Building Index – Building 380

Building 380 – The Photo School

125 Rampart Way
Denver, CO 80230
[GPS N39°43’13.24 x W104°53’56.18″]

The Air Corp’s aerial photography department originated at Langley Air Field, Virginia in 1917. In 1921 it was moved to Chanute Air Field located near Rantoul, Illinois. Seeking more room and better weather, the Photography School, along with Chanute’s Armament School, was moved to Denver in February of 1938 with two trains bringing men and equipment to Lowry on the 26th of February 1938. The Army officially activated the Denver Branch of the Air Corps Technical School which would become in the following month known as Lowry Field. Both the Photography and Armament Schools would be quartered in the original Phipps Sanatorium buildings.

The Photography School was the only such school in 1942 and later, the only Army Air Corps photography school in the western United States. The school initially trained photographers for squadron duties, but eventually also staffed three other Army Aerial Photography Training Schools. Building 380 is where thousands of aerial photographers needed to gather intelligence for map-making, especially behind enemy lines to determine troop disbursement and installations, were trained.

In May 1938, a B-18 bomber flew the first high altitude photography training flight out of the Denver field. Attaining an altitude of 25,000 feet, the students took photos of eastern Colorado and Kansas with a $7,500 camera having five lenses. Later, flights would be made in the more refined B-17 bombers. This was the beginning of thousands of teaching flights over Colorado prairies and mountains and surrounding states. It was important to have Colorado’s clear visibility at 25,000 feet altitude because that was the altitude needed to fly above enemy aircraft and be out of range of attack when doing aerial photography in combat zones. In August 1938, an experiment with night aerial photography again proved the wisdom of moving the photography department to Colorado. New courses were born that August when aerial cameras took photographs synchronized to the flare of the explosion of a fifty-pound flashlight powder bomb, exploded in mid-air. Citizens of Denver saw night flashes in their eastern skies and would continue to see them occasionally for many years. At this time and through the early use of the 1942 Photography School Building, this was the army’s only aerial photography training program of its kind.

With the functions and stature of the photography department expanding rapidly, a new permanent building specially designed for headquarters and photography classrooms was necessary.

Construction plans for major new buildings were completed and prioritized in 1938. Runways and housing were top priorities initially. As the threat of war increased, some temporary buildings with projected life spans of about ten years were built. It was clear that aerial photography and the technology of armaments as applied to bombardier training and bombardier maintenance, as well as armorer’s instruction, were going to be critically important if the United States went to war. Shortly afterwards new construction was undertaken whereby two new identical structures were built to contain the original two schools implemented at Lowry. The Photography and Armament School Buildings were under construction and almost completed when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Building 380 became the new home for the Photo School, while Building 379 became the new location for the Armament School.

The cost to build the new Photography School building was $389,669 with equipment.

After Lowry’s closure in 1994, each of these buildings were repurposed to house local community business entities.

1. The new location for the Photo School, post-Sanatorium days, this building was originally assigned a building designation of 380. Having been repurposed, it was assigned a new building designation at street address 125 Rampart. Businesses occupying this building include medical and other corporate entities.
2. The current occupants of 125 Rampart include Colorado Allergy & Asthma Centers, P. C., Apex Dermatology, Levin Orthodontics, Bonnie C. Ferrell, DDS, Kidsense, and Spectrum Retirement C1.
3. Photo School, circa 1940’s.
4. Photo School, 1945. Notice the WWII-era temporary buildings surrounding Building 380, since removed.
5. The first photo school classrooms were located on the 3rd floor of the main Phipps Sanatorium building, 1938 photo.
6. The main Phipps building, converted for use by the Army Air Corp as part of its training facilities, 1937. The Photography School was located on the third floor.