1290 Williams Street
Sat and Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: F.J. Sterner
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Year Built: 1898
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, Denver Landmark
Photo Restrictions: No
The house is a superb example of Georgian architectural style, which is depicted through its symmetry in shape and restraint in exterior ornamentation. The cladding is red common brick set in common bond. It contains an eclectic mixture of Neoclassical and Adamesque influences, including the colonnaded portico, turned wood balustrades, elliptical fanlight and sidelights, carved decorative garland panels, and door lintels with the carved stone urn detailing.
The house contains 8,700 square feet of space in 13 rooms, and boasts four chimneys and seven dormers. The interior is a fine example of late 1800s grandeur. Items of special interest include a cherry wood staircase made by the Pullman Company and a tall, lavishly decorated mirror, originally in the Windsor Hotel. Also impressive is the stained glass window that dominates the landing on the main staircase; “Stained Glass Window in Fall Colors” is attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany.
This home was designed and built for the Daniel W. Tears family. Mr. Tears came from New York City, where he was associate counsel of the New York Central Railroad. He moved to Denver for health reasons and began a private law business. He and Mrs. Tears were popular socialites in Denver, belonging to the exclusive “Sacred 36” Club, which was organized by Louise Sneed Hill. After her husband’s death in 1922, Mrs. Tears lived there until she died in 1937.
The house acquired its second owner after the Tears family departure, when it was purchased by Denver socialite Frederick McFarlane, who renamed the building “Tears-McFarlane House.” His wife, Ida May Kruse, was the daughter of the mayor of Central City and a founder of the Central City Festival. Ida died in 1950, and Frederick remarried the same year to a professional actress, dancer, and choreographer named Lillian Cushing, who taught dance lessons in the basement studio. She lived in the mansion for four years after his death in 1962. After which, Charline Breeden owned the house in 1968, and it was sold to investors in 1972.
English architect, Frederick Junius Sterner (1862-1931), spent twenty or so years in Denver. He worked with Frank Edbrooke, Ernest Varian, and George Williamson at different times, and was the primary designer of this house. His early work is characterized by various medieval-inspired decorative elements, but he later shifted to a neoclassical idiom. This is the finest example of Sterner’s work, and one of his best-preserved houses from the later period.
While the Tears-McFarlane house is historically significant primarily for its architecture, it is also notable for its association with the development and settlement of the Capitol Hill and Cheesman Park communities. The house is an important architectural survivor from the late 1800s and early 1900s, when these neighborhoods were home to Denver’s most elegant addresses. Many structures were lost to demolition and redevelopment in the 1950s and 1960s.
Restoration and Reuse
The house served as an office building until 1977, including offices for U.S. Senator Gary Hart, when it was purchased by the City of Denver for use as the Capitol Hill Community Center. It is now maintained and operated by Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, Inc. (CHUN).
Historic Denver holds a preservation easement on the house, which governs the maintenance, repair, and preservation of this and 61 other landmarks. A preservation easement is a legal agreement by which the property owner voluntarily gives an outside party the right to review the property’s condition and approve or disapprove changes to it, while also receiving certain tax benefits.
Denver the City Beautiful by Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgre; www.chundenver.org; National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.