Doors Open Denver: Exploring Castle Marne’s history

Originally Published April 17, 2010

One of the most unique pieces of architecture designed and built by William Lang, Castle Marne on the corner of 16th Street and Race Street is a marvel that nearly ended up demolished.

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This large house, a mansion in its time, has a long and illustrious history, starting with the land on which it sits. Originally purchased as part of an 80 acre plot by Mr. Wyman two miles east of what was the considered Denver, people thought he was a bit nuts, buying a large parcel of prairie with no real purpose. However, 20 years later, Mr. Wyman was able to take his $3,000 investment and turn it into a $300,000 sale.

The house was originally built as a “model” house – the first of its kind in the Wyman Addition in 1890. Wilbur Raymond and his family only lived in the house for one year before it was lost to creditors. The builder, William Lang, built this house right after he finished what was to later become Molly Brown’s beautiful Denver home.

The neighborhood developed quickly; by the turn of the century, Colfax Avenue and its surrounds was considered the height of wealth and fashion; Colfax itself was considered the most beautiful tree lined street in America.

The house on 16th and Race went through several illustrious owners: Colonel James H. Platt from 1891 to 1894 and John Mason from 1894 to 1918 and Mrs. Edwin Van Cise owned the home from 1918 til 1937. It was Mrs. Van Cise and her son who named the house The Marne, and subdivided the building into a nine apartment house. The neighborhood had also undergone changes: Colfax had become part of Hwy. 40, the road widened, the trees cut down and the buildings repurposed or demolished, with new ones put in their place.Raymond House in 1891 with the Raymond family on porch - Courtesy Denver Public Library

After Mrs. Van Cise’s death in 1937, the house continued to be an apartment building until the 1970s, when it was purchased and used for offices. In the 1980s, with economic downturns,the building first became a processing center for parolees, then emptied and became abandoned and was heavily vandalized. All that remained from the original house was the mantelpieces. As the 80s continued, people thought the house was haunted; so much so they even crossed the street so as not to be near it.

But in 1988, the Pieker family, unable to resist its clear charms, save Castle Marne.

The house was coming close to being slated to be condemned when the Pieker family got interested in it in the late 1980s. According to Mr. Pieker, the house had heavy water damage in the basement – burst boiler and pipes, almost three feet of standing water and so much other damage that they decided against the property at first. But it kept calling them back, and August 1, 1988, the Pieker family purchased the home and one year to the day later, they opened as the Castle Marne bed and breakfast.Tower on Castle Marne  Photo by Lisa Keipp

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Restoration of the house was done through of family photos in the Denver Public Library, allowing the Piekers to replicate most of the house. The main foyer has pressed plaster ceilings; the false wallpaper was painted by a restoration painter to look exactly like what was originally in the house. The home is now on the National Register of Historic Structures.

The house has three floors, four bedrooms on the second floor, a formal parlor, foyer, dining room, kitchen and conservatory on the first floor, and the third floor ballroom – converted when apartments were put in – now contains another four bedrooms. Tea is served daily in the afternoons at check in time, with full Victorian formality, and a gourmet breakfast is served every morning in the dining room.

The Piekers are raising their third generation, who help with the house and will someday take over the family business. The photos say more than words can say about the beauty of this house, so I direct you to the slide show and to the Castle Marne website – http://www.castlemarne.com  www.castlemarne.com If you missed it on this year’s tour, be sure to stop by on next year’s tour. It is one of the most accurate and complete restorations anywhere in Denver.

 

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