1572 Race Street
Sat and Sun 10:00AM–4:00PM
Architect: William Lang
Year Built: 1889
Photo Restrictions: No
Castle Marne is one of Denver’s truly great architectural legacies. It contains all-original woodwork, mantels, and stained and leaded glass. The ceilings and friezes are hand painted, restored from original photographs (circa 1890). Castle Marne is furnished in antiques, period pieces. and family heirlooms
The exterior construction is rusticated native lava stone, known as Castle Rock Rhyolite quarried in Castle Rock, Colorado. Composed mainly of quartz, mica, and feldspar, it sparkles and glitters, and the walls are 22 inches thick. The exterior is lavished with elaborate displays of carved stonework. You will notice the eclectic massing and detailing, and the heavily rusticated stonework juxtaposed with the refined, delicate elements of glass and fenestration. The entry foyer woodwork and parlor fireplace mantle are especially noteworthy, and the first floor ceilings and frieze are unique. According to Encyclopedia Britannia, “rustication” is an architectural term for a “type of decorative masonry achieved by cutting back the edges of stones to a plane surface while leaving the central portion of the face either rough or projecting markedly. Rustication provides a rich and bold surface for exterior masonry walls.”
Inside the Castle Marne is more elaborate detail. A great example is the “Green Man,” which can be found on the hand carved fireplace mantle in the Castle’s Victorian Parlor. The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages.
The Peacock Window is a true work of art. Designed for the house in 1889 by Denver artist M. Watkins, the window is a stunning example of the Impressionist Movement in stained glass. The window is six feet in diameter and represents a peacock with his feathers fully extended.
Wilbur S. Raymond commissioned the house to be built, and it was the “model house” for his Wyman Addition real estate development. Raymond and his family lived in the house for less than a year because he lost the house to creditors in 1891. He continued in the investment business in Denver until 1898.
The next owner was Colonel James H. Platt, a veteran of the Civil War and member of President Grant’s cabinet. After selling out his percentage of a business he owned with John D. Rockefeller, the colonel moved to Denver to create the Denver Paper Mills Company. During WWI Platt’s former paper mill served as a government facility that produced mustard gas. Platt and his wife lived in the house from 1891 until his drowning under mysterious circumstances during a fishing trip near Georgetown in 1894.
The next owner was John T. Mason, who bought the home in 1895. He was a world-famous lepidopterist, and one of his fabulous butterfly collections is displayed at the top of the staircase. Mason was one of the founders and the first curator of Denver’s Museum of Natural History. In 1911 Mason’s wife died of tuberculosis. The following year, 59-year-old John T. Mason married 37-year-old Dora Porter. Miss Porter was the daughter of Henry M. Porter with whom Mason had a relationship through the museum venture.
The next owner was Adele Van Cise who took it over in 1918. She and her son, Philip, converted the mansion into apartments. She was the first to call the structure “The Marne,” since her son, Philip is thought to have fought in the Battle of the Marne in WWI. As Denver District Attorney in the early 1920s, Philip mounted a war against gambling, prostitution, and organized crime, and was instrumental in the fight against the Ku Klux Klan.
From 1979-1982 the building served as a processing center for parolees from state penal institutions, and sadly, for several years the castle stood vacant.
Restoration and Renovation
Unoccupied for several years, the house suffered heavy damage from broken water pipes and vandalism. In 1988, Jim and Diane Peiker purchased the derelict structure. One year later, after extensive work, the bed and breakfast inn was born.
William A. Lang (1846-1897) arrived in Denver in 1885 and became one of Colorado’s most prolific architects. During his brief Denver career, which ended with the Panic of 1893, he designed over 250 buildings including at least 150 houses. He partnered with Marshall R. Pugh from 1890 to 1892. Land produced structures in a wide range of prices and styles, and his most well known are the Molly Brown House and Castle Marne, which show his preference for rusticated stone, turrets, arches, and a grandness of scale. It is difficult to associate Lang with a definite style, for he merged many elements from different styles to suit his taste, defying convention.
Wyman Addition Historic District boundaries are East 17th Avenue to East 11th Avenue between York and Race Streets. The Marne is also located in the City Park West Neighborhood. The development of streetcar lines allowed people with wealth to build further from the core city. As those lines extended, many moved to neighborhoods further east. Like many urban neighborhoods, the story of riches-to-rags-to-riches is well represented by Castle Marne.
Buildings of Colorado by Thomas Noel, Society of Architectural Historians, 1997; Denver Landmarks and Historic Districts by Thomas J. Noel, University Press of Colorado, 1996; Denver: The City Beautiful by Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgren, Historic Denver Inc, 1987; Colorado Architects Biographical Sketch, History Colorado website; The Life and Times of Historic Castle Marne