The Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens is an unofficial Northside landmark, built in 1890 as a single-family home. But by 1991, it was a decrepit, condemned wreck when it was purchased by Walter and Julie Keller for $80,000. They lovingly restored the Queen Anne-style abode at 2555 West 37th Avenue, turning it into a bed-and-breakfast/reception hall that also hosted dinner theater featuring kooky costumes. Earlier this month, though, the Lumber Baron was sold for $1.7 million to Joel and Elaine Bryant. The new owners will continue to operate the bed-and-breakfast, and also plan to add a full-service restaurant.
News of the sale inspired us to look back at the history of the Lumber Baron Inn and share these five fun facts:
5. The 126-year-old home is definitely historic, but it's not a designated historic landmark in Denver.
Though a stately example of the Queen Anne architecture common in Denver in the late 1880s and '90s, the 8,500-square-foot Lumber Baron — also known as the John Mouat Mansion — isn't on Denver's official list of designated historic landmarks. Still, the mansion is a highlight of the Potter-Highland historic district, the thirteenth historic district to be established in Denver, in 1979, and expanded in 1987.
4. The mansion was the site of an unsolved double murder
In 1970, the bodies of seventeen-year-old Kara Lee Knoche and eighteen-year-old Marianne Weaver were found in Knoche's modest apartment unit in the dilapidated mansion. The Denver Post rehashed the whole story on its Cold Case blog in 2014, 44 years after the murders, which remain unsolved. At the time of the slayings, 23 apartment units were crammed into every nook and cranny of the once-ornate structure.
3. The place is supposedly haunted
Faint female voices and footsteps have been reported by paranormal groups visiting the mansion. Walter Keller said he encountered a strange presence while working alone on the place in the early '90s. The ghostly confrontation occurred just outside what is now the "Valentine Room" — once the apartment unit where Knoche and Weaver were murdered.
2. The Lumber Baron was once owned by an actual lumber baron
The mansion was built in 1890 for John Mouat, a Scottish immigrant who got lucky in lumber — and lost his fortune in the Silver Crash of 1893. Part of a wave of Scottish immigrants who settled in this section of Denver's Northside, Mouat paid $7,000 for a quarter of the block. To show off his woodworking skills, Mouat adorned the interior of the house with many types of hardwoods, including oak, cherry and walnut.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. The building is topped with a star from Denver's iconic Celebrity Sports Center sign
A Denver mid-mod icon atop a Denver Victorian icon! The 500-pound, fourteen-pointed star that once adorned Celebrity Sports Center found a new home on the Lumber Baron's turret in 2010. Salvaged from a junkyard — the rest of the sign was lost to demolition — the star that once greeted passersby on Colorado Boulevard now peeks out from the corner of 37th Avenue and Bryant Street, almost visible from busy 38th Avenue to the north. For fans of one of the Mile High City's greatest lost treasures, be sure to check out Buckfifty.org's post full of pictures and backstory on Celebrity.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies