Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Thomas Hornsby Ferril House is part of Denver's history -- and could be history

The house has stood on the edge of downtown Denver for 120 years. For 88 of those years, it was the home of Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Colorado's first poet laureate; his words line the rotunda of the State Capitol and mark the spot where Denver got its start at Confluence Park. But today, the house, which is owned by Colorado Humanities, stands empty.

After Ferril's death, his daughter gave the home to Historic Denver; the poet had been on the city's first landmark commission. Historic Denver sold it to the Center for the Book, an offshoot of the Library of Congress, which oversaw a half-million-dollar restoration and used the building as its headquarters. But after the Center for the Book merged with Colorado Humanities, the center soon moved into the Colorado Humanities offices.

For five years, the Ferril House had an ideal tenant, Lighthouse Writers Workshop. But that group was already feeling cramped when its founders learned that Colorado Humanities was looking at selling the building -- and so in July, Lighthouse moved into the also historic, but much larger, Milheim House on Race Street.

The potential sale doesn't make history fans happy. But neighbors aren't happy with the Ferril House's current status, either: This is a changing neighborhood, with hospital construction projects just down the street, and there's already another wreck of a house standing empty a few steps away. They don't want to see the Ferril House fall into the same condition.

Colorado Humanities will discuss the future of the Ferril House at its October board meeting. In the meantime, the doors are locked -- which means that no one can get in to see the murals that line one wall, laying out the history of Thomas Hornsby Ferril -- which is really the history of Denver. Of us all.

Here's what you're missing:

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "One Book, One Denver goes to the dogs -- but why not take a bite of a Colorado book?"
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun