DAF's CAL Project: A Lifetime Legacy

Cal Cleworth loved Denver architecture. Now a program with his name inspires young people to do the same.

The Cleworth Architectural Legacy Project takes its name from an early champion of the program, Charles W. Cleworth, affectionately known as Cal.

“My dad loved the concept of having kids learn about architecture,” said Monty Cleworth. “He wanted the next generation to understand the importance of the built environment. He wanted people to be good stewards of their architecture if it had good merit.” 

Cal was born in Brooklyn in 1934, the fourth of four children, and grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut. His mother was a pianist and composer; his father owned a publishing company. He attended Babson College and served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1956 to 1958, spending one of those years in Eritrea.

Cal began his professional career in the family publishing company, moved to Boston to work for another, and then moved with his young family to Denver in 1967, where he launched his own company, Industry Media, Inc. He developed a love for architecture that inspired him to become one of Denver’s most notable preservationists.

“We had always been enthusiastic about Frank Lloyd Wright,” said Sheila Cleworth, Cal’s widow. “One time we were driving across country, and we decided to stop and see Falling Water, in Pennsylvania, and it just absolutely blew us away. I think of that as being almost the beginning of Cal’s great love of architecture.”

In the early 1970s, that love inspired Cal to purchase an old house on East 17th Street and Downing in Denver, the Dow Rosenzweig House, which he found in a state of disrepair. He enlisted the help of specialists to restore the house to its original 1882 glory, and got it added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

This experience spurred a decades-long hobby of finding and restoring historic houses in Denver in deep need of love and revitalization. On one lot where a historic house had been torn down, Cal had a new one built to match others on the block. 

“When the inspector came to look at that house,” said Monty, “he thought it was a 1910 house, because my dad had done such a good job making it look original.” 

Cal’s contributions to Colorado architecture were not limited to restoring historic houses and supporting DAF as a board member and vice president. He worked closely with Historic Denver on multiple projects and with them published two books, including one titled Denver Landmarks

Cal was an early investor in the famed Futuro House, served as president of the Futuro Corporation of Colorado, and helped manufacture some of the plastic used to construct the house. 

At different times he served as president of the board of both the Denver Botanic Gardens and the University Club of Denver, too. 

When Cal passed away in July of 2003, his family asked for any memorial donations to be made to Denver Architecture Foundation’s fledgling school program. After further support from Cal’s family, the program was renamed the Cleworth Architectural Legacy Project.

The project has evolved wonderfully since then, and now inspires hundreds of kindergarten through eighth grade students each year, thanks to the north star of Cal’s example and the ongoing and generous support of the Cleworth family.