The point of this little history is relevant.
At one point during my 40+ hours in that dark, deserted, somewhat scary basement, I needed to get out; I needed to take a shower; I needed a break. A friend of mine lived not far away in the historic Baker neighborhood, just south of the hospital. The house my friend owned, by that time, had already been designated a historic landmark, being the childhood home of Mary Chase who wrote the play "Harvey," about a six-foot tall imaginary rabbit (Pooka). The play opened in 1944 and ran for more than 1,700 performances. The play was made into a movie that starred Jimmy Stewart.
I don't remember at what point (night or day), I grabbed my beeper, abandoned the basement of Unit 9 and headed for the Mary Chase house. Once there, I took a shower, ate microwaved pizza and took a nap in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Suffice it to say--even though Mary Chase didn't write "Harvey" in her childhood home--the seed of her imagination (the birth of her muse), was surely nurtured there, and I can tell you the presence of playful spirits--surely a Pooka or two included--whispered softly to me as I slept--their warm, comforting breath against my cheek as they studied my unusual presence in their sphere.
It is instructive to provide the current requirements for designation of a structure or site for preservation under "landmark" status. It may also be instructive to
correct Tom Noel's description of the Mary Chase house (see Mary Chase link, above). Mr. Noel, noted Denver historian, describes the house as a "...small, one-story cottage." Well, it's clearly small, but unless my eyes--and my memory of twenty-five years ago--deceive, it's at least a story-and-one half, if not two stories. No big deal, but I thought you ought to know.
From Chapter 30 of Denver's Revised Municipal Code:
Sec. 30-3. Criteria for designation of structures and districts for preservation.Whether or not the Mary Chase house, under current requirements, would be categorized as a historical landmark is unsure. But, it is a historic landmark and, consequently, cannot be substantially altered or "scraped" without the completion of a labyrinthine bureaucratic process. I'll leave the details of that process to your inquisitiveness (or masochism!).
A structure or district may be designated for preservation, if it meets at least one (1) criterion in two (2) or more of the following three (3) categories:
(1) History. To have historical significance, the structure or district shall be thirty (30) or more years old or have extraordinary importance to the historical development of Denver, and shall:
a. Have direct association with the historical development of the city, state, or nation;
b. Be the site of a significant historic event; or
c. Have direct and substantial association with a person or group of persons who had influence on society.
(2) Architecture. To have architectural significance, the structure or district shall have design quality and integrity, and shall:
a. Embody distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style or type;
b. Be a significant example of the work of a recognized architect or master builder;
c. Contain elements of architectural design, engineering, materials, craftsmanship, or artistic merit which represent a significant or influential innovation; or
d. Portray the environment of a group of people or physical development of an area in an era of history characterized by a distinctive architectural style.
(3) Geography. To have geographical significance, the structure or district shall:
a. Have a prominent location or be an established, familiar, and orienting visual feature of the contemporary city;
b. Promote understanding and appreciation of the urban environment by means of distinctive physical characteristics or rarity; or
c. Make a special contribution to Denver’s distinctive character.
Now, to West Highlands (my little corner of the world).
Seems two gentlemen, John Locke and Keith Swanson, owned/own (the house is obviously vacant now), an 1886 Queen Anne or Victorian (even the architectural style is a point of contention), which was the former home of Elwin T. Webber, a Civil War veteran who, in 1886 platted the Highland Place subdivision; William F.R. Mills, Denver's 30th mayor (1918-1919, Wow! Short incumbency!) who, when he was the mayor, didn't live in the home. Spring Byington, a film and tv actress of the 1930s, '40s and '50s also lived in the home as a child, as well as one of Denver's first female doctors, Mary Ford who lived in the house between 1903-1951.
Well, Locke and Swanson, the two gentlemen who owned/own the house (they may still own it, given the chaos engendered with regard to historic landmark designation sought by the West Highlands Neighborhood Organization WITHOUT the knowledge of the two gentlemen who owned/own the home), wanted to sell it, most likely, to a developer whose intent was to "scrape" it and build condos on the land. The offer to the two gentlemen from the potential buyer was $719,000. When the landmark designation was filed by the neighborhood organization, the buyer/developer backed out of the deal. Locke and Swanson then had to knock at least $45,000 off the asking price.
From a Rocky Mountain News story about this little imbroglio over in our little neighborhood, it was reported that the twenty-two page application for landmark designation of this home noted, among other things, that it "...meets the required two of three criteria -- architectural and historic significance -- for landmark designation. It's called a model of the Queen Anne-style..."
During a meeting of the Landmark Preservation Committee that took up the application for landmark status for this structure, the Committee staff noted that, "The application for landmark designation...is found to be complete. The period of significance is 1886. The applicant is the West Highlands Neighborhood Association. The Webber/Mills/Ford House meets the criteria for designation in the following categories: History, 1a, and c, and; Architecture, 2a."
Now, before we move ahead, let me provide a shot of what a real Queen Anne style home in the West Highlands neighborhood looks like. Note the flourishes, the spindles, towers, the irregular roof, classical columns, the asymmetrical shape of the house
Now, compare this excellent representation of the Queen Anne style with the house in question. Can we really buy the assertion in the landmark designation application that the house in question is in the style of Queen Anne? I can't. You are left to your own conclusion.
As usual, I do go on...
I did not anticipate this post would become a multi-series extravaganza. But, knowing your time is limited (and, maybe, your attention, also, unless you're involved in this particular issue or happen to live in the neighborhood), let me end this initial dip into the controversial subject as provided by the title of this post and, with the best of intentions, I hope to continue it in the not too distant future.
By the way, across the street from the house in question, is this monstrosity, rising from the good West Highlands earth along the 3900 block of West 32nd Avenue. What does this--the proverbial, "a picture is worth a thousand words"--have to say about the albeit noble, but most likely--in this case--misdirected argument that raising the house in question would encroach upon the the maintenance of the character of areas of stability (read neighborhoods) of West Highlands? Methinks "encroachment" has already occurred.