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“All the World’s a Stage” – Peter McCourt’s Dramatic Life

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.

 

Silver circuit 2

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.”

Perhaps better than most, we Fairmount Cemetery know that life is a stage, the men and women in it merely players. As such, we celebrate the miraculous achievements and pioneering business sense of another Denver dignitary by proudly hosting the remains and final resting place of Peter McCourt.

Soldier and Statesman — Henry Moore Teller

Henry Moore Teller, 1830-1914

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.

Lawyer for the Colorado Gold Rush

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.

General of Colorado Militia

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.

Railroad Senator

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.

Silver and Gold

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.

Teller Amendment

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.

Upon his retirement from public service, Henry Moore Teller practiced law for five more years before passing away on February 23, 1914. We at Fairmount Cemetery are pleased to steward the remains of this noted, honest public servant.

A New Maven For The Old West: Mary Elitch Long 1856 – 1936

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.

One such angel was Mary Eldritch Long.

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.

Education for All – The Inspiring Life of Emily Griffith

Watch on YouTube: “Colorado Experience: Miss Opportunity: The Life & Times of Emily Griffith

There are some who believe that everyone deserves a fair chance in life, and that everyone can make a good for themselves if given a little help at the right time.

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.

Where most people saw adversity and hopelessness, Emily Griffith saw only potential.

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.

Moved by their plight, Griffith founded her Opportunity School which opened its doors on September 9, 1916.

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.

Interestingly, Emily and her sister were murdered at the cabin.

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.

We at Fairmount Cemetery are proud that the remains of Emily Griffith lie here, and prouder still that her life’s labor continues to make such a vital difference in our community even today.

WILLIAM G. WESTALL

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.

 

Smails Mausoleum

Resting Place of John Dewitt and Eva Low Smalls

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.

Eva’s Art Treasure Tomb

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.

Inspired by Napoleon’s Tomb

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.

Overall, the Smails mausoleum presents a unique and fascinating feast for the eyes. Its design elements are unique even for the architectural styles of its day. Its cornices, for instance, feature very little ornamentation while the carved friezes seem somewhat out of scale compared to the columns, which in turn are out of scale with the steps and the doorway. These elements conspire to make the structure appear comfortable, elegant, and larger than it really is — a difficult achievement overall.

Catacombs: The Precursor to Modern Cemeteries

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.

To be human is to be mortal. To be mortal is to confront death in a way that we can live with. By honoring the remains of your loved one in a compassionate, professional manner, we contribute to your peace of mind, uphold the wishes that will make your family proud, and add another crucial in the chain of human existence that will stretch forth into eternity.

 

 

Buried at Fairmount Cemetery Henry Cordes Brown Creator of the Brown Palace Hotel

Henry Cordes Brown (1820 – 1906)

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”.

Hotel Revenge

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.

 Italian Renaissance Style

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.

Original Room Rate: $3 Per Night

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.

Visit the graves of Henry Brown as well as several other Colorado Pioneers at Fairmount Cemetery. Join one of our many walking tours, or just come by this beautiful, living, historic Colorado landmark. Tour our grounds to learn more about Denver’s history and how Fairmount Cemetery is a part of it. While here, schedule time to talk to one of our staff about pre-arrangements and events.

Doors Open Denver: Explore Our City Inside Out

Fairmount Cemetery is Proud to Celebrate and Support the 12th Annual “Doors Open Denver: Explore Our City Inside Out” presented by the Denver Architectural Foundation.

DOD_header_logo (1)Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th, 2016, the Doors Open Denver event will showcase the richness and history of Denver’s architectural environment. The event will highlight 70 of Denver’s unique spaces in historic Union Station, along with the unveiling of the Regional Transportation District’s (RTD) new rail line to the Denver International Airport.

High profile, historic and artistic feats of architectural and design will be honored in this annual event through neighborhood tours and special events.

Neighborhood Tours

Some of the neighborhoods that will be featured in Doors Open Denver include:

Auraria Campus: Home to the gold rush birthing site of Denver and the Auraria Higher Education Center

Capitol Hill: Early Greek Revival homes through WWII expansive growth neighborhood

Cherry Creek: Shopping, art, salons, restaurants and home of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival

Downtown: Historic and contemporary with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop

Five Points: Denver’s first African-American neighborhood

Golden Triangle: Mayor Speer’s “City Beautiful” movement began here and includes the State Capital

Highlands: West of the Platte River and a hub of urban re-development

Hilltop: Homes from 1930 to present with views of the Front Range

LoDo: Historic harmonization of residential and commercial space in the heart of Denver

Mariposa District: early working class neighborhood revitalized by LightRail transit

Park Hill: City Park area with a variety of housing styles

RiNo: River North blends industrial roots, art, and development

Santa Fe: Antique shops, artist studios and culinary delights

South Broadway/Baker: unique old residences and urban commercial spaces co-mingle

Uptown: A lively neighborhood where small business and residents live, work and play

Special Events

Three new items will make the 2016 Annual Doors Open Denver event even better than the last.

  1. Box City helps hundreds of elementary students, K-5th Grade, learn about building design, including pulling permits, sketching the design and building their concepts out of cardboard. The Webb Building will host this special event on Saturday, April 23rd. See the official website for more information.
  2. A Bonfils Stanton Foundation grant is allowing about 12 sites to offer art and cultural activities during the Doors Open Denver venues. Connecting the public with art organizations and programs will dramatically enhance the experience and awareness of these programs.
  3. The much anticipated opening of the LightRail line to Denver International Airport will be a part of the Doors Open Denver activities. This alone is expected to bring significant traffic to the event, headquartered in the iconic, beautifully restored Union Station.

For more information about the event, check their website at www.doorsopendenver.com or www.Facebook.com/doorsopendenver.

To learn more about historical Fairmount Cemetery and their role in the building and development of Denver since 1890, visit them online at www.Fairmount-Cemetery.com

DC Oakes and the Great Hoax

Daniel Cheeseman Oakes (April 3 1825 – 1887)

Daniel Cheeseman (D.C.) Oakes was born in Maine in 1825, and like many people of that time moved several times across the country. Losing both of his parents by age 22, he chose to look for his fortune in the California Gold Rush. He didn’t find gold and nearly lost his life, but returned to Iowa where he married Olive Maria Martin in 1853. They eventually had eight daughters together.

D.C. Oakes was one of the founders of Denver, and may have been of the most hated men of his time by the gold prospectors who failed to become rich taking his advice from his “Pike’s Peak Guide and Journal”. He arrived in Denver in October 1858 in search of gold, his second attempt after failing to find gold in California in 1849.

He searched for gold in the Pikes Peak region and wrote extensively about Colorado and gold mining. He left his wife behind to travel west, meeting Green Russell, which proved to be a fortunate encounter as Russell’s journal became the fuel for the “Pike’s Peak Guide & Journal”, the pamphlet that led gold prospectors to leave their homes and travel to Colorado where they believed gold was available for the taking. In fact, when D.C. returned to Colorado in 1859, he crossed paths with headstone markers bearing such painful effigies as:

“Here lies the bones of Major Oakes, the author of this God-damned hoax”

But it wasn’t just the mocking headstones he was confronted with. He also had to look into the faces of the heartbroken miners and their families, referred to as the “go-backers” who called the ‘Pikes Peak or Bust’ Gold Rush the Hoax of ‘59. William Byers, the founder of the first local newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, was also attacked as part of the hoax.

In 1859, however, D.C. brought what would become his fortune to Colorado in the form of the first sawmill. Although it was threatened by angry failed prospectors, Oakes wanted to make Colorado his home and place of business. He and his sawmill supported the building of Denver. The sawmill was set up in what is present day Daniels Park.

“This area was settled very early, when Major D.C. Oakes established a sawmill in Riley’s Gulch in 1859 to take advantage of the rich timber there. It was the second settlement in what was to become Douglas County, and the nearby “Pretty Woman Ranch” was a stage stop on the First Territorial Road from Denver to Colorado Springs. Riley Hill, named for an early pioneer, was said to be a popular lookout for outlaws spotting stages to rob in the early days.” SOURCE: Mountain Park History

After the sawmill was established, his wife Olive came to live with him and built a house. He opened a second lumber yard in Denver near 5th and Cherry to continue to fulfill the demand for lumber in the booming Denver economy. An ad in the local Rocky Mountain News, dated October 21, 1861 read:

“We are now prepared to furnish Lumber of assorted grades either at our mills or Lumber Yard, corner of Cherry and 5th Streets at the shortest notice, and at the Very Lowest Cash Prices. Having two mills in operation capacitated to net 20,000 feet of Lumber daily, enables us to fill bills immediately upon presentation.  All kinds of stock, wagons & c., taken in exchanges for lumber. Orders left either with D. C. Oakes, Denver City, or J. E. S. Eayre, at the mills, will receive immediate and prompt attention. D. C. Oakes & Co.”

The Oakes Mill was destroyed in a flood during 1864, but in 1865 D.C. had other things on his mind as President Johnson named Oakes an Indian Agent, the first ever, due to his understanding of Native Americans and for keeping the peace between them and the new settlers.

Olive Oaks purchased 160 acres in 1870 to create a farm in Douglas County known as Famous Daniels Ranch, which currently has been sold off to several ranchers. D.C. went on to hold a position in the City and Council in Denver, Postmaster of Douglas County and a Deputy US Land Surveyor. D.C. Oakes died in 1887 in Denver and has a memorial in the Riverside Cemetery.

Early founders, such as D.C. Oakes built a rich history and their pioneering stories end many times at Fairmount Cemetery. Come by and tour our grounds, or connect with the Fairmount Heritage Foundation to learn more about the history that lives at Fairmount.