Six Degrees of Preservation

One of our favorite parts of being Preservation Architects is learning the unique stories behind the buildings we work on. It adds a whole new level of depth to a project that you don’t find in other areas of architecture. Storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have to gain project momentum. We pride ourselves in helping to continue the legacy of great places and protecting their stories. In February, I presented at Colorado Preservation Inc’s Saving Places Conference as part of the APT-RMC Lightening Talk. My topic was “Six Degrees of Preservation” discussing some of the more interesting threads of connectivity I have found over the past several years of preservation work.

I realized I needed to start keeping track of the connections while working on the Dennis Sheedy Mansion at 1115 Grant Street. The mansion and carriage house were built in 1892 by Architects E.T. Carr and William Feth. During my research I found a copy of Dennis Sheedy’s autobiography in the Western History and Genealogy Collection at the Denver Public Library. Dennis had signed and addressed the copy “Presented to A.L. Doud by Dennis Sheedy with Compliments and Best Wishes”. 

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Dennis Sheedy came to Colorado in the 1880s after building his fortune in the mercantile and cattle business. He was asked to be on the board of the Colorado National Bank, later becoming the director and then the vice president. In his role on the board he was asked to evaluate some of their riskier loan holders. Following his report to the board, Sheedy decided to personally save two of them. One was the Holden Smelter which became the Globe Smelter and Refinery and the other was the McNamara Dry Goods which became the Denver Dry Good. Both businesses were highly important to Denver’s history.

In 1927 Helen Bonfils purchased Sheedy’s home and turned it into a fine arts school for the community. Her influence saved the residence from the wave of demolition that swept down what was then known as Millionaire’s Row. In 1974 the mansion was sold and converted into an office building, dividing the grand rooms up into small office suites.

In 2014 the building was purchased by Unbridled Holdings for their offices and I worked on the renovation that reversed much of the 70s alterations. The project infused new life into the mansion, highlighting the history while making it functional for a vibrant modern company. A gym with private showers; quiet rooms; small and large conference space; open-group as well as private offices; a music lounge and a group kitchen are just a few of the modern amenities. The historic fabric is an enhancement, not a limiter. There is intricate and varied woodwork (there are 12 different fireplaces and 9 different species of wood in the building) making each room unique. The historic windows flood the rooms with light. The pocket doors were restored, giving occupants the ability for the rooms to flow together or close them off if needed. A few new complimentary elements were incorporated into the building, including a beautiful new window by Watkins Stained Glass Studio.

In 2017 Unbridled purchased the Historic Bosworth House at 1400 Josephine Street. The house was designed by the firm of Varian and Sterner in 1889. Frederick J. Sterner and Ernest Phillip Varian met while working in the office of Frank E. Edbrooke. The Bosworth house pre-dates Sheedy mansion, but the interior woodwork is strikingly similar. Our renovation of the Bosworth mansion will begin this spring and it has already been dubbed “the mini-mansion”. Our intent is to incorporate the same successes we found on the Sheedy Project, but with a unique twist. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram for progress photos and more info about the renovations.

Another Varian and Sterner building we’re excited to be working on is the Charline Place Condominiums, on the 1400 block of Pennsylvania. Owner Charles Smith built Charline Place in 1890 and the building was originally four grand townhomes. In 1902 Charles hired Architect J.J. Huddart to convert the building into 12 apartments, adding exterior balconies and “popping the top” in the center of the East façade (pop-tops aren’t a modern phenomenon). Freight elevators were also added in the back of the building and the multi-level sleeping porches were enclosed.

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The building was divided twice more into 20+ condominiums and then into 42. The 1920s renovations added one-of-a-kind terrazzo floors, skylights and gave the building a castle-theme. If you find yourself walking by, look for the stucco to tell you where the open porches existed before the 1920s. We talked about Charline Place’s stone in our post Losing Colorado’s Manitou Sandstone. 

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In 2015 I had the distinct pleasure of working on the renovation of 1201 Auraria Parkway. This building was constructed in 1901 by Dennis Sheedy as the Denver Dry Good Warehouse. The architect was Frank E. Edbrooke, who designed the Denver Dry Good building at 16th and California (the original and several additions/expansions).

The placement of 1201 had to do with the train line that ran right behind the building. When we removed some later additions off the south and west facades, we found some of the original shutters that were closed when a train went by to prevent soot from damaging the merchandise. My favorite part of the project is when the large freight shaft was opened up and you could see all the way from the basement to the roof. You will find this image on some of my business cards.

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It tells you so much about how the building was originally put together and I love the connection it gives you to everyone from the people who sawed the timber to the ones who stocked the wagons headed to the Dry and now the modern builders and office workers who brought life back into the space.

In 2016 I completed a Historic Structures Assessment of the Pennborough Condominiums at 12th and Pennsylvania. This building is particularly interesting because I found it was connected to many projects in different ways. In 1892, Colonel David C. Dodge built his home at the southwest corner of 12th and Pennsylvania and a few years later Joseph B. Gilluly purchased the lot to the south and built his home. Colonel Dodge moved to Denver in 1867 as a general agent for the Chicago and North Western Railway. In 1872 he went to work for General William Palmer as a Traffic Manager and then General Manager for the Denver & Rio Grande. Dodge and Palmer are credited with developing and building the entire D&RG system and Dodge personally helped to finance the construction of the Moffat Tunnel.

Joseph Gilluly was the treasurer for the Denver & Rio Grande and during my research I found he was on the board of the Colorado Seminary with A.L. Doud. Doud turned out to be a notable Denver Lawyer who must have known both Gilluly and Sheedy. Although I’ve suspected the two knew each other in more ways than that considering the proximities of their grand houses. It’s no stretch to assume Sheedy, Gilluly, Dodge and Palmer ran in all the same circles. Denver was just more than a cow-town back then!

Pennborough gets even more interesting in the 1920s when Doctor John Henry Tilden purchased the two mansions and hired Harry W.J. Edbrooke to design an addition that spans between the two buildings. Harry moved to Colorado to join his uncle Frank’s practice in 1908. After the 1920s, the building at 12th and Penn became the Tilden Hospital, later changing to a Good Samaritan Convalescence Home before its 1980s conversion into condominiums.

Doctor Tilden moved to Denver in the 1890s. He originally studied medicine under his father in Illinois but then his career path changed when he went to the Eclectic Medicine  Institute in Cincinnati. Tilden became an alternative medicine practitioner, criticizing pharmaceuticals and explaining disease was a result of Toxemia. As I started researching Tilden and becoming enthralled by his theories of curing ailments through fresh air, healthy eating and exercise, I found there was a National Register listing for a Tilden School for Teaching Health up in the Highlands neighborhood. When I started looking at the NR Nomination I realized in the corner of the photo, next to the two school buildings, was the Bosler House. Come to find out, Tilden purchased the Bosler house and hired Harry Edbrooke to build the school. Bosler House_01 Jessica corroborated my story, as she has been working on the Bosler house for the past several years. I interviewed her to get the details about its history. Built in 1875 for Ambrose Bosler, one of the founders of Highland, it is one of the oldest surviving homes in Denver. The home is of some recent note as the previous owner applied for a demo permit, was denied and then attempted to demolish it by neglect. But new Owners took on the great task of restoration. Currently we are working on the stone, window and doors project, which is nearing completion.  The original tower was also recently reconstructed.

Lastly, I will leave you with our CF&I Mine Project in Creede, Colorado. The CF&I operated from 1911 -1950 mining Flourspar supplying the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in Pueblo. The property was first the site of the Wagon Wheel Gap Hot Springs resort that opened in the 1870s and was purchased 1907 by General William Palmer. The Denver & Rio Grande line runs through the canyon downstream.

The site is currently part of the 4UR Ranch, maintaining the hot-springs/resort function for more than 100 years. F+W is in the process of a stabilization project repairing some collapses and deterioration from water rushing down the slope of the mountain and through the building. We hope to help repair and prevent further losses to save this gem for future generations. Here’s visual of how all of these projects connect. We hope there will be more tidbits like this to share with you as our work through the State continues.

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By Natalie Lord

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