A house is as much alive as the people who had it built.
The house carries the personality from the families that dwell within. They are born out of brick and mortar and live for an underdetermined amount of time, protecting the people who dwell in them from the elements. Unfortunately, sometimes they are torn down in the name of progress.
In 1948, The Denver Post started a 30-part series chronicling the most notable mansions in the Mile High City for a new wave of residents moving to our town following World War II.
Denver Post reporter Edith Eudora Kohl penned the series, but little did she know that roughly less than half of the mansions would survive to 2018. The series was to help new Denverites moving to the dusty town to learn more about the history of a time gone by. Many of the old houses of Denver were razed to make way for the post-World War II boom the city was experiencing, and Kohl’s intention was to highlight the ones that remained for posterity.
The homes were built by the affluent who earned their wealth in the early days of Denver and the Colorado territory. Miners, bankers, railroad tycoons, retailers, and others built opulent mansions to reflect the wealth earned from the gold and silver rushes in the Rocky Mountains.
Of the homes featured in Kohl’s article that were spared from the demolition teams, 15 of the homes still exist. Some are still used as private residences, while others were preserved before the wrecking ball sealed their fate. Boettcher, Bonfils, Evans, Woodbury and Brown are a few of the names that built castles on the edge of the Rockies. This three-part series will feature the homes profiled by Kohl and their fates.
Brown’s Bluff was one of Denver’s first subdivisions that stretched the city limits eastward from Broadway to Logan and 20th Avenue to 12th Avenue. IIt was nicknamed this for the original owner of the land, Henry C. Brown, one of Denver’s first settlers and also the Brown Palace Hotel’s namesake.
This area was considered a suburb of Denver and was home to some of the most expensive mansions for those who struck it rich from mining, banking, railroads and real estate dealings.
Many of the mansions north of Colfax were replaced by commercial buildings, but a number remain symbolizing the wealth that attracted Denver’s first settlers.
William Church House
1000 Corona Street
1890 – 1965
“It was a sign that set all Denver agog that striking white lava and red Manitou sandstone palace set high on Quality hill.”
William Church built his 25-room, $40,000 castle on the corner of 10th and Corona. Comparatively speaking, an 8-room house in Denver was built for $3,500. The Illinois man came to Denver in 1866 at 25 years-old and became involved in mining in Clear Creek, Gilpin and Boulder areas. He went to Arizona in 1880 to invest in copper mining operations and eventually moved back to Denver to invest in real estate.
The castle was constructed out of gray rusticated stone and sported a reception hall that was heavily paneled in hardwood. It also featured a staircase with removable railing which allowed it to double as a stage for musicals held in the mansion. The library had stained-glass windows, hand-tooled leather covering the upper walls carved peeling in Moorish design with Persian-style fireplace.
The house also had a two-manual pipe organ. The pipe ran underneath the stage landing. ‘A room adjacent to the stage featured a large, cut glass window imported from Paris that cast rainbows across the room. The basement had a photograph dark room and bowling alley. The tower held the servants quarters.
After Church died in 1891, his heirs sold the property and by the 1920s it was operated as the Castle Hotel. The name was later changed to the Tutwiler and was made into a rooming house. In the 1930s it was rumored drug smugglers was operating out of the house.
During World War II, it was used a housing for soldiers and returned to rooming house duties after 1945. It changed hands again in the late 1950s and served as a guest house until it was wrecked in 1965. The land now holds two apartments buildings separated by a parking lot.
John Good House
1007 Pennsylvania Street
1890 – 1965
“Many palatial homes were built in Denver during the mining boom but the Good place, known as “The Castle” is one to which the name truly applies.”
The former mansion that was on the corner of 10th and Pennsylvania was originally built for Denver and Rio Grande railroad Chief Engineer John A. McMurtie, who helped build the Royal Gorge rail line segment. The Pennsylvania man came to Denver in 1871 and earned the bulk of his fortune from local real estate and other businesses. He also built the first fireproof building on 16th and Cleveland.
When he died in 1891, his family sold the house to Dr. J.W. Graham who owned the house briefly until it was re-sold to John Good. Good earned his fortune in mining and railroads and in investing in the Tivoli Brewery.
The house was constructed out of red Colorado sandstone and was topped with a red tile roof. The property stretched 60 feet by 100 feet along 10th Avenue. Each room in the house was finished in a different color, including the Rose Room, which had a plaster ceiling comparable to ivory with elaborate designs and rose-themed wallpaper covering the walls. The property also included a garden to the north of the house .
Old timer Denver residents of 1948 would know the Good House as a scene of multiple family tragedies. Four of Good’s children died after moving into the house. John Good died in 1918 and a fifth son, John Edward Good died suddenly in 1931.
Good’s wife lived in the house until until her death in 1936. The home was sold to Forrest Goody in 1941, who converted it into rooming house for college-age men. By the late 1950s upkeep of the house was being too expensive to maintain. The vacant mansion was eventually razed in 1965 and an apartment building now occupies the space today.
11th and Pennsylvania
“Standing close to the street with a broad flight of steps to the main entrance, the four-story structure of smooth red stone towered like a chiseled mountain wall, a notable contrast to the elaborate carving which had been the vogue”
The mansion on the southwest corner of 11th and Pennsylvania was built for Thomas B. Croke, a school teacher turn owner of 3,500-acre farm in what is now the suburb of Northglenn.
In less than six months after Croke moved in, he decided to sell the mansion and move to his ranch. The mansion was then traded to Thomas M. Patterson who was the owner of the Rocky Mountain News and a US senator for Colorado, for additional farm land.
Patterson then owned the mansion in 1893 and it stayed within the family for three decades. In 1930, the mansion was converted into apartments.
The interior had a spacious design with hand-polished oak on either side of the double doors, casings and fireplaces were sawed from the same log in order that the grain might match. The library, parlor and dining room were located on either side of the great hall.
The ballroom was on the ground floor (basement) with the kitchen, laundry and other utility rooms in a wing connected to the main building by an imposing archway.
There was a large playroom on the top floor, near the servant’s quarters.
Over the years, the Croke-Patterson mansion also earned a reputation for alleged paranormal activity with reported hauntings. Croke’s mother passed away in the short time his family lived there, while Patterson and his wife also died within the house.
Efforts were made in the early 1970s to save the mansion from demolition and was eventually listed as a Denver landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The mansion was converted into a bed and breakfast and features refurbished hardwood trim, has original stained-glass windows, vintage telephones and restored chandeliers.
Crawford Hill Mansion
11th and Sherman
“The Crawford Hill home at Sherman Street and East 10th avenue, a gray brick French colonial residence standing behind a high iron fence, was for almost a half century the home of one of America’s most noted families and a center of Denver society.”
Crawford Hill was the son of Nathaniel Peter Hill, newspaper publisher of the Denver Republican newspaper and a wealthy metallurgist who helped cement the mining industry. Nathaniel Hill was later was elected as one of Colorado’s first senators.
Crawford began running the family’s various businesses in 1900 after his father passed away. He married Louise Sneed in 1895, the Southern Belle who would control Denver’s elite social scene for nearly 50 years.
Their house on 11th and Sherman was the center of Denver’s high society activity and hosted numerous parties and received U.S. Presidents and other dignitaries.
The main entrance to the 22-room French Renaissance-style mansion opened into a large reception hall with a large winding white staircase boasting red Vatican velvet carpeting. The hall included ivory walls and 15th century Renaissance furniture. The dining room had a large fireplace in one and was furnished with a glass-topped table, French ivory chairs and console.
The mansion’s south porch overlooking the garden was Mrs. Hill’s seat of social power where she held informal tea and cocktail parties.
At the time of the article was published in 1948, Louise Hill was one of the few residents who was still alive. She was no longer lived in the mansa resident but had an apartment at the Brown Palace. In 1947. Many of the opulent furnishings were auctioned away.
The Crawford Hill Mansion is still standing and functions as a private office building.
“In many ways, the old mansion on Grant Street is an expression of Dennis Sheedy’s big, open life and original ideas.”
Dennis Sheedy was a self-made man who came into Denver penniless, but went on to earn a fortune through creating a wholesale grocery business and buying and selling cattle. He eventually acquire some interest in Colorado National Bank and was elected President and General Manager of a Smelting business in the Globeville area. He also built the McNamara Dry Goods Building, which still exists on the corner of 15th and Larimer.
Construction of his mansion was completed in 1892 and included many sets of wide sliding double doors, which would allow the first floor to be used as a massive space for various social activities.
The beamed ceilings and woodwork were made of solid polished oak and the walls of the reception hall and dining room are tapestried in rich metal cloth of various colors and artistic design. Other rooms used sheep hide for wall covering.
Sheedy passed away at his home from pneumonia on October 16, 1923 at the age of 77. After his death, the Mansion was converted into a fine arts studio, by prominent local philanthropist Helen Bonfils, for 50 years until 1974 when it was converted into an office building.
1885 – 1970
“Thousands of visitor from many parts of the world pass through the high-fenced grounds and up the stone steps into this house as rich in Colorado history as it is in fine arts.”
The 22-room Redstone mansion was built in 1885 to be the family home of the Horace Wilson Bennets, a real estate tycoon. The home was eventually sold to David May, the founder of the May company stores.
When the May department’s headquarters was moved to the Midwest, the home was sold yet again to Delos Chappell, an engineer and industrialist who made his fortune in public utilities. Following Chappell’s death in 1922, he left the house to the Denver Art Association.
The mansion included open stairs winding from the great reception hall to the top of the house. The inlaid white oak floors were bordered with dark brown walnut in mosaic patterns. White marble steps lead to the conservatory or sun porch with its marble fountains and a mirror wall. Small marble brick of rainbow hues line the bathrooms an in one there still remains a huge old-fashioned tub with an elaborate flower-painted border. Another feature of the house included a face of Cecile Bennet as a child sculptured in the outside wall above the first floor windows of the south tower.
As a part of the Chappell’s’ will the mansion became the home of the Denver Art Museum for four decades until it was razed in 1970.
Molly Brown House
“Among Denver’s pioneer empire-builders, none were more spectacular than the J. J. Browns. And the mansion they built at 1340 Pennsylvania Street typifies the color they lent early-day Denver.”
One of the first Denver mansions saved by the wrecking ball was built by J.J. and Margaret “Molly” Brown. James Joseph Brown was a talented “metal man” in Colorado history. He was the chief advisor for Moffat and discovered the Little Johnny gold mine, one of the largest ever discovered.
As the money came in from the claim, J.J. Brown built the mansion on 1340 Pennsylvania. The house was to help his wife, Mrs. Margaret Brown’s attempt into Denver’s high society. The grandiose mansion did not impress the social elite in Denver, so she left Denver to see the world.
Her claim to fame came when the Titanic struck an iceberg “She was crowned as a heroine for her bravery in the sinking of the Titanic, when gun in hand, she took command of a lifeboat, alternately tongue-lashing the crew at the oars and singing hymns to the passengers,” Kohl wrote.
The Queen Anne-style House of Lions was built with quarry-faced pink and gray rhyolite with red sandstone trim featured stone walls lions imported from Italy at the main entrance.
After Molly Brown’s death, the house was used as a bachelors’ rooming house, a home for wayward girls and nearly demolished until Historic Denver Inc. rescued and restored to its former glory.
The interior were restored from its carved woodwork and furnishings from the Brown era. The two-story carriage house was converted to a visitor center and gift shop.
Chester S. Morey Mansion
1555 Sherman Street
“The dignified old place with its square stone walls and shrub-sequestered gardens stands within the shadows of the great gold dome of Colorado’s capitol.”
The house on 1555 Sherman was a place that held several prominent families over its time. It was first built by grocery magnate Chester S. Morey the Italianate style house and was said to have dormers, dentils, semi-circular towers with balconies, belt courses and a stone base.
Soon after his wife’s death in 1900, he sold the home to Simon Guggenheim, whose family became wealthy from mining. He was elected to the U.S. senate in 1906 and served one six-year term. He built the Guggenheim hall at the Colorado School of Mines and helped build the National Jewish hospital. After Simon died in 1941, the house was sold to Bradish Morse. The house was eventually razed in 1953 after the foundation was damaged by construction of a nearby building.
Donald Fletcher Mansion
1575 Grant Street
1888 – 1961
“One of the few early-day Denver millionaires not connected with mining, Fletcher made his fortune in real estate.”
Unlike many of his neighbors, Donald Fletcher made his fortune through real estate during Denver’s first building boom from 1886 to 1890. He purchased and sold land in the second residential subdivision east of Brown’s Bluff between 7th and 8th avenues from Marion to Clarkson streets.
Construction of the 22-room mansion was delayed following the silver crash of 1893 and wasn’t completed until 1900.
The house was finished in English oak, mahogany and cherry wood. The floors throughout were made out of white quarter-sawed oak except the library which was laid with marble. The entire house was double-floored with two inches concrete in between for fire protection.
On the ground floor, beneath the main floor was a bowling alley and a 30-foot-long plunge equipped with heating radiators.
The third floor featured a 450-square foot room designed to serve as a gymnasium, skating rink, theater, ballroom and auditorium. The servant’s quarters and general purpose rooms were also on the third floor.
The mansion also included an underground heating systems, through which steam was funneled from the barns to the house, which could be made into a cooling system.
Water from the artesian well was pumped into tanks on the tower of the stables for household use. The five bathrooms in the house included a huge Turkish bath were finished in Italian marble.
The house was purchased in 1919 by the Knights of Columbus to be used a club and recreation center until it was demolished. What remains of the structure is a great hall that was built to connect to the main residents by the Knights of Columbus.
Charles B. Kountze Mansion
1601 Grant Street
1882 – 1959
“The Kountzes were not gamblers in development as were Dave Moffat and many others; they were as solid as the great thick-walled mansion that Charles had built on the Bluff, their banks weathered wars, panics and commercial disasters”
Charles Bremer Kountze built one of the first mansions on Brown’s Bluff, or better known as Capitol Hill at 1615 Grant Street.
Kountze’s was co-founder and president of the Colorado National Bank, which was started by him and his brother in the 1860s when they moved to Denver. The 40-room Queen Anne-style mansion was built on what was considered the prairie with little to no neighbors and was accessible by “rutted road”
Features included two-foot-thick double walls, comprised of stone and brick to make the mansion fireproof. Kountze also had cinders poured between the wall and plaster to make the residence soundproof.
The mansion was transformed into apartments with few changes made over the years. The reception hall with broad stairs and imported carved woodwork remained unaltered. The same heating plant in the stabled funneled steam to the house when it was in use.
In the mid-1940s the house was purchased by Clarence Daly, president of the Capitol Life Insurance company from the Kountze family. He remodeled the stables to be used as offices for the company. At the time of the Kohl’s article ran, the Kountze mansion was fighting possible demolition, but it was finally demolished in 1959. Now an 11-story commercial building sits in its place.
Richard Pearce Mansion
1881 – 1969
“Among the first of the stately mansions to be built on Brown’s Bluff and one with dramatic history is that of Richard Pearce.”
Richard Pearce was a literal game changer for Colorado’s fledgling mining industry when he brought his expertise in metallurgy to Colorado. Pearce built a smelter at Empire, Colorado. He was the manager of the Argo plant in Denver, which was the first in the U.S. to separate silver ore to matte.
Each of the 20-rooms in the mansion included hand-carved fireplaces. His mansion on 17th and Sherman included a special wing with a nursery and playrooms for his four sons and visiting miners. Unfortunately his home turned into a house of tragedy when each of his four sons, wife died. One of his grandson’s also was killed in World War I.
Richard Pearce eventually locked the doors of his great mansion and sailed for Europe never to return. He passed away in 1927 was considered the king of Colorado mining.
The mansion was converted into the Democratic club where the library was used as its dining room and the drawing room as a reception parlor. Prior to its demolition in the 1960s it was a rooming house. The site is occupied by a high-rise office building.
Platt Rogers Mansion
1500 Washington Street
1884 – 1957
“The most outstanding features as we remember the mansion were its spaciousness and comfort.”
The Platt Rogers house was located on Colfax and Washington, long before it was known as the wicked street in America. The home was on the extreme edge of settled space in the Denver area. Mrs. Dess Rogers described the mansion as so remote that “only friends with horse and carriage came calling.”
Platt Rogers was not as wealthy as others in Capitol Hill, he worked as a lawyer, elected mayor of Denver from 1891-1893 and the first judge to serve in Denver’s criminal court. While Robert Speer is credited with building the park system that’s flourishes to this day, Rogers was the who initiated the idea a decade earlier during his time as mayor.
The simple house of brick with long double French doors and windows was expanded to a 22-room mansion. In the winter, the sunken gardens were turned into an ice rink.
The main entrance, on Washington Street, opened onto a vestibule leading into the parlor. Behind it was the living room with French windows opening onto the terrace on Colfax. The home had 10 bedrooms and six bathrooms. The dining room was capable of seating 30 to 40 guests.
Roger and Dess raised five children in the mansion and all but five were born within its walls. Roger Platt passed away in 1928, his funeral was held in his home with his three sons and two son-laws serving as pallbearers. Dess lived in the house for more than a decade. The home was eventually razed for commercial space.
Next Up: Explore the area known as Quality Hill, a neighborhood south of Quality Hill that is home to the official residence for Colorado’s Governor, razed dwelling of mansions of some of Colorado’s most prominent figures and a house that history forgot.