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Oct 12

The Life and Times of Charles Boettcher: The Capitol Years (Original Post Date 6/30/17)

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 7:51 PM by Laura Wilkins

In 1890, the Boettcher’s moved permanently to Denver. While keeping an eye on his Leadville holdings (the hardware store, real estate investments and shares in the gold-yielding Little Johnny Mine), Charles was ready for a more refined lifestyle down on the plains. Since the 1880s, Brown’s Bluff had become the city’s most fashionable residential district. Christened Capitol Hill, the enclave included the city’s first mansions and the Brown Palace Hotel.

Commissioning the English architect John J. Huddart to build an Edwardian-style residence at 1201 Grant Street for $26,000, Charles described his family’s new home as “complete in every detail…and as well built as any place in Denver”. It was finished in 1890, just in time for the arrival of daughter Ruth (15 years after Claude).

While Claude had grown up on the rough-and-ready streets of Leadville (often seen racing around in a goat cart), Ruth enjoyed a much more refined childhood. Attending private school and taking dancing and music lessons, she and her friends were the offspring of the first generation of Denver capitalists. This privileged group quickly formed elite organizations like the Denver Athletic Club and Country Club that continue to operate to this day. And Fannie, not nearly as impressionable as others in her newfound social circle, found herself in the company of Molly Brown, Baby Doe Tabor and other famous Denverites.

Having first visited Europe with Charles and Claude in 1874, Fannie traveled extensively from 1900 onward. Taking Ruth on a trip around the world in 1902, she began collecting indigenous artifacts in Japan, India and elsewhere for the house on Capitol Hill. Forced to remain in Europe for three months during the outbreak of World War I, she never left America after 1914. But in 1915, she expanded her home to accommodate a display of indigenous art and other international treasures. Her flair for interior decorating was noticed by the society pages: “Embroidered fires screens, and pictures, brocaded silk screens, silk velvet coverlets, rugs and furniture are testimonials to the Japanese influence on her life” (The Denver Post, November 23, 1947).

In 1919, as Ruth prepared to marry Albert E. Humphreys Jr., the son of an oil and mining magnate, Fannie decided the house needed a sunporch. When Charles stated he would leave if the addition took place, she built it anyway. Whether it was Fannie’s tenacity or Charles thriftiness that prompted their separation after a long and prosperous marriage is pure speculation. But after Charles moved out, he never returned.