2,000 boxes of Colorado archives documents to be checked for damage after multiple pipes leak

Provided by the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration
Leaking pipes spilled water into multiple basement levels of the archive storing important state records, as shown in this photo provided on Dec. 27, 2022.

Burst pipes caused water to spread across four floors of the Colorado State Archives in downtown Denver on two days in the last week.

The extent of the damage isn’t yet clear; workers will have to remove about 2,000 boxes of documents and check them for damage, according to Doug Platt, a spokesperson for the state Department of Personnel and Administration.

“We’re still assessing,” Platt said. “Water’s an interesting thing to have to address and restore … What we’re really concerned about is that those things get properly dried, and if they need any kind of restoration, they get restored.”

The damage began on Thursday, Dec. 22, when temperatures fell below zero on the Front Range. Building staff discovered a leak on the building’s main floor. Then, on Saturday the 24th, Colorado State Patrol identified “multiple leaks” in the highest of the basement levels that house the archives.

“Because of the multiple leaks, we simply shut water off to the entire building,” Platt said.

The archives are kept in three basement levels of the Centennial Building at 1313 Sherman Street. There is potential water damage on all three basement levels, as well as the higher public-facing area, Platt said.

Photographs provided by DPA show water pooled on the floor beneath shelves filled with cardboard bankers’ boxes. Some of the boxes appear to be elevated only a few inches from the ground, with water damage evident on the lowest rows.

The archives hold historic government documents as well as certain records from county governments and judicial documents, such as divorce records. Also included are archives from governors’ administrations and more. 

It’s not clear yet how many documents were damaged, or whether any important historical records were affected, Platt said. The state government immediately brought a contractor to the building to contain and clean up damage to the building itself.

Now comes the task of bringing out thousands of boxes of documents from the basement levels. “We have an art restoration service coming in and starting to open up documents and evaluate them,” Platt said.

One of the archives’ most famous holdings, the original Colorado Constitution, was not in the building. It is on loan to History Colorado, according to the state.

The archives remained closed on Tuesday, Platt said. Earlier this year, state lawmakers set aside about $27 million for renovations at the Centennial Building and others in the Capitol Complex. State officials have begun planning for an $86 million renovation of the Centennial Building, to begin in July 2026.