It’s Wednesday ya’ll, time for a new post! I don’t really say ya’ll in real life, but I decided to so just there. I could easily delete it but here I am still typing anyway.
So a few things to address before I get into the actual post. Last week, I promised to put up a picture of my bike and I am not one to break promises (unless it’s one to myself about not eating as many cookies in a single sitting, which I always break).
The bike is a 2008 Specialized Langster, the Seattle edition (no big deal) that I bought from the first bike shop I ever worked at, Village Pedaler. I’ve made a bunch of modifications over the years, all except for the slow rider (me) who refuses to change her ways. It came with fenders but they rattled too much for my liking so I took them off a long while back. I now have a sweet clip on fender that is easy-on, easy-off. It’s so easy-off, however, that on this day I forgot to put it back on. Wet butt ensued. As an aside, you can tell I live in Colorado because there is a Subaru in the background of the first picture which I believe is necessary for entry to this state unless you own a pair of Chacos. I don’t know how I got in 3 years ago!
The second point I wanted to address before I get started for this week is that today I’m doing an individual house rather than a public building like I’ve done for my previous two posts. I wanted to mix things up and try something new for this week and get down into the kind of homes that look really amazing but may not be on a National or State Register. Therefore, the above is sort of a warning that this post may not be as detailed or in depth as others, as the information has proven harder to come by this week. Alas, I’m giving it a go anyway.
Today’s building is the Armstrong House, located at 2707 N Humboldt Street in the Whittier neighborhood of Denver. Built in 1890, it sits on the south-east corner of Humboldt Street and 27th Avenue.
2707 N. Humboldt, also known as the Armstrong house for it’s first owner, is not on any national or local registers. It is located in the historic Whittier Neighborhood.
(Unfortunately, a very un-Colorado non-Subaru car made its way into this photo. Not mine, I’m on my bike. I have informed the Colorado Subaru Entry Commission though.)
So if you are one of a handful of people who read my last post, Acme Lofts, I first thank you for your generous support but also now ask you to recall the map I posted that showed how the Acme building was part of a local historic district. 2707 N Humboldt is not. It’s just located in a neighborhood that has historic buildings, and while some of which have been deemed historically significant in some fashion not enough have been to cross the threshold into making it an actual historic district. Technically, a historic district is defined as “a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development.”
As you can see from the photo above, the red pin that locates the house shows that it is not within a district such as the area shown in the pinkish color on the left of the pin. That area is the Curtis Park historic district. Just because 2707 N. Humboldt isn’t within a historically designated boundary does not mean it has no importance. It’s a beautiful home!
With that intro, let’s move on to the architecture.
You say Queen, I say Anne. Queen! Anne!
This house is of the Queen Anne style. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to this house in the first place since it’s one of my favorite architectural styles but please don’t tell Craftsman or Prairie, I like them too.
So because the history is a bit harder with this building, I’m going to go into a bit more detail with the architectural description. First, some of the main identifying features for a Queen Anne are: a steeply pitched roof, generally of an irregular shape that has a predominant front-facing gable, an asymmetrical facade with a partial or full-width porch, stylized spindlework, and high brick chimneys.
Like, woah, that’s a lot of defining features. Let’s break it down. The steeply pitched roof is pretty easy to spot. The points meet after extending fairly high up in the air. The irregular shape is relatively east to spot too, as it’s not easily defined as a square or an L shaped building.
But other features may not be so easy to comprehend, roof shape. Now, while many Queen Anne houses have a front-facing gable, I would classify this one as a hipped roof with lower cross gables. A gable is essentially the triangle portion of the roof. So for instance, below is a picture from Historic Denver‘s entry about the Queen Anne style.
(Photo courtesy of Historic Denver)
Here, I marked the gables in red. These would be considered front-gabled because those triangles face the the same direction as the front door. The other common defining feature for gables is a side-gabled home which would be an instance where those triangles would, as you might guess, face the sides rather than the front. Now, a hipped roof is a little different because its defining characteristics are sloping ends and sides like the picture below.
(Photo courtesy of: McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction)
Now that those definitions are broken down here is a close-up picture of the roof of 2707 N. Humboldt.
Before I get into describing this, I want to first address my drawings in red. No, I don’t know why I’m not a professional artist. No, I didn’t get any assistance drawing those ill-shaped circles and triangles. What can’t I do, am-i-right? Alright, let’s get back to the photo and move from right to left. So the roof circled in red is kind of hard to define but it looks like a hipped style roof to me, and more importantly, you can see compared to the first photo I posted about gables it is not a front gable. The red arrow points to the steeper, main hipped roof. On the far left, the red triangle I drew shows the side gable that is lower than the main hipped roof. As my best friend Virginia McAlester writes in A Field Guide to American Houses, “over half of all Queen Anne house have a steeply hipped roof with one or more lower cross gables.” That would pretty accurately describe 2707 N. Humboldt. McAlester goes on to write, “[a] tower, when present is most commonly placed at one corner of the front facade.” That’s also on our building here!
The other defining features I mentioned earlier that I have yet to discuss are the porch and the chimneys. So the chimneys are pretty easy to spot, you can see in the picture above that the chimneys are both brick, and extend pretty far above that cross gable. That leaves the porch.
While this isn’t a very highly stylized version of a Queen Anne, it still retains important features as you can see the detailing here on the porch spindles (circled in red) and the side of the porch indicated by the red arrow. Many Queen Anne houses that are high style will have much more ornamentation, not only in the spindle and porch work but many other areas as well.
Whew! I hope that was an easy-to-synthesize break down of the features that lend this ol’ gal to consider this ol’ building a Queen Anne. Now on to the history!
2707 N. Humboldt was built by the architect John James Huddart. Huddart was a prominent Denver architect in the late 1800s and early 1900s before his death in 1930. He often did public buildings in Colorado and the inter-mountain West, and was regularly commissioned for courthouses. Some of his designs are famous and/or listed on a national register, with some examples being the Creswell Mansion at 1244 Grant Street building in 1889 and the Logan County Courthouse located in Sterling, CO built between 1908 and 1910.
The fact that 2707 N. Humboldt was constructed in 1890 fits perfect in with the time frame for the popularity of the Queen Anne style. From about the late 1830s on, the world witnessed the rise of the Victorian era. While there are many societal traits that developed during this its architectural traits ran from about 1860 to 1900. The Queen Anne style is one of many within the larger “Victorian Era” styles of homes. During the Victorian era, people sought to show others how refined and elegant they were. Many did this through their homes. The extravagant ornamentation and detailing showed the world how sophisticated those living at that residence were, even to someone even just walking by a Victorian home like a Queen Anne. While some styles were still built, in 1893 the silver market crashed and Americans faced one of the worst recessions many had ever seen, the architectural extravagance popularized in the Victorian era waned.
While this home may situate well into the larger themes of the day, it also has an important role to play within the context of Denver. In 1994, a local group here in Denver produced a report titled “Denver Neighborhood History Project: Whittier Neighborhood.” In this document, they talk about the neighborhood as a whole but in one instance they talk about the namesake for 2707 N. Humboldt. John D. Armstrong. My additional searches in newspaper databases didn’t produce much more information on him, but we do have this report which briefly notes the following: “John D. Armstrong who was listed as a mining broker and later as president of Acme Dry Press Brick and Improvement Company, built an impressive home designed by architect John J. Huddart at 2707 Humboldt.”
What is it today?
Today it’s a beautiful private home to a lucky soul.
See you next week! Thanks for stopping by!
McAlister, Lee and Virginia. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.