Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Castle Marne

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The Castle Marne
The Castle Marne is a large mansion in the Capitol Hill area of Denver, CO on the corner of 16th and Race Streets.

The Castle Marne was built in 1890 by Wilbur S. Raymond, one of the first land speculators in the Denver area. Similar to Henry Cordes Brown, Raymond purchased and built upon a large plot of land east of what was then considered Denver proper. The 80-acre plot he chose to develop, called the Wyman Addition, was not considered choice real estate. This was prior to the development of the state capitol and the mansions that now surround it, and the empty fields to the east of the city center were not seen as a great area in which to build new neighborhoods. Raymond invested $15,000 in the land and a further $40,000 in building Castle Marne. The house was designed by architect William Lang, who had designed nearly 300 Denver homes and buildings. One of the more notable features of the building is the "Peacock Window", a large stained glass window on the north side of the building.

The home was intended to be a show piece for further mansions that would be built in the area and sold to new Denver residents. This was all fine and good until Raymond and his family lost the property to their creditors barely a year after the Castle Marne was built. This was the beginning of a long series of ups and downs for the property. The building was owned, over the years, by a number of famous Denver residents. Colonel James H. Platt, U.S. representative from Virginia, Civil War veteran, and Cabinet member under President Grant, purchased the home in 1892. In 1894, after he died in a fishing accident at Green Lake, his widow sold the Castle Marne to John T. Mason, an Englishman who had established a chain of dry goods stores in Houston, Texas. He was a world-renowned lepidopterist and the first curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He displayed many of his 400,000 collected butterflies and moths on the third floor of Castle Marne. The Capitol Hill neighborhood changed over time though. Wealthy Denverites left the area and many of the mansions were converted to apartments and mixed use buildings. In 1918 the Castle Marne was purchased by the Van Cise family and converted into an 8-unit apartment. Lyle A. Holland bought the building in 1934 and lived there until his death in 1972.

After Holland's death the Castle Marne entered a period of eclipse. The house was purchased in 1974 and was re-developed for use as office space and apartments, but that never happened. The plans fell prey to the ups and downs of the economy and the house deteriorated. From 1979 to 1982 the house was used as a center for transitioning parolees back into public life. The house was then unoccupied until 1988. Though the utilities had been turned off, water pipes leaked and, when the house was finally renovated, there was nearly three feet of standing water in the basement. The house had been heavily vandalized though, somehow, the Peacock Window had not been broken.
In 1988 the house was re-opened as a bed and breakfast. It continues in this role today.

Getting There By Bike...
The Capitol Hill area is great to ride through on a bike. There are a lot of beautiful houses in the neighborhood and tons of historic sites. I like to get to the Castle Marne by heading up through Cheesman Park. I ride north on Franklin until I hit the park, and then move north out of the park on Franklin again. Make a right on 16th and then head up to Race Street, and there you are.

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