Well well well, look what the internet dragged in…me again! Sorry suckers, I am back. I’m happy to finally get back at it and write a blog entry. The last fews months have been quite the roller coaster. Shortly after being named February’s “Preservationist We Love” from History Colorado, I had to move back home to Illinois. After that I had the wonderful opportunity thanks to some amazing people to take my first overseas trip to South Korea (and North Korea!) where I had the time of my life — and I ate live some octopus.
Shortly after returning stateside, my family and I were hit with the untimely passing of my beloved grandfather, Vernon Roberts who taught me everything I know about being funny and was a wonderful supporter of this blog. All that while starting a new job.
Now that things have settled down, I’ve been itching to get back into blogging. With that, today’s post is of a Denver building, though it might be the last Colorado focused post for a bit as I’ve already been eyeing some architectural gems here in Illinois. For those who would like a preliminary report on Elgin, Illinois to gear up for future posts, be sure to check out one of my previous posts where I talk about the Elgin Watch Factory. So without further ado….how do I a-do this again? (still got it, Kim)
Today’s building is located at 770 Pennsylvania Street and sits within the E. 7th Ave Local Historic District. I did a post about another house within this same district a few months back! Feel free to check it out here. Better known as the Grant-Humphreys Mansion, this picture was taken facing east. The building is located on the east side of Pearl Street, just west of Governors Park and between 8th Avenue to the north and 7th Avenue to south. It was built in 1902 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in October of 1976.
The Grant-Humphreys Mansion was designed by architects Boal & Harnois. Theodore D. Boal was born into a wealthy family originally hailed from the great state of Iowa. He spent most of his time on the east coast and traveling Europe and within Eastern well-to-do circles, likely playing an influential role in the Colonial and Italian Renaissance elements of the mansion. Boal & Harnois also found success together when they teamed up to design Osgood Castle west of Aspen, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Going through sources, a number of architectural styles have been attributed to this structure including both Colonial and Italian Renaissance, as well as the Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles. Scanning through pictures and a number sources that talk about the mansion, I feel that this is a Beaux Arts building. I left my beloved copy of Virginia McAlister’s A Field Guide to American Houses in my storage unit in Denver where I’m sure it’s cold and lonely. Additionally, I’m left without my trusty guide. That said, if you feel my analysis is misguided, shoot me a message in the comments, I’d love to establish a better knowledge base about this style!
(Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library Digital Collections)
I wanted to make sure I brought this picture in to showcase the dome on the top of the roof. Columns, arches, and domes are three very common elements to many classical/renaissance styles and we can see all three are active characteristics in the GHM (I decided to make this acronym for Grant-Humphreys Mansion). This is still a difficult building to peg down, however, given it’s many features that situate it closely to other styles like the aforementioned Colonial and Italian Renaissance. To make my case, I will outline a few aspects that I believe to be dissonant and thus place GHM into the Beau Arts category rather than these other ones.
First, let us look at Italian Renaissance. Sometimes known as Renaissance Revival, the main features include horizontal breakdowns, quoins, dentils and an enriched cornice. While some of this can be seen in the GHM, there is no enriched cornice nor any quoins. Quoins, don’t forget I wrote about in a previous post and is a decorative edging on exterior corners where two elevations meet. Additionally, the biggest reason I steered away from Italian Renaissance was that the History Colorado mentions in its write-up they note that “[t]his style was most common in Colorado between 1900 and 1930 and is distinguished from the Classical Revival by its lack of monumental porticos and columns.” The columns and portico are the very first things you notice of the GHM, which really took this style definition out of the running.
Next up, Colonial Renaissance, another style commonly pegged to the GHM. History Colorado does a nice write-up of this style as well, listing a number of common attributes. And while columns and a portico rank high in terms of defining features for both Colonial Renaissance and Beaux Arts, there are many differences that cannot be overlooked. For instance, a few common elements for Colonial Renaissance not on the GHM are a broken pediment, dormers (eyebrow dormers or otherwise), shutters as well as general roof type since this style often sees gabled roofs where the GHM has a flat roof. So that’s everything I think the GHM isn’t, so let’s now list out the character defining features for the Beaux Arts style. Some of those are as follows, and all are seen here on the GHM:
- Symmetrical façade
- Flat or low pitched roof
- Masonry exterior
- Prominent columns and cornice
- Balustrades (often along roofline)
Here’s a photo of the balustrades, marked by red, which is an ornamental feature that usually sits along the top edge of the roof line. And pretty snazzy looking I might add. In the blue are dentils, is an ornamental feature that sits just under the cornice.
Yeah that’s a watermark of a paint palette, you aren’t seeing things. Some of us are poor and can’t afford the $4.99 to “Upgrade to Pro” to have no watermark when I save a marked up image. And by some of us, I mean me, I’m poor. But I do upgrade to pro every time I finish one of the paint drawings, am I right??? (because I’m so skilled). In all of the above rambling about my methodology and how I came to choose the Beaux Arts style, I wanted to add one more context-based reason: the architects. Particularly Boal who I mentioned spent much of his life in Europe and hobnobbing with East coast elites. The Beaux Arts style originated in France and became popularized in America for its staunch dismissal of Victorian architectural styles.
The Beaux Arts movement also gained substantial traction across the American landscape through means of the City Beautiful Movement around the turn of the century. As my earlier post about the 7th Avenue Local Historic District details (and that GHM is adjacent to) the idea of planning elaborate parks, tree-filled yards and just the overall planning that came with drafting and then building boulevards lined with elaborate homes.
GHM has housed a number of notable residents throughout the years, beginning with its first owner, James Benton Grant who became wealthy through mining investments. He later became the second Governor of Colorado. He kept busy after his term ended in 1886 by residing as the president of a smelting company, having stake in Denver National Bank and co-founding Colorado Women’s College.
After Grant died in 1911, Albert Humphreys purchased the mansion. The National Register nomination form for GHM writes that “Humphreys was known for his large holdings in the mining fields of Minnesota and the oil regions of Texas and Wyoming.” In July of 1981, a neighborhood association newsletter notes that the Grant-Humphreys Mansion was used as a meeting place by the Colorado Partners of the Americas and invited “any area residents” to stop by and learn about Brazil. Apparently, the Colorado Partners were a “people-to-people organization sponsoring technical, professional and cultural exchange programs between Colorado and the Brazilian state of Minas Gerias.” This organization is still going on today, noting the strong connection between the two states for their respective histories in mining minerals. This stays in line with the larger history of the house James Benton Grant and his aforementioned mining ties.
What is it today?:
It remains a treasured landmark in the Captiol Hill neighborhood hosting frequent historic tours and weddings — as well as a few old ghosts apparently.
If you’re in Denver and curious to learn more about this mansion, History Colorado is doing great work keeping the beauty of mansion alive by hosting events. Learn more here!
Thanks for reading and thanks to all my friends and family who have been so supportive of me getting back into blogging! Special thanks to Barbara Smith for the pictures, inspiration and encouragement for this post, I certainly could not have done it without you!!
Sources: http://www.denvergov.org/cpd/CommunityPlanningandDevelopment/LandmarkPreservation/HistoricLandmarksMap/tabid/442537/Default.aspx http://www.denvergov.org/assessor/TheRealPropertySection/AlternativeSearch/tabid/442284/Default.aspx http://www.historycolorado.org/plan-event/history-mansion http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15330coll4/id/1506/rec/30 http://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/files/OAHP/Guides/Architects_boal.pdf http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/70000160.PDF https://history.denverlibrary.org/east-7th-avenue-historic-district http://www.crt.state.la.us/Assets/OCD/hp/nationalregister/historic_contexts/beauxartsREVISED.pdf (Beaux Arts common features): http://www.historycolorado.org/oahp/beaux-arts#sthash.f8BJ0Row.dpuf https://history.denverlibrary.org/east-7th-avenue-historic-district http://www.denvergov.org/Property/realproperty/assessment/161127190 http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15330coll14/id/454/rec/1 http://www.historycolorado.org/oahp/colonial-revival Frederick Koeper, American Architecture: Volume 2 1860-1976 (Cambridge:MIT Press, 1995), 268.