P.T. Barnum didn't live here, but that doesn't stop the stories

Yes, there's a sucker born every minute — especially when it comes to the myths, half-truths and all-out lies associated with P.T. Barnum, who once owned much of the land in what are now the Barnum and Villa Park neighborhoods in west Denver. Although Barnum — creator of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — occasionally visited his daughter, Helen Buchtel, who owned a house on Lincoln Street, it's unlikely that Barnum himself ever lived in this town, despite what many people have tried to tell us.

The latest version of the legend: a current Craigslist ad for a townhome inside a larger house titled "$850/2br, 1,000 sq. ft. — Live in PT Barnum's Historic Home" that goes on to describe a "Two bedroom-two bath townhouse (bedrooms upstairs) in convenient West Side neighborhood. Home reportedly belonged to PT Barnum of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. This townhouse is part of a large historic home, on the hill — very private and quiet. Great views of downtown Denver...Bring your telescope...Organic Garden space available for growing your own vegetables next spring. Freshly painted with new carpet, cook on a gas stove in spacious kitchen."

The home, at 823 Knox Court, is certainly close to many of the buildings that have been associated with Barnum. But did he live in it? The person who posted the ad responded to our query with this e-mail: "Honestly, the information we have is from the previous owner — not sure if it was substantiated historically!"

Not likely: The house was built in 1895 — four years after Barnum died.

But Barnum, who loved hoaxes, probably would have appreciated the marketing effort, just as he would have enjoyed meeting Robert Failing, a Denver man who hoodwinked many locals, including city officials, over the years, telling them that his name was Bart Barnum, that he was related to P.T. and that the house he lived in at 360 King Street had been the showman's home for ten years (go to westword.com to find "Animal Crackers," our March 1, 2001, feature on Failing). None of that was true, of course. But then, neither are the stories about Barnum wintering his animals in Denver, using two elephants to push a circus train up a Colorado mountain pass, or receiving his land here as a gift from a Native American tribe.

In fact, all of those tales — plus $850 — will get you very little aside from a two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse inside a house on a hill in the Barnum neighborhood.

Unhappy campers: While the Colorado State Patrol has banned anyone from camping overnight at the Capitol and the Denver police continue to crack down on the Occupy Denver crew, the Auraria campus is taking the opportunity to remind people that it, too, prohibits camping — and has since 2004, a year after a group of students protesting the War in Iraq set up a tent city near the flagpole area. Over the last few days, as a small group calling itself Occupy Auraria has begun holding protests, campus police have posted No Camping signs.

"Given the events that have been happening down by the Capitol, we wanted to take the opportunity to remind people of the policy," says campus spokesman Blaine Nickeson. The ban prohibits putting up tents, sleeping or living in cars, and sleeping on campus. So far, though, no one from Occupy Auraria has even tried to camp overnight.

Scene and herd: No camping for Barack Obama when he was in town last week; he stayed at the Four Seasons, becoming only the second sitting president to skip a visit to the Brown Palace since Teddy Roosevelt visited the Brown in 1905. The other snubber? Calvin Coolidge. And Obama didn't even get the presidential suite at the Four Seasons; it was already booked.

 
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