When you have a very short window to see an area in which you are traveling hitting the highlights is a must, even if only for a quick tour. When Audley and I were in Colorado a couple of weeks back we really only had 24 hours to see the area. On Friday of our trip we visited the Garden of the God’s and Pikes Peak and then we spent our Saturday morning before our flight out in downtown Denver.
I am a total history nut. Not a glossed over version of history that the media and history books like for us to see, but a dig deep and study all the angles of an event or life. I am fascinated by the people who came before me and how things have changed and grown over the years, bringing us to where we are today.
That’s why when deciding what to see in Denver we chose to start with the Margaret Brown house.
Who is Margaret Brown you ask? You probably know her better as the Unsinkable Molly Brown after her heroics on the night of the Titanic sinking.
Margaret grew up the daughter of a poor Irish immigrant and married JJ for “love” after throwing out the notion she would marry rich. Little did she know that “rich” was on the horizon as JJ discovered a band of gold in a silver mine he was working in Leadville, Colorado. After they became Millionaires, they moved to Denver.
Knowing she was a first class passenger on the Titanic and her reputation for being a bit boisterous and gaudy, I expected a monster of a house, similar to the homes of the Astor’s or Vanderbilt’s, but the Brown home was not much bigger than a traditional Victorian home of the era. Mrs Brown and her husband, JJ, purchase the house that had been built in the 1880’s for about $30,000 which was a bargain as the previous owners were forced to sell due to financial issues.
We were only allowed to take pictures outside the house. There were no fancy gardens only a carriage house (that now houses a gift shop and video presentation of the Molly Brown’s life) and then the house itself.
The house was actually simply decorated without much grandeur at all. As a matter of fact it often stayed rented out as the Brown’s (or at least Margaret and her children) traveled extensively. Margaret was a huge proponent of education and learned four foreign languages.
Despite marrying for love, JJ and Margaret quietly separated in 1909 due to the different paths their lives were taking. They never divorced as they were both Catholic and didn’t believe in divorce, but she did receive a monthly allowance of nearly $19,000 in order to travel and stay involved in social projects she was undertaking. She was very involved in social projects that benefitted children as Denver was swamped in poverty at the turn of the 20th century.
With Margaret’s travels she and her daughter found themselves guests of John Jacob Astor and his new bride, Madeleine in 1912. They toured France, Italy and Egypt before Margaret got word about an ill grandchild and decided to head home. That is how she found herself on the Titanic.
Margaret earned her “unsinkable” reputation for encouraging women to leave their husbands and board the lifeboats before being forced into one herself. Then, after the ship sank she was quite determined that their lifeboat must go back to the wreck site and search for survivors. It is also said that she used her knowledge of many different foreign languages to console passengers and see that even the few third class survivors had their needs met.
Molly was known for throwing lavish parties where she would share he adventures from her travels. The sinking of the Titanic didn’t crush that desire for adventure at all.
The home was sold shortly after the Great Depression for $6,000. Molly had used the home for a boarding house to help pay for the upkeep.
The Brown home is on the National Register of Historic Places, The group Historic Denver has been the caretakers since the late 1960’s when the house was slated for demolition.
Margaret was instrumental in raising money for the building of Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. She could see construction from her house. I can only imagine the awe at watching this go up in an era without high-tech building processes.
We walked over to the building ourselves, but were unable to enter due to a wedding. It was a beautiful building with gorgeous architectural elements.
We also stopped by the Colorado state Capital. At one time the Brown’s rented out their home to the governor and his family while their own home was being renovated. You could also see the capital from her home during the years she resided here.
It was so neat to see how so many little things connected like a puzzle once we were downtown. It was a beautiful day and perfect for strolling the streets of historic downtown Denver.