From A to Z: Alphabet Tiles Have Special Meaning to Graland
Graland was honored to have former trustee, former parent, and Graland grandparent Barry Hirschfeld on campus recently to share the story of his family’s special artistic and architectural gift to Graland. Keep reading for the history of the Georgia Nelson Building’s alphabet tiles.
If the walls outside the Georgia Nelson Building entrance could talk, they’d tell the fascinating story of the unique terracotta alphabet tiles installed there whose history is connected to Denver and a certain Graland family, the Hirschfelds.
The story begins in 1907 when Mr. A.B. Hirschfeld of Ohio, age 19, opened his Denver printing operation using a $39 hand-cranked press. His first customers bought business cards as they traveled by train through Union Station. With hard work and dedication, A.B. grew the business and his reputation in the community; he was a successful businessman and philanthropist who later served 14 years in the Colorado State Legislature and six years as a Colorado State Senator.
For many years A.B. ran his printing business from the circa 1949 A.B. Hirschfeld Press building at 655 Speer Boulevard where terracotta alphabet tiles framed the art deco entrance. Each tile, showcasing letters created in a font that A.B. designed himself, was a work of art. Eventually the business outgrew the Speer location and the company sold the building. When he learned the structure would be demolished, A.B.’s grandson and company CEO, Mr. Barry Hirschfeld, asked permission to extract the alphabet tiles that were so meaningful to his family.
Barry and his wife Arlene have strong connections to Graland going back to the days when their sons, Barry ’86 and Hayden ’91, attended the school right up to today, now that they have two grandchildren who are students -- Emery (Grade 5) and Ivy (Grade 3). After storing the tiles in their garage for 15 years, the Hirschfelds knew Graland was the right home for the alphabet. They donated the tiles during the construction of the Georgia Nelson Building and the alphabet was installed as the finishing touch in 1995. Sealed for posterity and the enjoyment of children, this heartfelt gift speaks to the Hirschfeld family’s lasting impact on Graland.
As we watch students pass through the Georgia Nelson Building each day, we are reminded of Barry and Arlene’s generosity and grateful for their continued support of Graland.
With thanks to Kristin Eklund ‘88 Weber for her help with this article.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.