If you study the early history of Denver, you will run across one name time and again: the name of George W. Kassler.
Born in Montgomery County, New York, Mr. Kassler started working at grocery store at age 11 eleven while attending school. Later, while clerking in the post office of nearby Cooperstown, he resolved to move west, and specifically to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was soon employed by the banking house of Leroy Tuttle and A. U. Wyman, both of whom later served successfully in the office of Treasurer of the United States.
By all reports, Mr. Kassler took swimmingly to banking as a profession. While in Omaha, he met another native of New York State, David H. Moffat, later General Moffat, who would become Mr. Kassler’s business partner.
Kassler moved to Denver in April 1860 where he was soon employed by the bank of Turner & Hobbs, and again made a name for himself. In 1861, he was elected as clerk (or assistant) to Major J.S. Filmore, then Paymaster for the United States of America. For a time, Mr. Kassler followed Major Filmore south into New Mexico where he became actively engaged in paying the troops keeping the peace within that territory.
For these qualifications and many others, Mr. Kassler was appointed cashier of the US mint in Denver in 1862. Two years later, he resigned to pursue a prominent and lucrative career in merchandising and insurance, which he reportedly did until 1875. During this interval, he also served as president of the Denver Board of Underwriters.
In partnership with Mr. Moffat, Mr. Kassler joined First National Bank in 1874. He served as assistant cashier for that company, and soon afterwards succeeded to the position of cashier before rising to the office of Vice President.
The following quote, published in 1880 by a local journalist, summarizes the public perception of George Kassler’s impact on the Denver business community, as well as his reputation:
“Almost the entire responsibility and control of [First National Bank] has devolved on Mr. Kassler, and how well he has discharged the duties of [his] position is evident to all having business relations with the bank. It is safe to say that no man occupies a higher position in the public estimation as a financier, a businessman, a citizen, and a gentleman that Mr. Kassler.”
Indeed, only kind and commendable words can be found about George W. Kassler throughout the early annals of Denver. Those who knew him through business, social, and church relationships considered him the very model of an upright businessman.
Mr. Kassler kept his well-appointed home on Lincoln Avenue. His wife was the former Maria T. Stebbins of Clinton, New York, herself considered a fine example of those pioneering women whose self-sacrifice, wisdom, and devotion ushed their husbands toward inevitable success in taming and civilizing the Old West.
LIFE IS A CIRCUS:
FREDERICK GILMER BONFILS
One of the most colorful figures of the Old West, Frederick Gilmer Bonfils was born in Troy, Missouri. At age 18, he entered the United States Military Academy from which he resigned three years later to pursue a career in land speculation.
Bonfils reaped immense profits during the Western boom years. His investments in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas did particularly well and enabled his move to Denver in 1895 where he purchased one of the city’s newspaper (then called the “Evening Post”) with partner Harry Heye Tammen.
In many ways, Tammen and Bonfils were a perfect match. Harry Tammen was something of a local character who tended bar at the Windsor Hotel, worked in a local curio shop, and also edited another local newspaper, the Great-Divide Weekly.
The two renamed their paper the “Denver Post” and christened it to “the service of the people.” Above the door to the paper’s headquarters, they had the following quote inscribed:
“O Justice, when expelled from other habitations, make this this dwelling place.”
The Post soon set off on a lively round of crusading exposés that spotlighted local crime and corruption. Soon, however, the paper became known far and wide for its theatrical, even racy style of reporting — what most people, then as today, called “yellow journalism.”
Indeed, by the turn of the century, the Denver Post was considered one of the most sensational newspapers in the United States. But people were reading it. Revenues soared. Bonfils and Tammen became rich.
When asked, Bonfils and Tammen justified their style of sensationalistic journalism (as well as crediting their success as newspapermen) with the following quote:
“A dogfight on a Denver street is more important than a war in Europe.”
Their penchant for printing disparagements tended to land Bonfils and Tammen in trouble. In December 1899, while in their offices, both men were shot multiple times with a pistol wielded by Mr. W.W. Anderson, an attorney who represented Alfred Packer, a local prospector accused of practicing cannibalism.
The Post had run an article claiming that Anderson had taken Packer’s entire life savings for his retainer. W.W. Anderson was tried three times but never convicted of any crime while both Bonfils and Tammen were eventually convicted of tampering with the jury at their trial.
A similar incident took place in 1900 when another attorney reacted poorly and attacked both Bonfils and Tammen with a horsewhip. Both publishers were hospitalized, but recovered.
In 1902, the partners decided to start a new venture, the “Floto Dog and Pony Show,” which enjoyed the full financial backing of the Denver Post. Eventually, the circus was renamed to “The Sells-Floto Circus” to capitalize on another, pre-established show, The Sells Brothers Circus, which was then owned by Ringling Brothers.
Ringling sued Bonfils and Tammen in 1909 to keep them from using the Sells Brothers name. But Bonfils and Tammen got off with a court order demanding that they merely refrain from using images of the original Sells Brothers Circus in their advertisements for the Sells-Floto Circus.
The show went bankrupt in 1913, but soon found a new life by spotlighting Buffalo Bill Cody and renaming itself the “Sells Floto and Buffalo Bill Circus.”
In 1909, Bonfils and Tammen bought the Kansas City Post, which they sold in 1922.
Also in the early 1920s, Bonfils was accused of accepting $250,000 in “hush-money” as part of the Teapot Dome scandal. Before the Watergate scandal that marred the presidency of Richard Nixon, Teapot Dome was considered the greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics. Private citizens and government officials as high up as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior were accused of handing over Navy petroleum reserves in Wyoming and California to private oil companies at low rates and without the required process of competitive bidding.
Bonfils died of encephalitis at his home in Denver in 1933. He is interred here at Fairmount in a mausoleum bearing his name, and which also houses the remains of his wife, Belle Barton Bonfils, who also passed away that year.
At the time if his death, Frederick Gilmer Bonfils was pursuing a libel lawsuit against the Denver Post’s competitor, the Rocky Mountain News. By all accounts, the suit was dropped soon after Bonfils’ passing.
Arriving in Leadville during the gold rush of the 1870s, Peter McCourt became manager of the iconic Tabor Opera House, which still stands on Leadville’s Harrison Avenue. His posting to this position likely had much to do with his family ties. His younger sister was the actress known far and wide as Baby Doe. Baby Doe married Horace A. W. Tabor, one of the area’s wealthiest mining magnates who built the opera house as an ancillary business.
Legend holds that Mr. Tabor and members of his inner circle quickly recognized Peter McCourt’s savvy as a businessman. By all accounts, McCourt was honest, reliable, and loyal to those he cared about.
For these reasons, Tabor promoted McCourt to the position of assistant manager of the Tabor Grand Opera House, another venue he owned in Denver. As thanks for his taking on this role, Horace Tabor built the famous McCourt Mansion, which still stands on what is now East 8th Avenue.
As proof of his enterprising nature, while managing the Tabor Grand, McCourt formed a circuit of Colorado theatres and opera houses which he booked with traveling venues and dramatic companies. As railroad lines opened new provinces from eastern Utah and across the Rocky Mountains, McCourt added these regions to his budding empire. Towns in southern Wyoming followed. Known first as the Colorado or Tabor Circuit, McCourt’s tour eventually became called the Silver Circuit, the name by which history books still remember it today.
The Silver Circuit grew year after year. While always subject to change, its venues generally came to include Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Trinidad, Salida, Leadville, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, and Grand Junction. Locations that came and went from the docket included Boulder, Fort Collins, Canon City, Montrose, Ouray, Telluride, and Idaho Springs. The Silver Circuit played a major role in bringing culture to the Old West, especially in smaller towns where exposure to the outside world was limited at best.
The Silver Circuit turned out to be its own kind of motherlode. Profits rolled in for the owners and managers of the theatres, opera houses, railroads, hotels, and service industries that all played a part in bringing these highly select entertainments to a new clientele. In short order, Peter McCourt became a wealthy man. His contracts with theatres included percentages reaped off gross and net receipts.
McCourt traveled often to New York City where he struck up lucrative sourcing agreements with the town’s leading theatrical bigwigs. He booked traveling companies directly out of New York and was able to consistently grow his circuit despite the shifting landscape of closing theatres and acts going bankrupt.
By the early twentieth century, theatre acts were waning with the technological innovation of motion pictures. Here again, McCourt displayed admirable business sense. Rather than fight the tide of change, he profited from it by bringing the first movie to Denver in 1897. Several years later, he was also the first theatre manager to offer “talkies” to Denver residents. The Silver Circuit only folded in 1944, fourteen years after McCourt’s death.
Peter McCourt married twice but neither union produced children. The Denver Post eulogized his death as follows:
“Mr. McCourt’s life, more than that of any other man, was written into the theatrical history of Denver… His name was recognized all over the theatrical world as that of a man it was good to know and with whom to engage in business.”
Sometimes a person’s life comes to stand for certain values. Such is the case with Henry M. Teller, an easterner who, after moving to these parts, went on to serve as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Chester Arthur, and later as one of the first U.S. Senators from Colorado.
Teller was born to a large Methodist family in a town called Granger in New York state. He worked as a teacher to finance his studies in law and eventually passed the bar exam in the city of Binghamton in 1858. He set up offices in Morrison, Illinois about five miles from the Mississippi River and neighboring Iowa state. For the next three years, he practiced law. His political activities played a major role in establishing the Republican Party of Illinois. But the lure of the west soon took hold of Henry Teller’s dreams.
The “Pike’s Peak” gold rush was then in full swing, and Teller imagined that lawyers might make a good living by offering their services to miners. He moved to Central City and opened new offices there in April, 1861. Soon after that, Teller married his hometown sweetheart, Harriet M. Bruce, who traveled west to join him. The Tellers eventually had two sons and a daughter, all of whom were born in Central City.
By all accounts, Teller was a temperate man and a prominent Mason in the local chapter who — unlike other noteworthies of his day — drank little, didn’t gamble, and declined to visit brothels. His natural capacity to lead prompted Governor John Evans to appoint him Major General of Colorado’s territorial militia. Teller held this position from 1863 to 1865, during which he helped settle disputes with the Arapaho and Cheyenne peoples, who had recently been forced off their ancestral lands in the eastern plains.
Teller’s common sense, his versatility as a lawyer, his straightforwardness, and earnest nature were said to commend him in every way to the many struggling pioneers that peopled our state in those days. His legal work in the mining sector put him into contact with some of the territory’s leading financiers and mine owners.
In 1865, Teller helped organize the Colorado Central Railroad. This line connected the various gold mining camps along Clear Creek — including Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Central City, and Black Hawk — with the larger communities of Golden and Denver. Teller also wrote the original charter for the Colorado Central, and served as the railroad’s president for five years.
In 1876, he was chosen to serve in the state legislature when Colorado was admitted to the Union. However, after serving only three months, he was elected to represent Colorado in the U.S. Senate, where he eventually served a total of 25 years.
After his first term in the Senate, Teller was tapped by President Chester Arthur to be the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. In this post, Teller once again drew on his expertise with Native American peoples. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was under his jurisdiction and he very much supported the cause to allot Native Americans their own tribal lands.
During his time in the Senate, Teller passionately championed a major 19th century political movement called Free Silver. Teller and his fellow “silverites” believed in something called “bimetallism” — that U.S. coins of the day should be minted in both gold and silver rather than gold alone. This debate splintered the Republican Party of that day. Teller himself led the new Silver Republican Party, which eventually fizzled when bimetallism was voted down and the gold standard persisted. But while many Silver Republicans returned to the mainstream Republican Party, Teller chose to join the Democratic Party for his return to the Senate in 1865.
From 1885 until his retirement from the Senate in 1909, Teller helped the Democratic Party gain more power in Colorado, which had mostly been Republican up until that point.
Toward the turn of the century, Teller gained national recognition by creating the so-called Teller Amendment. This piece of legislation essentially placed a condition on President William McKinley’s declaration of the Spanish – American War. Specifically, the Teller Amendment guaranteed that the United States would not annex Cuba but leave “control of the island to its people.” Put differently, the United States would help Cuba gain independence, then withdraw its troops from the country.
Throughout history, the arts have always enjoyed the special patronage of people who sought to elevate the human condition through poetry, music, and the theater. The arts serve as temples to the highest sentiments mankind can express. But arts require sponsorship: champions passionate enough to make service to the arts their life’s work.
Born Mary Hauck in Philadelphia, 1856, she spent most of her early years in California where her father relocated his thriving livestock and agriculture businesses. At the age of 16, she eloped with a young man named John Elitch, Jr., whom she met through her church. While it’s not clear what caused the couple to bolt from their families, records verify that they opened a restaurant in Durango in 1880. Two years later, they moved to a spot five miles north Denver, where they opened a new restaurant called Elitch’s.
The couple purchased an apple orchard with the intention of growing fresh fruits and vegetables to stock their eatery’s larder. But a new vision soon arose. Mary envisioned the orchard as a place where children and families could visit with exotic animals, walk among peaceful landscapes, and enjoy theatrical entertainments such as marching bands, vaudeville, and light opera. Thus was born Elitch’s Zoological Gardens, Denver’s first zoo.
The Gardens’ first season was so successful that John invested $35,000 to create a theater troupe which set off touring the Pacific Coast. Sadly, John contracted pneumonia while on the road. He died of his ailment in San Francisco on March 10, 1891.
At the age of 34, Mary returned to Denver, bereft. Low on funds, she was forced to sell a majority stake of the Garden’s stock to a group of Denver investors. The capitalists kept her on on to administrate the company, which she apparently did with aplomb; by 1894, she had regained complete control of her creation.
In 1897, Mary created the country’s first summer stock company. Legendary actors who eventually graced the Elitch stage included Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks (both Senior and Junior), Vincent Price, Gloria Swanson, Ginger Rogers, and Lana Turner. The Gardens even premiered Thomas Edison’s Warograph (animated pictures) to the American West, thus preparing the public mind for the coming age of motion pictures.
In 1906, despite the passing of her second husband, Thomas Long, Mary brought the great actress Sarah Bernhardt to Denver to play “Camille” and “LaSorcier.” Mary’s commitment to the arts for one and all was truly uncompromising.
In fact, to say that the Gardens contributed much to the social life of 19th and early 20th century Denver would do Mary’s memory an injustice. The music of brass bands and outdoor symphonies became sounds both commonplace to and synonymous with our lovely Denver summertimes. Large crowds would flock to the Gardens to listen to music, fraternize, laugh, and be moved. Eventually, swing sets, merry-go-rounds, and even a train were added to the Gardens’ grounds to make the atmosphere more family friendly.
For these reasons and so many more, we at Fairmount Cemetery take great pride in stewarding the final resting place of Mary Elitch Long. Because of her efforts, thousands of working Denver residents could mingle with visitors from around the world to enjoy high quality, low cost, family-oriented entertainments.
In a male-dominated age where women enjoyed little political or economic power, Mary Elitch Long distinguished herself as an entrepreneur of great savvy, a maven of uncompromising vision, and a true friend of the people.
One of the patron saints of this ideal was Denver’s own Emily Griffith.
Born in Cincinnati in 1880, Griffith attended college in Nebraska and eventually took her degree from the Denver Normal and Preparatory School where she trained as a teacher. Her first job began in 1898 when she worked at Denver’s Central school. But in 1913, she began teaching eighth grade at the 24th Street School, where many of her students came from impoverished homes.
It was clear that her students faced great academic challenges. But Griffith’s insight probed deeper than that. She noticed that the environments her students grew up in posed the biggest hurdle to their success in life. For instance, most of her students had parents and older siblings who could neither read nor write; they were mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who had dropped out of school to take jobs that would help them feed their families. They put food on the table, but they could never advance in society. Their opportunities were severely limited by their lack of literacy and job training.
Created as a free institution within the Denver public school system, the Opportunity School offered trade education for barbers, bakers, and plumbers. Many of Griffith’s students were immigrants. Having come to the United States from foreign countries, they could not speak English well, and sometimes not at all. The Opportunity School helped them acquire new language skills while also teaching them math and the basics of American government.
In later years, Griffith’s compassion and tireless work for the city’s underprivileged made her a natural choice to hold several state positions. She joined the child welfare board in 1920 and was later named president of the Colorado Education Association in 1922. In 1933, she was appointed to the state board of vocational education where she continued to serve until 1945, eleven years after her official retirement.
Emily Griffith’s values guided her personal as well as her professional life. In 1934, she officially retired from teaching and moved some 35 miles northwest of Denver to a simple cabin in Pinecliffe where she cared for her ailing sister, Florence, until the end of her days. That same year, the community renamed the Opportunity School to the Emily Griffith Opportunity School to honor her as its founder.
To this day, the case has never been solved, though many believe their caretaker was responsible. The death of Emily Griffith and her sister still stands as one Colorado’s unsolved murders.
The Emily Griffith Opportunity School survives today as the Emily Griffith Technical College (EGTC). In the course of its more than a hundred years’ operation, this impressive institution has guided over 1.6 million students toward new careers in various fields.
The college offers programs and classes in the vocational apprenticeships, business disciplines, design trades, and health care careers, as well as continuing education, GED, and English as a Second Language courses. In keeping with the times, EGTC now offers over 500 online classes with multiple start dates as well as programs that run on nights and weekends to fit the profiles of modern, busy students.
Those who happen to drive through the canyon that harbors the North Fork of the South Platte River, pass a place where the old Dome Rock railroad station used to sit. For many years, a large simple polished blue granite monument sat near this site. The name inscribed on the monument was “Westall.”
If you’ve ever seen this obelisk you’ll notice additional words etched on its upper edge: “Charity, Hope, and Protection.” The initials “A.O.U.W.” are also present, as well as the phrase “Tell my wife I died thinking of her.”
If any of this arouses your curiosity, read on. For this monument is devoted to a simple, brave man — William G. Westall of Denver. Or “Willy,” as most people called him.
Willy was an engineer with the South Park and Pacific Railroad. By all accounts, he was popular with his passengers, most of whom were locals and regular travelers on his line.
On August 28, 1898, Willy was driving his locomotive back toward Denver after what was, by all reports, a lovely day in the mountains.
About 450 passengers had boarded the train and sat in the coaches, relaxing after a healthy day’s jaunt in the beauty of late summer. A storm had struck north of them. No one knew that torrential downpours had washed great piles of sand, gravel, and debris from a local stream and spread them across the tracks of the SP&P.
One can only imagine what Willy thought when he noticed the obstacle blocking his way. He was too close to stop, but he did what he could to slow his train so it’s impact would be lessened, giving his passengers a fighting chance at survival.
The locomotive rammed the obstruction and derailed, flipping over. Willy’s fireman, “Buddy” John Nichols, leaped aside just in time and avoided injury. Willy, however, was pinned beneath his engine. His injuries were mortal, but he had succeeded. His passengers, though terrified, were alive. Another train soon arrived to freight them back to their homes in Denver.
Still alive, Willy was taken to nearby Buffalo Creek where he expired later that night. His last words were to Buddy Nichols. “Tell my wife I died thinking of her,” he said.
Just over a year later, on September 4, 1899, members of Willy’s union — the A.O.U.W., or Ancient Order of United Workmen — commemorated the impressive granite obelisk that still stands along the North Fork of the South Platte River to honor the heroism and sacrifice of their fallen colleague.
The unveiling ceremony for Willy’s monument was considered something of a local holiday in which whole towns participated. Nearly all of the officers of the A.O.U.W. grand lodge were said to attend. A train carrying survivors of Willy’s ill-fated run arrived so that all could pay their respects to the man who had saved their lives. A men’s quartet sang inspirational hymns while locomotive engineers from Willy’s division of the SP&P paid tribute to their fallen comrade.
News about Willy’s heroism spread across the state and around the country. In short order, this humble man, William G. Westall, was a genuine American folk hero, a living symbol of duty, commitment, selflessness, and sacrifice.
Years later, people were still telling the tale of brave Willy Westall to school-age children.
Though Willy’s monument has held up surprisingly well over the years, local residents became concerned that repeated flooding in the region washing the ground out from under it. Members of the National Junior Honor Society of West Jefferson Middle School in Conifer eventually made it their project to move the monument to a more stable location. This was accomplished on December 9, 2013.
In its new home, the monument to Willy G. Westall is more visible to passersby and stabilized on a new and durable pediment.
Today, you can see Willy’s monument by taking Highway 285 to Conifer and using the Foxton Road exit. When you reach the W. Platte River Road, turn left and continue several miles along the road, which eventually turns into gravel and what was once the railroad tracks. William G. Westall is buried at Riverside. N1/2 section of lot 58 in block 22.
The monument can be found on the right side next to the river.
Considered a marvel of its day, the Smails mausoleum still ranks as one of the most interesting examples of cemetery architecture in America.
John Dewitt Smails was born in Michigan and served as the agent of the Giant Powder Company of California, a firm that supplied blasting materials and other manufactured goods to mining and railroad ventures in Colorado, Mexico, Montana, Idaho, and Arizona during the boom years of the Old West. Mr. Smails maintained his offices at 1220 18th Street in Denver. At the time of his death, John’s business was reported to be worth more than a quarter of a million dollars.
His wife, Eva Low Smails also hailed from Michigan. By all accounts she was completely devoted to her husband and began plans for the construction of his mausoleum shortly after his death.
As reported by the Denver Post in April 1916, one of Eva’s chief goals was to construct “a tomb that from the standpoint of beauty and magnificence would be regarded for years as an art treasure.”
She devoted two full years of time and study to constructing the Smails mausoleum. The final result was said to have more than satisfied her expectations.
Less than a year after the mausoleum was finished, Eva Low Smails passed away while on a trip to California in 1916 to recuperate from a recent illness.
The Smails mausoleum rests north of Fairmount’s Ivy Chapel near the entrance to the cemetery. Stylistically, it represents a skillful blending of design elements from ancient Egyptian architecture with more modern ones from the art nouveau tradition. Constructed entirely of marble and light gray pure Vermont Barre granite, the mausoleum cost over $50,000 in its day.
It boasts eighteen exterior columns, each of which was hewn from solid blocks of granite whose crowns alone weigh 7,000 pounds. The columns rise nearly the height of the entire structure. Six more columns adorn the interior; they rise from a floor of polished Barre granite beside John and Eva’s sarcophagi, which were constructed to emulate the famous tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France. The lids of each sarcophagi reportedly weigh three tons each.
Preparations to place Eva Smails’ body into her sarcophagus included the removal of that vessel’s massive cover. To accomplish this, workman had to build a framework of steel and wood that allowed them to slide the cover on rollers. Once her body was interred, the cover was replaced and sealed hermetically.
At Fairmount, we pride ourselves on our family-oriented, compassionate treatment and care for your loved one’s remains. We see ourselves less as a business, more as the latest practitioners of an ancient tradition dating back to the very dawn of civilization.
Archeological finds make it clear that human beings have always honored the remains of their dead. For instance, one of the earliest and most widespread means of doing so was to commend the bodies of the deceased to catacombs, underground burial chambers that were often connected by labyrinths. Use of catacombs originated in the Middle Eastern in approximately 4,000 BC. The practice spread westward to Rome as part of the Jewish migration and was adopted by early Christians, which is why many catacombs are found throughout the ancient cities of Europe, notably Paris, Rome, Vienna, and the former Czech Republic.
What might you see when you enter a catacomb? The answer varies depending on the location of the facility, and the era in which it was active.
Many catacombs feature chambers or vaults where remains of the dead were stored in various receptacles ranging from coffins, simple shrouds, sarcophagi, urns, and plain boxes fashioned from wood or stone. The chambers could be simple, unadorned constructions of brick or hewn stone. Others, however, were detailed with frescoes, mosaics, and other ornamentation to resemble cathedrals. Such halls were never embellished for the dead, but for the living since more elaborate catacomb vault were used as the site of religious rituals, visitations, and memorial ceremonies.
Not all the deceased were given special treatment. The bodies of commoners and peasants were often stacked like cordwood in rude shelves called loculi (a Roman word) lining the corridors and rude hallways that led to more elaborate chambers reserved for the wealthy or exalted. The bodies of martyrs, saints, and high officials were often remanded to catacomb vaults. From time to time, these remains were moved in order to protect them, as in, for example, barbarian hoardes invaded Rome in 500 BC.
The catacombs in Rome, Paris, Malta, Palermo, Vienna, and Brno (and several others) have been declared cultural monuments. They are open to visitors, and you can visit them today. Some catacomb complexes are massive. The Roman Catacombs, for instance, represent approximately 375 miles of interlocking tunnels. The Catacombs of Paris, perhaps the most famous catacomb network in the world, isn’t nearly so large, but was still being actively used as late as the early 18th century.
Overall, catacombs presented a good option for our forbears to dispose of their dead in a respectful, even reverential manner. Because catacombs were subterranean, they allowed cities to expand above them. The tunnel-and-chamber mode of design ensured that catacombs were an expansible system to accommodate additional generations of the deceased. Also, the depth of most tunnels in catacomb systems ensured that the remains would not enter and poison water supplies, especially during the periods of consequential, even violent flooding experienced by so many settlements of the ancients world.
Modern technology and social mores have discontinued the practice of interring our dead in catacombs. At Fairmount Cemetery, however, we like to keep a long perspective. Catacombs teach us a very important lesson.
Henry Cordes Brown was born in Ohio in 1820, then moved to Virginia as a teen to learn the craft of carpentry. In 1859, Brown and his family moved to Denver, where he continued in his trade of carpentry, as well as builder and architect. Shortly after, in 1863, he obtained 160 acres of land, including a triangular space he used for cattle, which became the space of the famous Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. In 1868, he donated another part of his land which is now the current location of the State Capital, to Colorado Territory. Today, the dome of the State Capital is honored with an exhibit of Colorado’s early history bearing the name “Mr. Brown’s Attic”.
Stories tell of Brown, who walked into the prestigious Windsor hotel, as one of the richest men in America, but because he wasn’t dressed appropriately (he wore cowboy attire), he was turned away. In revenge, he built the Brown Palace Hotel in 1889, as well as the Tabor Mansion for his personal residence.
The Brown Palace today is still known as a premier hotel in America, and certainly so in Denver. It opened August 12, 1892, in response to fill a need for a place to stay for travelers to and from the mountains seeking gold and silver. He sold off his land in the Capital Hill area to have the funds to create the elaborate and elegant hotel.
Architect Frank E. Edbrooke, also buried at Fairmount, designed the Brown palace, as well as several other Denver buildings. Using an Italian Renaissance style, Edbrooke began work on the hotel in 1888. They incorporated Arizona sandstone and Colorado red granite as well as twenty- six of Colorado’s native animals, carved into stone medallions, in the exterior. Inside, balconies off the atrium lobby shoot up eight floors with beautiful decorative panels.
The project cost capped right around 2 million dollars and allowed guests to stay in one of the 400 rooms for between $3-5 per night. Today, the hotel features 241 guest rooms, a spa, several high end restaurants and gift shops. Since it has opened, it has seen politicians, celebrities and people wanting the elegant experience that only Denver’s oldest luxury hotel can offer.
Henry Cordes Brown was also a member of the Denver Board of Trade who was responsible for bringing the Denver Pacific Railroad to the area, and exists currently as the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. He also established the Denver City Library and the Bank of Denver, both still active to this day. He passed away in March of 1906 and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery, block 3.