400 E. 8th Avenue
Sat and Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: Marean & Norton
Architectural Style: Colonial/Georgian Revival
Year Built: 1908
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, Denver Landmark
Photo Restrictions: No
A wrought iron fence with cannonball finials on brick entry posts guards this formal Georgian Revival dwelling. Deep red brick walls are almost lost amidst the rich white wooden frosting that rests under the hip roof, complete with prominent gabled dormers. The pedimented dentiled cornice provides a strong shadow line. The stately entry has grouped columns supporting a porch that becomes a baustraded second-story balcony.
Massive, two-story fluted Ionic columns guard the west side portico. A widow's walk and elegant arched windows complement the design. Unique features were added through the years: a fountain-centered rose garden, a lily pool with pergola, and a solarium.
Inside, the grand entry hall commands a visitor’s attention. The broad, columned corridor features ornate 18th century French chandeliers along the 100-foot stretch from the foyer to the bay window, which boasts a view of Pikes Peak. The ground floor public rooms open off of the central hallway. The semicircular Palm Room conservatory has a marble floor and stone columns that match those on the portico. The Palm Room wings are complemented by handcrafted leaded glass windows that overlook the south lawn, and they bear the Boettcher family initials.
The Library was remodeled in 1927, when Boettcher family added uncommon architectural detailing. The Drawing Room features a Waterford cut crystal chandelier that hung in the White House ballroom in 1876, when President Grant presided over America's centennial celebration and Colorado's admission to the Union. The second and third floors are the private quarters of the first family.
Walter Scott Cheesman rode an ox cart from Chicago to Denver in 1861, where he joined his brother in the drug store business. He became an enthusiastic and effective booster of his new city, helping bring railroad service to Denver, developing the town's fledgling real estate industry, and rising to local and regional prominence. After the tragic loss of his wife and two-year-old son, he remained single for many years.
At the age of 47 he remarried to Alice Foster Sanger. Two years later their daughter, Gladys, was born. While still a teenager, Gladys helped her father design a new house for the family. But in 1907, just as he was planning to begin construction of the landmark mansion atop Denver's Logan Hill, Mr. Cheesman died. Gladys and her mother proceeded with the plans, and the result was a graceful, soaring home of three stories that soon became the envy of Denver high society.
Shortly after the home was completed in 1908, Gladys married her childhood sweetheart, John Evans, grandson of the second territorial governor of Colorado. They shared the house with Mrs. Cheesman for several years until they built a house of their own.
Mrs. Cheesman died in 1923 and the house was sold to Claude K. Boettcher. Mr. Boettcher presented the deed to his wife Edna as a Valentine's Day present in 1924. The Cheesman-Evans era had focused on expanding the mansion and its grounds, while he Boettcher family toured the world acquiring furnishings and objects d'art, many of which remain part of the modern mansion collection.
Claude was 48 years old when he bought the mansion. He stood shoulder to shoulder with his father, Charles, in commanding the Boettcher empire. Their business interests included sugar beet factories, cement plants, livestock, hotels, potash, steel, securities, utilities, and transportation. Claude Boettcher died in 1957 and we followed by his wife, Edna, the following year.
Gift and Restoration
Edna Boettcher left the house to the Boettcher Foundation, requesting that this beautiful mansion be offered to the State of Colorado to be used as the governor’s residence. The state was hesitant about accepting the gift due to concerns about anticipated costs for needed maintenance, and demolition seemed a real possibility. Agreement was reached: at the end of 1959, Governor Stephen McNichols accepted the property for the state with the Boettcher Foundation agreeing to provide a grant of $45,000 to cover maintenance over the next three years.
Several repair and restoration projects began in 1964. In 1999, $500,000 was spent updating the private portions of the house through public-private funding. An additional significant renovation took place in 2006. Work continues as funding is available through a private foundation established for this purpose.
Willis Adams Marean (1853-1939) came to Denver in 1880 and was immediately employed by Frank E. Edbrooke and Co. Marean left the Edbrooke firm in 1895 and formed a partnership with Albert J. Norton. Construction was slow and they did not become very active until after 1900. They designed the Chamber of Commerce Building at 1726 Champa, the YMCA at 16th and Lincoln, the Greek Theatre at Civic Center, Cheesman Park Pavilion, as well as a variety of residences including Mayor Robert Speer’s house at 300 Humboldt.
Albert Julius Norton (1867-1944) came to Denver in 1890. After a year with Varian and Sterner, he joined F. E. Edbrooke as a draftsman. In 1895 Norton and co-worker Willis A. Marean formed a partnership that would last until Marean’s death in 1939. Norton traveled extensively in Europe, studying art and architecture. He and his wife were active in Denver fine art circles.
Buildings of Colorado by Thomas Noel, Society of Architectural Historians, 1997; The Ghosts of Denver: Capitol Hill by Phil Goodstein, New Social Publications, Denver, 1996; Historic Denver Landmarks: by Michelle Pearson, Historic Denver, Inc. 2007; Guide to Denver Architecture by Mary Voelz Chandler, Denver Architectural Foundation, 2013; Denver: The City Beautiful by Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgren, Historic Denver, Inc., 1987; Denver Landmarks and Historic Districts by Thomas J. Noel, University Press of Colorado, 1996; Governor’s Residence website; Coloradoencyclopedia.org.