downtown life. Businesses quickly followed the trolleys outward. Commercial development was concentrated at rail interchanges, and business centers, the products of urban transportation, created distinctive identities for the neighborhoods that grew up around them. Colfax became early Aurora's primary road and main street. What had been a narrow dirt road on the section line was fast becoming a major artery. The terminus of the streetcar line was at Geneva St. This line continued to serve East Colfax and main street Aurora until after World War II.

Over the years Colfax's corridors character was defined as a link between the metropolitan area's urban foundations and its suburban expansion. It became part of U.S. 40 and was one of the nations most important transcontinental highways channeling tourists literally through the heart of Denver.

Reinforcing my mission of "Public Art" being the ability to communicate a non-hierarchical art experience that can be interpreted on many levels, the element of whimsy became augmented when I wished to utilize a transformation of a trolley streetcar. I wanted to tweak it, such that, only at one particular line of sight going east and also similarly going west on Colfax, would one notice that this trolley planted in the median strip, would appear full scale and be full width. Fabricated from composite materials resembling frosted weathered glass it is lit from within with banks of LED fixtures and softly glows.

Within this humorous play on perspective and assumption, there lies perhaps an essence that connects the viewer to the past and the light of the future.