Historic Character Defines Park Hill, But These Old Homes Are Gone Forever
By Amy Zimmer and Bernadette Kelly
For the GPHN
As Denver rapidly changes, few neighborhoods have been able to retain their historic character. Yet that is one of the reasons why many residents are drawn to Park Hill.
According to the Greater Park Hill Community Survey conducted a year ago, preserving the architecture character and style of Park Hill is the top focus area for the neighborhood. The survey, conducted by the research firm National Research Center, also found strong support for preserving the architectural character and style of the neighborhood. (Check out the October, 2019 survey at tinyurl.com/GPHNNeighborhoodSurvey).
Because of this strong community support, GHPC’s Preservation Subcommittee was formed in February. The primary goal of the subcommittee, which includes members from both inside and outside of the organization, is to educate and inform people about the history of Park Hill and the types of styles and architecture seen in the neighborhood.
The subcommittee is also available as a resource to help homeowners understand the benefits of historic preservation, including but not limited to municipal tools such as landmark designation and the overlay process. Finally, the subcommittee, which includes two GHPC board members, and a former Denver Landmark Preservation commissioner, is able to provide assistance to any homeowner who chooses to landmark their own house.
Although Park Hill has been successful in retaining much of its historic architecture, no neighborhood goes completely unchanged. Over the years, Park Hill has lost several notable historic homes that deserve to be remembered for their place in the history of the neighborhood.
5335 Montview Blvd.
One of the neighborhood’s first preservation battles occurred in the spring of 2006. That year, an 88-year-old, 5,117-square-foot Craftsman home was demolished to make way for two homes, each priced at more than $1 million. According to the now defunct Rocky Mountain News, “[the home’s] pending demise” was “a wake-up call on dealing with future ‘scrape-offs’ in Park Hill.” The 1918 house, at the corner of Montview and Grape, was the longtime home of the Dardano family, famous for their many small businesses in Denver and its suburbs. Members of this Italian-American family owned several restaurants, a flower store, a shoe store, and a gym, and were also involved in Denver real estate. Previously, the home had been owned by Samuel Kramlich, founder of Wisconsin’s Krambo chain of grocery stores. The chain merged with Kroger in the 1950s.
2858 Fairfax St.
This home was demolished three years ago, along with the entire east side of Fairfax Street between 28th and 29th Avenues, to make way for Park Hill Commons, which is currently under construction. The home was located at the site of the future pocket park, which is currently identified as an “interim park.”
The original inhabitants of the home were Thomas (Tom) McCelland and Lovelmae Leffel. Tom was the chief engineer of KLZ Radio in Denver in the mid to late 1930’s. In 1937, the McClelland’s bought the home on Fairfax St. The one story, L-shaped home, was designed in an English Cottage style.
With the advent of World War II, McCelland returned to the navy. He was assigned to the USS West Virginia, stationed in Bremerton, Wash. before the ship was moved to Pearl Harbor that year. Tom was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Greater Park Hill News published an extensive history of the McClelland and Leffel families in the June, 2017 issue. That article can be read at greaterparkhill.org/news-and-opinion/of-homes-and-history/.
2048 Cherry St.
One of the oldest homes in Park Hill, 2048 Cherry St., dates to about 1895. The original owner, Thomas Azpell, was a well-known civil servant who served as postmaster of Globeville, northwest of Park Hill, and later as superintendent of the South Denver post office. Azpell also served on Denver City Council. In 1907 the home was purchased by May Northrup. Her husband, Clarence, served as an advisor to Colorado U.S. Sen. Henry M. Teller and secretary to Gov. Elias Ammons. Clarence Northrup also served as a deputy of the Denver District Court. The home passed through a series of owners until it was demolished in late 2017.
2339 Birch St.
Another of the older homes in Park Hill, this Classic Cottage was constructed around 1907 for accountant Frederick L. Eggers. He married Margaret Harvey in 1916, and Harvey family members occupied the home until 1959. Structurally, the home changed very little over the years. It was listed as a contributing structure in the National Register of Historic Places’ Park Hill Historic District, but was demolished last year.
5335 E. 36th Ave.
Constructed around 1905, this Foursquare home was one of the original farmhouse structures in Park Hill. It was owned by brothers William and Patrick Quinn, who operated a dairy. At the time of the home’s construction, the brothers owned the entire block. They sold the block to Adda Kramer in 1927, and it was not until the 1930s that the lots were subdivided. In 1964 the home was purchased by the Lewis family. In 2019, their family trust sought to demolish the home and sell the property to developers. Concerned neighbors united to apply for Landmark status, but were denied on a ruling that the application was incomplete.
1980 Albion St.
Known as “The Hut,” this large home was constructed in 1901 for Charles Alfred Johnson, a business partner of Baron Von Winckler, who had first platted the Park Hill subdivision. Johnson is perhaps most famous as the later owner of the Cherokee Castle in Sedalia, which he purchased in 1927. Cherokee Castle was built by Johnson and his wife, Alice Gifford. It was originally named Charlford Ranch after their two sons, Charles and Gifford. Charlford Ranch is now known as Cherokee Castle and is open to visitors. The Park Hill “Hut” was designed by well-known architect Theodore Boal of the firm Boal and Harnois, the same firm that had designed the Grant-Humphreys Mansion and other well-known Denver homes. In 2018 the home and its expansive 33,000 square-foot lot were purchased by a group of investors with the intention of developing the site. Despite strong neighborhood opposition and even an attempt at landmarking the home, it was demolished early this year. The site currently sits vacant. There are plans to build four homes on the site, with a central drive to access the two homes on the rear of the lot.
For more on the history of The Hut, check out this story from the December, 2018 issue: greaterparkhill.org/news-and-opinion/the-future-of-the-hut-unclear/
This article is part of the GPHC’s Preservation Subcommittee’s ongoing education effort to preserve the architectural character of Park Hill. Eric Sikkema, Rebecca Rogers, and Shane Sutherland contributed research to this piece.