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The Denver Club

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Title:
The Denver Club
Creator:
Whitacre, Christine S
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vi, 175 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm

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History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 148-175).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, History.
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Christine S. Whitacre.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
31508776 ( OCLC )
ocm31508776
Classification:
LD1190.L57 1994m .W55 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE DENVER CLUB
by
Christine S. Whitacre
B.A., University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, 1972
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
1994


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Christine S. Whitacre
has been approved for the
Department of
History
by
James B. Whiteside


1994 by Christine S. Whitacre
All rights reserved.


Whitacre, Christine S. (M.A., History)
The Denver Club
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
Founded in 1880, the Denver Club was the city's first elite,
private, gentlemen's club. Like the Cheyenne Club in Wyoming, the
Alta Club in Utah, and the Montana Club in Helena, the Denver Club
was one of several private clubs established throughout the Rocky
Mountain West at the end of the 19th century. The club, which is
still in existence, was founded by a group of prominent Denver
businessmen. Its charter membership was comprised of some of the
most famous names in Colorado history, including David Moffat, Horace
Tabor, Walter Cheesman, James Grant, and Nathaniel Hill.
This thesis examines how the Denver Club reflects several
themes in western history: the rise of "instant cities" and "instant
society," the influence of social organizations on the development of
cities, and the replication of Eastern urban patterns in the West.
As the city's first exclusive club, the Denver Club represented an
effort by the city's economic leaders to boost Denver's reputation
within the national business community and to lure new investment
capital to the West. The Denver Club also was noteworthy for its
many British members, who helped shape the club's early development.
This thesis includes information on the club's founding,
significant events in its history, and biographical information on
iv


prominent members. The club's founders were Henry Wolcott and James
Duff. The brother of U.S. Senator Edward Wolcott, Henry Wolcott was
a Colorado financier. Duff, a Scotsman, came to Denver in 1877 as
the representative of the London-based Colorado Mortgage & Investment
Company.
The history discusses the Denver Club's five meeting places,
including the 1888 clubhouse at 17th and Glenarm Streets that was
designed by Ernest Phillip Varian and Frederick Junius Sterner. In
1954, the Denver Club replaced that structure with the city's first,
post-World War II skyscraper, designed by architects Raymond Harry
Ervin and Robert Berne.
Also discussed here are the club's social activities and
traditions, including the annual Denver Club Ball, which opened
Denver's winter social season. The history extends into the present,
and includes events such as the 1978 rule change that allowed the
admission of women.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's
thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed
V


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.......................................... 1
2. INSTANT CITY, INSTANT SOCIETY........................ 11
3. THE FOUNDING OF THE CLUB............................. 20
4. HENRY R. WOLCOTT, THE QUINTESSENTIAL "CLUB MAN"_____ 32
5. THE BUSINESSMEN'S CASTLE............................. 39
Architects Ernest P. Varian and
Frederick J. Sterner................................. 43
6. CLUB LIFE............................................ 49
Club Rules: Money and Manners........................ 63
7. THE 1920s THROUGH THE 1940S: POWER AT PLAY........... 78
8. A NEW ERA AND A NEW BUILDING......................... 92
The Murchisons...................................... 106
9. THE MOVE............................................ 110
10. DENVER'S FIRST SKYSCRAPER, AND
THE CHANGING FACE OF DOWNTOWN DENVER................ 114
Raymond Harry Ervin................................. 124
11. THE MODERN CLUB..................................... 129
Denver Club Staff................................... 136
12. CONCLUSION.......................................... 140
Denver Club Presidents.............................. 144
NOTES........................................................... 148
BIBLIOGRAPHY.................................................... 165
vi


*
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
My father joined this club in 1884, four years after it was
founded. I joined in 1910, and I can remember going past
this comer. Why, one almost felt like taking off one's hat
passing by -- the club had that much respect.
Herbert E. Collbran, 1953
Every morning, regular as clockwork, David H. Moffat, Jr.,
said goodbye to his wife Fannie, and walked three blocks from his
home on the corner of 17th Street and Lincoln Avenue to the Denver
Club. Fred Basford, the club barber, was expecting him. Moffat
didn't need an appointment, and didn't need to tell the barber what
to do. Basford, who spent over 40 years as the Denver Club barber,
knew exactly how all the "17th Streeters" wanted their beards
trimmed, their necklines clipped, and their mustaches pointed.
After his morning shave, and with his walrus-like mustache freshly
waxed, Moffat continued walking down 17th Street to his office at
First National Bank.1
At the end of the day, Moffat walked up 17th Street, heading
home. But once again, as regular as his footsteps on the street, he
stopped at the club. The millionaire bank president and railroad
builder -- who arrived in Denver in 1860 as a 20-year-old shopkeeper
with little more than the proverbial shirt on his back, and who
became one of Colorado's richest men -- always spent another hour "or
1


so" at the Denver Club. Moffat generally avoided the social
limelight, only attending high-society galas when Fannie insisted.
But he did like to go to the club. Here, in the company of the same
men he had spent the day doing business with, he leisurely socialized
over a game of cards, a few drinks, and a cigar.
Today, it might be called "networking." But at the turn of the
century, businessmen called it "clubbing." And, for Colorado
millionaires like Moffat, it was as an integral part of their social
and business lives as the elegant mansion on Capitol Hill, the 17th
Street office, the private train car, and the summer home in the
country.2
The Denver Club has stood as a landmark on the corner of
Glenarm and 17th Streets in downtown Denver for over 100 years. As
one of the Denver Club's charter members, Moffat participated in the
construction of the 1888 clubhouse, which was one of early Denver's
most impressive structures. As it was for Moffat, the Denver Club
was usually just a short stroll or carriage ride from the offices of
its 19th-century millionaire members. The club's placement on 17th
Street, the "Wall Street of the Rockies," was not a chance
occurrence. While later generations of Denverites would tout the
necessity of an international airport to make Denver a "major league
city," 19th-century residents knew it was the arrival of the railroad
in 1870 that had ensured Denver's survival, let alone its position as
the "Queen City of the Plains." Located at the lower end of 17th
Street, Union Depot continually reminded Denver's citizens of the
2


importance of doing business with the rest of the nation. The men
who frequented the Denver Clubhouse, which was located at the upper
end of 17th Street, were as familiar with the financial world of
London and New York as they were with the names of the mountain peaks
that dotted the landscape west of Denver.
On his daily walks to the Denver Club, David Moffat, who was
born in New York in 1839, had time to reflect on the enormous changes
he had seen in his adopted city, particularly between the time of his
arrival in 1860 and the founding of the Denver Club in 1880. What
had in 1860 been a ramshackle collection of false-front buildings and
log cabins along the banks of Cherry Creek and the Platte River had
become, 20 years later, a fledgling city with aspirations to become a
great one.
The year the Denver Club was founded marked the end of the most
expansive decade in the city's history. During the 1870s Denver had
grown seven-fold, from 4,759 people in 1870 to 35,629 in 1880. In
that year alone, the silver boom of the Leadville mining district had
doubled the state's precious metal production, accelerating the
influx of nouveau riche from the mountain mining camps into the just-
as-new mansions that sprouted up in Denver.3
The Denver Club came to life at a time when one early state
historian believed "the last American frontier really came to an end
for the State of Colorado."4 The Colorado gold rush, begun in 1858,
had quickly changed the cultural and physical landscape of the Rocky
Mountain West. By 1880, passengers arriving on the railroad no
3


longer saw buffalo herds on the plains east of the Denver.5 Large-
scale irrigation projects had transformed the Great American Desert
of the high plains into fertile farmland. Cattle and sheep ranching
had become major industries, ending the days of the open range.
Throughout Colorado, new towns, mines, smelters, and industries
dotted a landscape that only a few years earlier had been the reserve
of the state's American Indian population.
Indeed, the year 1880 also marked the U.S. government's removal
of the Ute Indians from western Colorado. The Cheyenne and Arapaho
had already been banished from Colorado to Oklahoma and Wyoming
reservations. The confinement of the Utes to two small reservations
in the southwest corner of Colorado opened up the rest of the Western
Slope, where prospectors had recently discovered precious metals. In
the view of the state's white residents, the removal of Colorado's
Native Americans eliminated "the last impediment to the advancing
tide of civilization."6
Between 1860 and 1880, Moffat had watched as Denver pioneers
moved from log shacks into brick mansions that looked like those
"back East." Moffat's own homes paralleled that growth. From their
honeymoon cottage on Larimer Street, David and Fannie Moffat moved
onto Denver's first "millionaire's row" along 14th Street. Later,
they moved into the newly established upscale neighborhood of Capitol
Hill, then known as Quality Hill. Their home at 800 Grant Street
had 36 rooms, tapestried walls, Louis XIV furniture, and
electrically-heated sidewalks.7 Moffat had seen the city's first
4


opera halls and business blocks built. He had witnessed the arrival
of electric lighting, telephone service, public utilities,
streetcars, and trains. And Moffat, together with the men he was on
his way to see at the Denver Club, had made those ventures happen.
As Moffat walked through the rounded sandstone arch of the
Denver Club's 17th Street entrance, and turned the wrought-iron knob
on the massive paneled oak door, the day clerk greeted him by name.
Unescorted club visitors were detained in the Strangers' Room next to
the front door. But members quickly felt at home. The Denver Club,
like private gentlemen's clubs throughout the nation, prided itself
on its comfortable home-like surroundings. These businessmen's
castles offered all the amenities of home -- and, as many of the
members' wives would charge, with none of the demands.
Handing over his hat and coat, David Moffat may have glanced up
at the enormous, mounted moose head that loomed over the club's main
entrance hall. Moffat had bagged that moose, and proudly presented
it to the Denver Club. For almost 60 years, Moffat's moose head
greeted all visitors to the Denver Club, until the old clubhouse was
torn down in 1954 and replaced by a shiny new skyscraper with
modern, mooseless decor.8
From the great oak-lined entrance hall, lit by a massive
wrought-iron chandelier, David Moffat could turn left and enter the
club's lounge. Here, chewing on their cigars and sipping their
drinks, congregated some of the most powerful men in the Rocky
Mountain West. "Silver King" Horace Tabor was a club regular, as
5


were charter member Walter Cheesman, who built the city's water
system, and smelter owner James B. Grant, who became Colorado's
governor in 1883. Nathaniel Hill, who had revolutionized Colorado's
smelting industry, was one of the club's first members and a U.S.
senator (1879-1885). Sugar beet king Charles Boettcher, banker
Charles Kountze, and cattleman-turned-Denver Dry Goods magnate Dennis
Sheedy were also regulars. Settled into one of the lounge's large
leather chairs, Moffat likely saw club founder Henry Wolcott, who was
as sociable as Moffat was reserved and who spent more time at the
Denver Club than he did at his bachelor's apartment one block away.
In the club's card room, which was tucked away behind the lounge,
Moffat probably would have found Henry's younger brother, U.S.
Senator Edward Wolcott. The senator was a well-known gambler and,
like his brother, an active "clubber."
On the other side of the building, to the right of the entrance
hall, lay the billiard room. If Moffat went in to check on his
standing in the most recent tournament, he probably met a few of the
club's several British members, either playing pool or watching from
one of the brown corduroy-covered sofas that lined one wall. The
Denver Club was remarkable for its large number of British and
Scottish members, who played a significant role in creating and
developing the club -- and in capitalizing Colorado mining, ranching,
and railroading. Scotsman James Duff was a club founder, and charter
members Hugh Butler, Richard Pearce, Joseph Hyde Sparks, as well as
T.A. Rickard, William Hamill, and Henry Collbran were all British-
6


born. All had welcomed the establishment of the Denver Club because
it offered them the same kind of social institution that they had
enjoyed in the British Isles.
On his morning visits to the Denver Club, Moffat would have
bypassed the lounge and the billiard room and headed straight for the
club's basement-level barbershop. When he saw Moffat coming, barber
Fred Basford reached for Moffat's shaving mug. As he was being
lathered, David Moffat might have looked over the shaving mugs that
were neatly lined up on the barbershop's glass shelves. Each Denver
Club member had his own mug, and the inscriptions included those of
Judge Moses Hallett, Horace and Maxcy Tabor, editor William Stapleton
of the Denver Republican, banker John Clark Mitchell, and "Leadville
Johnny" Campion. Also there were the mugs of John Cleveland Osgood,
founder of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, John Lathrop Jerome,
Samuel N. Wood, and Rodney Curtis. The mug that lathered Dennis
Sullivan had violets on its side, while a mug with a bright spray of
flowers belonged to U.S. Senator Charles J. Hughes.9
On his evening visits, Moffat often dined at the Denver Club.
Like most members, Moffat regularly reserved one of the club's small,
private, dining rooms to entertain and impress out-of-town clients.
The club's chefs prepared exquisite meals, the best in Denver. Club
members also liked to brag that the basement-level cellar held some
of the finest champagne and wine in the country, matching that of New
York's Union Club. The wine collection, estimated at $15,000 in
1888, had been collected by Senator Wolcott on his worldwide travels.
7


Denver Club members also liked to point out that club racks never
held a blend liquor, only pure scotches, bourbons, and ryes.10
When Moffat entertained an out-of-town client, he could reserve
for his guest one of the club's third-floor bedrooms. Although
Denver's hotel accommodations improved with the opening of the
Windsor Hotel in 1881, the exclusive Denver Club offered something a
commercial establishment never could -- intimate, personal service,
and an opportunity to socialize with the city's "best men." Many of
the club's non-resident members, which during most of the club's
early years meant those who lived more than ten miles away from the
clubhouse, also used the sleeping rooms. Businessmen, cattle
ranchers, and mine owners from such far-flung places as Telluride and
Cheyenne stayed at the Denver Club when conducting business in town.
Early non-resident members included Alva Adams of Pueblo, George
Trimble of Leadville, Spencer Penrose of Colorado Springs, and
Charles Mackenzie of Scotland.
But, on most evenings, David Moffat wasn't entertaining out-of-
town clients. So he usually walked past the private dining rooms and
library, and went straight into the club's main dining room. The
wood-paneled dining room, with its terra cotta-colored walls and
carved oak fireplace, was the club's largest room. It held about a
dozen tables of varying sizes and shapes. The largest, in the center
of the room, had seating for 12 portly men. The table, long since
discarded, had a four-legged base and a pine top later described as
being of "some red-brown wood." While it may not have been much to
8


look at, that large round table was a long-time symbol of the immense
power and influence of Denver's early business leaders.11
In 1950, a Denver social observer wrote that, for an earlier
generation, the table was Denver's equivalent of "Arthur's Table
Round." Although students of the Arthurian Legend might be quick to
point out that moral purity was never a requirement for Denver Club
membership, the merchant princes who occupied the leather-backed
chairs at the club's "table round" understood well the advantages of
economic and political brotherhood. Around that table, commented the
Rockv Mountain News. "once sat men who, in a space of a few
deliberate hours, made up entire political tickets." And, it was
claimed, they were often the tickets for both parties. Here, tycoons
laid the strategy that snatched the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation
from the clutches of "Bet-A-Million" John Gates, and strategized the
dealings of the Teapot Dome scandal.12
When the Denver Club was founded, it gave a name and a home to
an "old boys' network" that was already a well-established force in
the state. The clubhouse only enforced the already close
professional and personal relationships. As historian Lyle Dorsett
observed in The Queen City, A History of Denver, the Denver Club's
charter membership was "practically synonymous with Denver's power
structure."13 These men had already directed development in
Colorado for several years, and would continue to do so for several
more. Their fortunes were interwoven with Denver's success. Denver
Club members jointly controlled a vast number of railroads,
9


industries, utilities, and financial enterprises throughout the Rocky
Mountain West. Although later generations of Denver Club members
never held such a tight grip on Colorado's economy and politics as
did David Moffat and his peers, the Denver Club continued to
represent the city's power elite for many years to come.
Denver's early movers and shakers also knew that their fortunes
were intertwined with the broader national business community. Like
a young braggart barely out of its adolescence, 20-year-old Denver
was eager to convince the rest of the country, as well as itself,
that it was a city to be reckoned with. The elegant, high-society
trappings of the Denver Club -- with its French cuisine, imported
furnishings, and exclusive membership -- were calculated to impress
and intimidate. The city's capitalists, as represented by the Denver
Club, wanted to assure the national business community that Denver
was solid and mainstream, that it was a good place to do business,
and that it was, ultimately, a place like the East.
10


CHAPTER 2
INSTANT CITY, INSTANT SOCIETY
Had the members of the famous clubs of Boston, Philadelphia,
New York or Chicago wandered into the royally furnished
apartments of the Denver Club Friday evening, they would have
ceased to think of us as living near the bounds of
civilization . .
Rocky Mountain News. February 20, 1881
Founded in 1880 as a private gentlemen's club, the Denver Club
represents several important and recurrent themes in the history of
the American West: the rise of "instant cities" and "instant
society," the powerful influence of social organizations in the
development of cities and towns, and the replication of Eastern urban
patterns in the West. Only a popular movie-set image depicts "shoot-
em-up" frontiersmen carving out a new society in the wilderness. The
reality is that Denver, like most Western cities, was shaped by town
boosters who were born and bred in the East, and who wanted their new
home to be very much like the one they left behind. Denver's
transplanted population strived to create social, economic, and
political structures comparable to those in the East.
Overall, two events stand out in the history of the Denver
Club: the founding of the club in 1880, and the decision to tear down
the old Victorian-era clubhouse building and replace it with a new
skyscraper in 1954. In both instances, the Denver Club, representing
11


the interests of the larger business community, wanted to enhance the
national reputation of Denver, and to lure new investment money to
the city and state.
The two men most responsible for creating the Denver Club were
Henry Wolcott and James Duff, both of whom devoted a great deal of
time to bringing outside money to Colorado. Scotsman James Duff, who
arrived in Denver in 1877 as the representative of the London-based
Colorado Mortgage & Investment Company, funnelled millions of British
pounds into Colorado, building vast irrigation networks, cattle ranch
operations, downtown office buildings and mansions. Massachusetts
native Henry R. Wolcott came to Colorado in 1869, and persuaded
Eastern financiers to build Denver's Boston and Equitable Buildings.
Typical of many of Denver's early movers and shakers, Wolcott and
Duff knew that their financial success was tied to Colorado's, and
that by building up Denver's fortunes, they would be adding to their
own. They also understood that Colorado's economic future was
intricately tied to national and international concerns.
Some 70 years later, another generation of Denver Club members
also sought outside investments for their city. This time the money
reeked of Texas oil. In a move that still generates heated
discussions among long-time members, the Denver Club demolished its
old clubhouse to make way for Denver's first modern office
skyscraper, built by the Murchison family of Texas. Some members
believed the old building was out of date, and that it was time to
replace it with something new. Construction of the new Denver Club
12


Building also signified a desire by business leaders to make it clear
that Denver was no "cow town." Poised on the edge of a vast, post-
World War II, economic boom, Denver's leadership wanted to assure the
rest of the nation that Denver was a national business competitor.
And the Denver Club, once again, was in the forefront of that effort.
The Denver Club has been the bastion of Denver's power-brokers
since its founding. The club is the city's oldest; the only Colorado
club that predates it is the El Paso Club in Colorado Springs, which
was founded in 1877. Like the Cheyenne Club (1880) in Wyoming, the
Alta Club (1883) in Salt Lake City, and the Montana Club (1885) in
Helena, the Denver Club was one of several elite gentlemen's clubs
spawned in the Rocky Mountain West during the Gilded Age. In Denver,
one of the West's most "clubbable" cities, the late 19th century saw
the rise of numerous clubs, including the Lotus Club (1883), the
Denver Athletic Club (1884), the Candlelight Club (1886), and the
University Club (1891). Despite the local competition, the Denver
Club reigned supreme, as the city's first and most exclusive private
club.14
Clubbing was popular in Denver at all levels of society.
Church listings in the 1904 Denver City Directory take less than
eight columns. The listings for clubs, societies, and organizations
require more than 31 columns, indicating a preference for socializing
in a setting where one's peers set the rules. Denver citizens joined
clubs for several reasons. The city's newly-arrived residents sought
to recreate the traditional institutions they had left behind in
13


older established cities. Among the most popular clubs were chapters
of national organizations such as the Masons, Elks, Odd Fellows, and
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Immigrant citizens also sought out
the fellowship of those with similar background. Included in the
1885 Denver City Directory are the Albion Club, a social organization
for Englishmen, the Caldonian Club for Scotsmen, the B'nai B'rith,
and the Deutseher Orden der Harugari.
In the case of the Denver Club, the desire was to socialize
with people at the top of the social heap. "Like everyone else, the
rich were judged by the company they kept," Richard Peterson wrote in
his 1991 book, Bonanza Rich: Lifestyles of the Western Mining
Entrepreneurs. Peterson observed that "men seeking to proclaim their
position in society associated with others of comparable status in
exclusive fraternal organizations or gentlemen's clubs . ,"15
Despite an image of rugged individualism, the nouveau riche in
western cities looked eastward to older cities for their models of
elitist behavior.
The founding of the Denver Club, perhaps more than any other
social institution in the city, epitomized this desire to be Eastern.
The club's charter members patterned their new organization after the
private gentlemen's clubs of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York
which, in turn, imitated the old clubs of London. Within the club
walls, the members adhered to a Victorian code of behavior which,
although it may not always have been strictly followed, stands in
sharp contrast to images of the "Wild West."
14


Upon admission, which was tightly restricted, each Denver Club
member received a membership book that spelled out the rules. No
gambling, dictated the little red leather-bound book. No pipe
smoking, no dogs, and no talking in the library. Miners, laborers,
and workingmen could boisterously gamble away their earnings in the
saloons on Larimer Street. But on 17th Street, in the plush dining
room and library of the Denver Club mansion, Denver's nabobs -- who
routinely gambled their wealth on Colorado's railroads, mines, and
businesses -- were only allowed to engage in gentlemanly games of
whist, and never for money. The Denver Club was a genteel gathering
place for Denver's capitalists, and its members possessed all the
sophistication, elegance, and refinement of their Eastern
counterparts. At least that was the image they wanted to convey.16
Indeed, Denver's 19th-century image makers worked hard at
dispelling the city's rugged frontier image. Denver's early
settlement period was short-lived. The city had been founded
November 22, 1858, as a result of nearby gold discoveries. Later
discoveries of rich lodes of silver in the mountains to the west
confirmed Denver's role as the main supply center for the mountain
mining camps. By 1880, the city had taken on the characteristics and
demeanor of an established city, however rough around the edges.
There was nothing indigenous about Denver's social development.
Typically, Western newcomers viewed their migration "in terms of
personal betterment within a social and economic structure that
basically duplicated the East," wrote historian Richard White.
15


Westerners were not seeking to change the world, observed White,
"they only wanted to improve their position in it."17 Moreover, as
historian Lawrence Larsen has noted, city building in the West "was
neither a proving ground for democracy nor a battlefield for cowboys
and Indians. It was not a response to geographic or climatic
conditions. Rather it was the extension of a process perfected
earlier . ,"18 With its grid street pattern, irrigated
landscaping, and Euro-American architectural styling, Denver looked
very much like Kansas City, Cheyenne, and Salt Lake City which, in
turn, looked like cities in the East. What may have differentiated
Denver from other Western cities was the speed of its development.
Urban historian Gunther Barth called Denver an "instant city." Like
San Francisco, another urban center that owed its life to nearby
mining discoveries, Denver "came into existence suddenly and
flourished immediately."19
With similar speed, Denver's well-to-do adopted lifestyles
comparable to their Eastern counterparts. As quickly as Denver
became the economic capital of the state, it became its social and
entertainment center.20 Cattle baron John Iliff made his fortune on
the open ranges east of the city, but he built his home in Denver.
In the same way, Nathaniel Hill and Horace Tabor amassed fortunes in
the state's mining camps but they, too, moved to Denver. The names
that dominated the newspapers' business reports soon dominated the
society pages, although wives increasingly shared the spotlight.
16


Denver's burgeoning social order soon resembled that in Eastern
cities. In his study of Kansas cattle towns, historian C. Robert
Haywood observed that the notion that frontier communities were
"wide-open, classless societies was a romantic illusion, sometimes
self-perpetuated by western residents of that day ..." The
"nuances of American stratification" were part of the cultural
baggage that settlers brought West with them. As Haywood observed,
once Western immigrants settled into a community, "they recognized
shared interests and shared opponents, an essential ingredient in
establishing what sociologists refer to class consciousness. Once
this consciousness raising . had begun, rankings tended to fall
into place."21
Still, there was an opportunity for mobility in socially-fluid
communities such as Denver, particularly if you came early enough and
made a lot of money. In an instant city like Denver, wealth had
substantial leveling power. Because of the vacuum at the top of the
social order, pioneers like David Moffat could move up the social
ladder in Denver more easily than in other parts of the country where
"old guard" rankings were more entrenched. As Gunter Barth noted, a
new city's survival often depended on an influx of arrivals who could
furnish the money and the energy needed to keep it going during the
early boom-or-bust years. It was only after a city became more
established, and Society -- with a capital "S" -- became more inbred,
that it could afford to ignore newcomers.22
17


In Denver, the prospect of moving from one rung of society to
the next made social-climbing very enticing. As a result, early
Denver was filled with would-be socialites. But prospective social-
climbers still needed to meet basic requirements. Although Denver's
population was ethnically diverse, the top echelons of society were
only open to those who were "free, white, and twenty-one." Jews and
Catholics had their own social clubs, largely because membership in
organizations such as the Denver Club was not an option. Denver's
"unsinkable" Molly Brown may have been rich, but she was also
Catholic and "shanty Irish." Like many early social climbers, she
was frustrated by her inability to access the highest levels of
Denver's social structure.23
When they reached the top of the city's power structure,
Denver's nouveau riche continued to work hard at maintaining their
elitist lifestyle. As Thorstein Veblen discussed in his famous
study, The Theory of the Leisure Class, wealthy Americans
"conspicuously consumed" in order to achieve and maintain social
status. They built opulent mansions, threw lavish parties, yachted,
golfed, and built horse-racing stables at their country estates.
They flaunted their money, yet loved to recount their Horatio Alger-
style rags-to-riches stories. Denver's wealthy elite made grand
tours of Europe, dressed in French fashions, and sent their children
to Ivy League schools. In his study of elite behavior, Robert A.
Dahl noted that social acceptability was also marked by a
"willingness to dine together, to mingle freely in intimate social
18


events, to accept membership in the same clubs, to use forms of
courtesy considered appropriate among social equals, [and ] to
intermarry . "24
Denver's elite private clubs helped define early society, and
promoted the city's image. When the Denver Club held its first ball
in 1881, the press reported that the event "gave to the social annals
of Denver's history a reception seldom equalled in the older cites of
the East." Historian Lyle Dorsett observed that Denver's visiting
journalists "were squired about by civic boosters, housed in the
Windsor, Brown Palace, or Metropole hotels, and entertained at the
Denver Club and Tabor Opera House." Such treatment paid off. In the
national press, Denver was often portrayed as a polished and
aristocratic city. This, despite the fact that in 1880, the year the
Denver Club was founded, the city still lacked sewers and the average
Denverite lived a far grittier existence than the Denver Club
membership.25
19


CHAPTER 3
THE FOUNDING OF THE CLUB
Mainly its members made money, inherited money,
or married money. A few achieved all three goals.
Rocky Mountain News. May 27, 1950
It was, reportedly, a Scotsman who suggested the creation of
the Denver Club. When James Duff arrived in Denver in 1877, he found
that the city's businessmen networked in each others' homes and
offices. Finally, according to historian Lyle Dorsett, "Duff risked
offending his American associates by suggesting that in the British
Isles gentlemen of power had clubs where they socialized and
discussed business. Surely Denver needed such an institution." The
local newspapers agreed. "Gentlemen of position in the East have
long been entertaining our prominent citizens in their clubs," stated
the Denver Republican, "and it has been a matter of comment that a
city of the size and importance of Denver has not initiated some club
that should give newcomers the advantage ad initio of the society of
gentlemen in return for the courtesies said strangers gave in the
East to our best men."26
On July 10, 1880, the nascent Denver Club held its first
meeting at the city's Grand Central Hotel. The first order of
business was the election of officers. Henry Roger Wolcott was made
president. James Duff was elected vice-president. David H. Moffat
20


was voted in as treasurer, and Edward W. Rollins as secretary. James
Archer, Walter S. Cheesman, Hugh Butler, George W. Clayton, Moses
Hallett, Albert H. Jones, Richard Pearce, John L. Routt, and John W.
Savin rounded out the original board. A couple weeks later, on July
28, Duff, Moffat, Hallett, Jones, Cheesman, and Wolcott officially
incorporated the club, the stated purpose of which was "to promote
social intercourse among ourselves and associates therein, and to
have and maintain ... a club house with all the appurtenances and
belongings, matters, and things of a club and club house."27
The 13 men who formed the original board of directors typified
the power structure of early Denver. Most were in their 40's. But,
despite their youth, most had been in Denver since the 1860s. Some,
like David Moffat, were products of lower to middle-class families.
More, like Walter Cheesman, had led privileged lives. All, however,
were, by the time they joined the Denver Club, very wealthy. And,
typical of the power elite of Denver and the nation at large, all
were white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men.
The Denver Club leadership resembled the broader community in
other ways. In 1880, most of Denver's citizens, like most of the
club directors, hailed from the Northeast and Midwest. Most 1880
Denver citizens -- 60 percent -- were male. And 24 percent of the
city's residents were foreign-born, which was a percentage almost
identical to the Denver Club's board of directors.28 What most
separated the men in the club from those on the street was the extent
of their money, power, and influence.
21


Compared to his fellow clubbers, James Duff (1827-1900) was a
relative late-comer to Denver's power elite. David Moffat, Walter
Cheesman, James Archer, Moses Hallett, and Henry Wolcott had been
involved in Colorado politics and business for 15 to 20 years before
Duff, the club's most prominent foreigner, arrived in 1877. James
Duff quickly became well-known to the state's power brokers. The
Scotsman's unassuming manner belied the fact that, in the late 1870s
and early 1880s, he had more money at his disposal than anyone else
in Denver.29
James Duff's money was, generally, not his own. Duff came to
Denver as the representative of the Colorado Mortgage and Investment
Company (CM&I) of London, Ltd. Often referred to as the "English
Company," CM&I had been formed for the purpose of lending money on
Colorado real estate. When CM&I held its first meeting in London in
May 1877, the company had 175 shareholders, all of whom were betting
on the possibility of making money in Colorado. A similar London-
based company, the Australian Mortgage and Investment Company, had
profited by investing in land "down under."30
James W. Barclay, company chairman and the Member of Parliament
from Aberdeen, Scotland, selected a fellow Scotsman to head CM&I's
Colorado operations. At the time, James Duff was living on a farm in
Kingoldrum, Forfarshire. Although the arid high plains of Colorado
were a world away from the lush Scottish highlands, Duff was no
stranger to the United States, nor to Colorado. By the time Duff
boarded a London steamship to began his stint as CM&I's man in
22


Colorado in the summer of 1877, he had already spent much of his life
in the U.S.
Duff was already an American citizen and a veteran of the U.S.
Civil War. According to newspaper accounts and military records,
Duff lived in St. Louis prior to the Civil War, where he married an
American woman, Harriet, and where at least one of their children was
born. After the war, Duff traveled throughout the American West
before returning to Scotland. When Duff accepted the CM&I assignment
and went back to Colorado in 1877, he first took up residency in
Denver's Charpiot's Hotel. By 1880, James and Harriet Duff and their
daughter Julie, who often accompanied her father to Denver Club
events, were living at 447 California Street.31
Initially, the Colorado Mortgage and Investment Company's money
was to be invested in mortgages, primarily for private homes. But
after setting up offices in the Broadwell Block, Duff assessed the
vast investment opportunities that were also available in
transportation, mining, agriculture, and irrigation. An early
beneficiary of CM&I money was William Jackson Palmer's Denver and Rio
Grande Railroad. Under the auspices of the Denver Mansions Company,
Duff also loaned money on commercial real estate, as well as to
Denver's nouveau riche to build elegant homes in the city's
burgeoning upscale neighborhoods. Duff channeled English money into
several CM&I offshoots, such as the Platte Land Company, Ltd., the
Colorado Ranch Company, the American Pastoral Company, the Arkansas
Valley Land and Cattle Company, the Larimer and Weld Irrigation
23


Company, the Larimer and Weld Lateral Irrigation Company, the
Northern Colorado Irrigation Company, the Buffalo Creek Irrigation
Company, the Colorado Elevator and Warehouse Company, and the
Loveland and Greeley Irrigation Company.32
James Duff was a good businessman but his financial success in
Colorado was also due to the fact that, at the time of his arrival,
money was sorely needed. Colorado was still reeling from the effects
of the 1873 depression. Almost everything in Denver was mortgaged.
Interest rates were high, running from 12 to 24 percent a year, and
money was tight. By contrast, James Duff represented a seemingly
unlimited supply of money. One Denver businessmen recalled that
within a few months of Duff's arrival, he "had reduced the rates of
interest to eight percent, and they never again went above that
figure. The services which he rendered in that particular alone
saved from insolvency many real estate owners who had been and
continued to be the most enterprising men in the state."33
One of the first ventures that James Duff took up was the High
Line Canal, which had been struggling financially for years without
success. With an infusion of English money, the irrigation works
were completed and the canal successfully irrigated thousands of
acres of otherwise arid land in and around Denver. Duff also
constructed the Windsor Hotel, the Duff Block, and the Barclay Block,
which each commanded a corner at the intersection of 18th and Larimer
Streets. These three buildings did more than reshape an
intersection; they initiated new architectural standards in the city.
24


Completed in 1880 at a cost of almost $500,000, the Windsor was
Denver's first grand hotel and, in the view of one English writer,
brought "civilization" to the Rocky Mountain hinterland. The Barclay
Block was the city's largest office building, named after Duff's
boss, James W. Barclay. The Duff Block, where James Duff maintained
his offices, was the headquarters of CM&I.34
In addition to his activities for CM&I, Duff served on the
board of the Denver National Bank and the Chamber of Commerce, and
enjoyed Denver's social life. He helped organize Ulysses S. Grant's
reception in Denver in 1880, and Mayor Richard Sopris asked Duff to
help investigate securing park land for Denver. He helped organize
Denver's Mining Exposition, and was a director of the Denver Baseball
Association, which promoted the Denver Browns. In 1881, Duff invited
52 of the state's wealthiest citizens to a Valentine's Day party at
the Windsor Hotel. As a perfect illustration of the importance of
all-male associations at the end of the 19th century, the party was
for men only. As the host, Duff sat at the head of the table;
Governor Pitkin sat on his right, Henry R. Wolcott at his left.35
Although Duff's presence in Denver was influential, it was also
brief. In 1885, Duff severed his relationship with the Colorado
Mortgage and Investment Company and moved to London. Although he
spent most of his retirement in England and Scotland, he returned to
Denver regularly. He resigned from the Denver Club in 1891, and died
in London of diabetes in 1900 at the age of 73.
25


In the Denver Club, Duff had at least one fellow Scotsman with
whom to reminisce about his homeland. Hugh Butler, 1840-1912, who
presided over the Denver Club's first meeting, was born in Scotland
but joined the gold rush to Colorado. By the early 1860s, the tall,
distinguished-looking Scotsman was practicing law in Central City,
where he was elected mayor in 1871. In 1874, Butler moved to Denver
and became associated with the firm of Fayre, Wright, and Butler,
which served as legal counsel for several large businesses, including
the First National Bank and the Colorado National Bank. Butler, who
always retained "the pleasing accent of the Scottish dialect," was a
loyal and regular Denver Clubber, and made the club his home after
his wife's death in 1910.36
Another member of the large foreign contingent that gravitated
to the Denver Club was Richard Pearce. Born in Great Britain in
1837, Pearce managed a silver and copper works in Swansea, Wales,
before coming to Colorado at the behest of British capitalists
looking for new investment opportunities. In 1871, Pearce went to
Georgetown to investigate the area's silver mines. After reporting
back favorably to his British backers, Pearce moved his family to
Georgetown in 1872, where he took charge of the area's primitive
smelter works. By 1873, he was the metallurgist for Nathaniel P.
Hill's Boston & Colorado Smelter, where he became acquainted with
Hill's right-hand man, Henry Wolcott. A well-respected and
influential scientist, Pearce helped found the Colorado Scientific
Society in 1882.37
26


Banking, utilities, and transportation loomed large in the
personal fortunes of the Denver Club founders. Another foreign-born
founder was James Archer, an Irish immigrant who came to Denver as a
promoter of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and quickly saw that a
fortune could be made in supplying public utilities. In 1869, Archer
organized Denver's gas works. In 1870, together with Walter
Cheesman, Jerome Chaffee, Frederick Salomon, Governor Edward McCook,
and David Moffat, he created the Denver City Water Company. In the
same year that he helped found the Denver Club, Archer joined the
board of directors of the Denver, Utah & Pacific Railroad Company.
(Six of the Denver Club's 13 founders sat on that same board.)
Archer enjoyed Denver Club membership for only two years before his
death in 1882.38
Among those who shared an interest in the Denver, Utah &
Pacific Railroad was Walter S. Cheesman, a close business associate
of James Archer. Cheesman was born in 1838 into a wealthy Long
Island, New York, family. In 1860, he opened a Denver drug business,
but soon began investing in real estate, public utilities, and other
lucrative ventures that established him as one of the most powerful
men in the community. With David Moffat and several others he
invested in six railroads, and became manager of the Denver Union
Depot and Railway Company. He also joined Moffat and Wolcott on the
board of the First National Bank and served with them on the Mining
Stock Exchange. After his death in 1907, the marble pavilion in
Cheesman Park was built in his memory.
27


The first Denver Club board roster also included David Halliday
Moffat, Jr., 1839-1911, one of the most famous names in Colorado
history. Moffat had come to Denver in 1860 as a book dealer, and by
1866 was cashier at the First National Bank of Denver. He eventually
became the bank's president, and his financial empire came to include
railroad building and mining. Moffat, Horace Tabor, and Jerome B.
Chaffee --at one time acclaimed as the three richest men in Colorado
-- were joint owners of Leadville's Little Pittsburgh mine. Moffat
was also a major stockholder in the Denver City Tramway Company.39
Another Denver Club founder who came to Colorado during its
territorial days was George Washington Clayton, who moved to Denver
in 1859 and organized the general merchandise firm of Clayton & Lowe.
In 1861, Lowe's interest was bought out by Clayton's brother,
William, who served as mayor of Denver in 1868-1869. After retiring
from the mercantile business in 1874, George Clayton, known to his
friends as "G.W.," invested heavily in real estate, earning him a
second fortune. George Clayton was always close-mouthed about his
financial dealings. After his death in 1899, many were surprised to
learn that Clayton had willed his $2,000,000 estate for the
establishment of the Clayton School for Orphan Boys. Among the
surprised were Clayton's relatives, who unsuccessfully contested the
will, which Clayton had entrusted to his closest friend and fellow
club member, Judge Moses Hallett.*0
Edward W. Rollins, 1850-1929, hailed from a wealthy and
prestigious New England family; his father was a U.S. Senator.
28


Edward Rollins came to Colorado as a young mining engineer, but soon
switched to railroading. He helped locate portions of the Colorado
Central Railroad, where he served as resident engineer from 1873-
1876. After the Colorado Central passed into the hands of William
A.H. Loveland, Rollins opened up the Rollins Investment Company,
which financed the development of cities and towns throughout
Colorado. Rollins later served on the Denver Club committee that
oversaw the construction of the 1888 clubhouse building. Rollins
apparently enjoyed being a club builder. In 1888, he became
president of the Denver Athletic Club and oversaw the construction of
its permanent clubhouse which, like the Denver Club, was designed by
architects Ernest P. Varian and Frederick J. Sterner.41
Within a few years, it would be commonplace for Colorado's
political leaders, including several U.S Senators, to hang their hats
in the Denver Club cloakroom. However, Denver Club founding member
John L. Routt had the distinction of being not only Colorado's last
territorial governor, but also its first state governor. Born in
Kentucky in 1826, Routt worked as a machinist, builder, and sheriff
before becoming a captain in the Civil War. The strength and
leadership abilities of the young black-haired captain, who was short
and stockily-built, apparently impressed General Ulysses S. Grant.
After Grant became president, he made Routt the second assistant
postmaster general and, in 1875, appointed him governor of the
Colorado Territory. Routt later made a fortune from Leadville's
29


Morning Star and Waterloo Mines. In 1883, he returned to public
service as mayor of Denver.42
President Grant was also instrumental in the career of another
Denver Club founder, Judge Moses Hallett. Hallett, an attorney when
he moved to Colorado in 1860, tried his hand unsuccessfully at mining
before entering into a law practice with Hiram P. Bennett. In 1866,
President Andrew Johnson appointed Hallett a territorial justice. In
1876, when Colorado became a state, President Ulysses S. Grant made
Hallett a federal judge. By the time Hallett retired from the bench
in 1906, he reportedly had handed down more opinions on mining
matters than any judge in the world. The judge, who had the
reputation of being "the most stern presiding officer of any court,"
apparently brightened up outside the courtroom, either socializing in
the Denver Club or pursuing his favorite hobby, fishing. Hallett was
also well known for his philanthropy. The Catherine Felt Hallett
Home for Nurses at St. Luke's Hospital, which still stands, was built
by Moses Hallett in memory of his wife.43
Albert H. Jones, 1839-1910, offered the Denver Club two of its
most important items, whiskey and cigars. Jones came to Denver in
1866, shortly after recovering from extensive Civil War wounds, and
opened up the A.H. Jones 6e Company liquor and cigar business, which
was located for many years on 16th Street. Jones was prominent in
the state's military affairs. He organized the Chaffee Light
Artillery Company and commanded it during Denver's anti-Chinese riot
of 1880. Jones also served as captain of the Governor's Guard, and
30


was a brigadier and inspector general for the Colorado National
Guard. In 1890, he became U.S. Marshall for Colorado. In addition
to his retail and wholesale business, Jones engaged in real estate
and mining.44
A Denver newcomer on the club's board was John W. Savin. Savin
was co-owner of the Young & Savin Lumber Company, which had much to
offer and benefit from the growing city of Denver. Savin's partner
was George W. Young, also a Denver Club member. The Young & Savin
Lumber Company, conveniently located near Union Depot, sold lumber,
lath, shingles, and building materials. Following his arrival to
Denver in 1880, Savin lived at the Grand Central Hotel, site of the
first Denver Club meeting.45
31


CHAPTER 4
HENRY R. WOLCOTT,
THE QUINTESSENTIAL "CLUB MAN"
James Duff may have been the spark that ignited the Denver
Club, but Henry Roger Wolcott, 1846-1921, was the club's driving
force in its early years. Wolcott's portrait still looms large in
the entryway to the Denver Club, and shows a stocky clean-shaven man
with an unmistakable sense of confidence and authority. Wolcott, who
arrived in Colorado just ten years after the gold rush of 1859,
quickly became one of the state's most powerful citizens and,
according to a 1905 newspaper article, was "actively identified with
every big undertaking in the state.46
Wolcott took credit for starting the Denver Club. "In 1879 I
invited some of my friends here to meet in my office for the purpose
of organizing a club," Wolcott said in 1892. However, his friends
showed little interest, and Wolcott waited a year before making
another attempt at starting a club. The Denver Club finally
organized in July 1880, and Wolcott recalled that "I wanted to get
some older man to take the presidency but nobody would take it and so
I had to, and I have been president of it ever since."47 Presumably
that "older man" was James Duff, who was almost 20 years older than
Wolcott. Although Duff accepted the vice-presidency, he left the job
of running the club to his good friend Henry.
32


Like many early Denverites, Wolcott was an Easterner by birth.
He was born March 15, 1846, in Long Meadow, Massachusetts. His
father, Samuel Wolcott, was a Congregational minister who moved his
family with him as he accepted an assortment of pastoral assignments.
As a result, Henry attended numerous schools in Chicago, Cleveland,
and Providence, Rhode Island, none of which left much of an
impression. "I left school in the first place because I wanted to, I
had been sick and was behind in my class, and father was very poor,"
said Wolcott. After serving in the Civil War, Wolcott worked at
various businesses in Massachusetts and Chicago before moving to
Black Hawk, Colorado, in 1869.48
According to Wolcott, a toothache brought him to Colorado.
When he decided to move west, Wolcott's original destination had been
California. But by the time he reached Omaha, Wolcott had a terrible
toothache. As Wolcott later recalled, the only dentist he could find
was not very strong and had a hard time pulling the tooth. The
ordeal left Wolcott so weak that he had to recuperate in his hotel
bed for a week. "When I had paid my board bill and dentist's and
doctor's bill I was nearly out of money," Wolcott said, "and had only
enough money to get me to Colorado."49
"I reached Colorado with 35 cents in pocket and not even an
acquaintance," Wolcott, then 25 years old, wrote to his brother
Edward on December 21, 1869. But neither the poverty nor the
anonymity lasted long. Wolcott discovered that he did have friends
in Colorado, including Tom Potter whom Wolcott had met in Cleveland
33


before the Civil War. Potter found Wolcott his first job in
Colorado, working as a roustabout in a stamp mill in Russell Gulch
near Blackhawk, Colorado. Wolcott also met Nathaniel P. Hill, the
Brown University science professor who had organized the Boston and
Colorado Smelting Company in Black Hawk and who had known Wolcott's
father in the East. By April 1870, Wolcott was Hill's bookkeeper and
soon became his assistant manager, a working relationship that lasted
17 years. Wolcott supervised the Boston and Colorado Smelting
Company's branch at Alma, as later the company's Argo smelter in
Denver.50
Wolcott's salary at the Boston and Colorado Smelting Company
soon became secondary to his mining investments. At the same time he
was managing operations in Alma in 1872-1874, Wolcott's own mines in
the area brought in at least $20,000. Wolcott also owned mines in
the Leadville and Creede mining districts, and he parlayed his money
into other profitable business ventures. He eventually became one of
the largest stockholders in the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, and
served on the boards of the National Bank of Commerce and the
National Trust Company. Wolcott was president of the Merchants
National Bank, which he founded with Samuel Wood, and vice-president
of David Moffat's First National Bank. Wolcott presided over the
Colorado Telephone Company, and was a director of the Denver, Utah,
and Pacific Railroad.
According to historian Lyle Dorsett, Wolcott was "second only
to James Duff in acquiring outside capital for Denver and its
34


hinterland."51 Just as English investors knew they could count on
Duff, Easterners turned to Wolcott for investment advice. As the
local representative for the Equitable Life Assurance Society,
Wolcott is credited with persuading the New York-based company's
president, Henry B. Hyde, to build Denver's Equitable Building at
17th and Stout Streets. Wolcott also advised Boston financier Henry
Lee Higginson, who relied on Wolcott to make the on-the-spot
decisions regarding Higginson's extensive mining investments in
Colorado.52
Henry Wolcott had five siblings -- Edward, Katherine, Anna,
Clara, and Herbert. Although Clara and Herbert stayed in the East,
the others followed their brother west. The best known Wolcott was
Henry's brother, Edward (1848-1905), who moved to Colorado in 1871
and who soon found his niche in the political arena. By 1876, Edward
0. Wolcott was Clear Creek County's state senator, while Henry served
as Gilpin County's state senator. Edward was elected U.S. senator in
1889, and the Denver Club became the site of numerous political deals
hatched by the Wolcott brothers and their associates. Although
Edward Wolcott's country home, Wolhurst, located near Littleton, was
one of Colorado's grandest estates, he spent much of his time at the
Denver Club or at his brother's apartment house.53
Contemporary accounts often describe Henry as the steady and
more personable brother, and Edward as the brilliant but volatile
hotspur. The brothers were very close and often lived together
although, reportedly, Henry only consented to such an arrangement
35


after Edward promised to stay at the dinner table until the meal was
over. Edward was apparently so full of nervous energy that he could
rarely sit still that long. Although both Henry and Edward Wolcott
were prime movers in the Denver Club, Edward refused to accept
office. "My brother Henry is a good housekeeper, I am not," Edward
Wolcott always said. "He likes it -- I don't; give it to him."54
In 1899, Anna Wolcott, with financial assistance from her
brother Henry, founded the Miss Wolcott School for Girls. Later
known as Kent Country Day, the Miss Wolcott School was the
fashionable choice for the daughters of Denver's social denizens.
Here, young ladies adhered to high academic standards, polished their
social skills and, like their fathers and uncles at the Denver Club,
moved in the right circles. In 1913, Anna Wolcott married Joel
Vaile, the law partner of her brother Edward. Katherine Ellen
Wolcott, Henry's other sister who moved to Colorado, married Charles
Hansen Toll in 1880, the same year that he was elected state attorney
general.55
Genial and hearty, Henry Wolcott was a popular, fun-loving
bachelor and bon vivant. A frequent traveler, Wolcott stayed in the
finest hotels, ate in the best restaurants, and maintained
memberships in several private clubs including the Union, Brooks,
Lambs, Larchmont, and American Yacht Clubs of New York; the
Manhasset, Tavern, Atlantic, and Eastern Yacht Clubs of Boston; and
the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C. In 1891, Wolcott built a
home at 1751 Glenarm, one block from the Denver Club. Known as the
36


Paddock, Wolcott's home had five bachelor apartments, and the
bachelors who lived there included Jack Pullen, Jack Voorhies, and
George Estabrook. Henry, together with his brother Edward, belonged
to Denver's "Smart Set" and their intimates also included Colonel
Hughes, the Crawford Hills, and Charles McAllister Willcox.
According to Denver historian Louisa Ward Arps, Henry Wolcott may
also be best remembered as the man who brought golf to Denver. In
1895, the Overland Park Club leased a nine-hole golf course and
clubhouse that Henry had built around the Overland Race Track in
south Denver.56
An avid theater and party-goer, Wolcott had a wide circle of
friends that included many famous actors of the day. The list of
guests at the Paddock included such then well-known celebrities as
Lew Dockstader, Frank Daniels, and Frederick Ward. John Philip
Sousa, the famous American bandmaster and composer of marches, was a
frequent guest, as was "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who "loved to spend hours
at a time within the walls of the Wolcott bachelor home." To serve
at his parties, Wolcott often hired waiters from the Denver Club.
Denver Clubber William Rust recalled that Wolcott's most popular
event was the annual open house on Washington's Birthday which, at
the turn of the century, was almost as popular a holiday as the 4th
of July. You could miss every other social event of the year, one
Denver social columnist noted, as long as you showed up at the
Paddock on February 22.57
37


By the beginning of the 20th century, Henry Wolcott's
flamboyant reign in Colorado was coming to a close, and he spent less
and less time in Colorado. In a 1904 interview, Wolcott, who lost an
1898 race to become Colorado's governor, told a reporter that "there
is nothing in Colorado politics which is as attractive as yachting."
After the 1905 death of his brother Edward, Henry Wolcott placed both
the Paddock and Wolhurst on the market. By that time, Henry Wolcott
was living in New York and the Paddock was in the care of servants.
When he visited Denver, Henry told friends, he would make his home at
the Denver Club.58
At the time of his death in Honolulu in 1921, Henry Wolcott was
the Denver Club's last surviving charter member. He was virtually
retired from business activities by 1910 and made his last visit to
Denver in 1915. In the years before his death, Wolcott spent much of
his time in Bermuda and Hawaii. Fittingly, Wolcott's home, the
Paddock, served as the home of the Cactus Club, another historic and
well-known private men's club. In 1925, the building was torn down
to make way for an office building for the Continental Oil
Company.59
38


CHAPTER 5
THE BUSINESSMEN'S CASTLE
In the quiet residence part of Denver, but just a little
removed from two busy thoroughfares, the Denver Club building
stands, as cozy and homelike as many of the private dwellings
surrounding it.
Ernest Phillip Varian, and
Frederick Junius Sterner, 1889
Although it has been on the corner of 17th and Glenarm Streets
since 1888, the Denver Club has had five meeting places in four
downtown locations since it was founded in 1880. The club's first
meeting was held on July 10, 1880, at the Grand Central Hotel,
located on the southwest corner of 17th and Lawrence Streets. Club
members held their second meeting on July 17, 1880, at the Windsor
Hotel. At this meeting, the members voted to move into Guard's Hall,
located on the northwest corner of 15th and Curtis Streets. Guard's
Hall, also known as the Forrester Opera House, needed to be remodeled
to serve as a club, so the Denver Club membership decided to stay at
the Windsor Hotel until the new clubhouse was ready. The club leased
rooms 200, 202, and 204 of the Windsor Hotel at a cost of $225 per
month, including lights, fuel, and furniture.60
The Windsor Hotel, located at 18th and Larimer Streets, had
only been open a few weeks when the Denver Club moved in. Like the
Denver Club, the Windsor had been inspired by James Duff. Soon after
39


he arrived in Denver, Duff wrote back to London saying that what the
city needed more than anything else was a first-class hotel. Duff's
English investors took his advice and financed the construction of
the luxurious hotel, which was leased and operated by Horace Tabor
and his partner William Bush.
The Denver Club's residency in the Windsor only enhanced that
hotel's reputation as the meeting place for the young city's movers
and shakers. Upon completion, James Duff moved the offices of the
Colorado Mortgage and Investment Company into the Windsor, as did a
host of other businessmen. The Windsor already offered many of the
amenities of a private club. In the Windsor's Gentlemen's Reading
Parlor, Denver businessmen smoked cigars, relaxed, read, and made
deals -- much like they would in the Denver Clubhouse a few months
later.61
The Denver Club resided at the Windsor Hotel for six months
before moving into Guard's Hall on January 19, 1881. The hall was
owned by Emmet and Scott J. Anthony. Emmet Anthony, Denver's first
architect, had designed several of the city's early buildings. In
addition to Guard's Hall, Anthony designed the John Wesley Iliff
home, the Moffat-Kassler Block, and Sacred Heart Catholic Church at
28th and Larimer Street.62
Before leasing Guard's Hall to the Denver Club, Anthony
retrofitted it as a clubhouse. Club members Henry Wolcott, John
Savin, and Albert H. Jones directed the remodeling. Described as
"palatial" and "princely" by the local press, the clubhouse was
40


furnished splendidly to serve as the headquarters of Denver's
business royalty. The remodeled building featured a large reception
room, library, billiard parlor, several dining rooms, a "smoking
department," and private suites. The Denver Club spent $10,000
furnishing the new club quarters, and the decorating scheme included
Royal Wilton and Brussels carpets, Turkish rugs, tamberquins, and
silk curtains.63
On February 18, 1881, the Denver Club held its first annual
ball. Henry Wolcott and James Duff stood at the head of the
receiving line, the latter's Scottish accent lending a much-sought-
after cosmopolitan tone to the affair. The Denver Republican
reported that James Celia's restaurant served the dinner, which was
prepared by chef C. Bartels, "one of the most accomplished cooks in
the country." The Denver Club members and their ladies, dressed in
the latest French fashions, dined on "Escallope of Oysters,"
"California Salmon au Beurre Fanchois [sic]," "Pommera [sic] la
Duchesse," "Capon with Truffles a la Valliere" and, one of the few
local entrees, "Prairie Chicken." Entertainment was provided by
Koenigsberg's Orchestra, which played Strauss. According to the
numerous accounts written up in the Denver newspapers, the guests
danced until 3:00 a.m., circling around the clubrooms "to the
inspiring and sensuous strains of the waltz," diamonds flashing,
"mingled with the varying luster of silks and satins."66
The first manager in the new clubhouse was M.L. Paddock, who
dispensed "the courtesies and hospitalities of the club." Those
41


courtesies, however, were reserved for the club's exclusive
membership, which one Denver visitor learned the hard way. In
October 1881, a tired traveler walked into the clubhouse, signed his
name in the visitor's book, and asked for a room. As the perplexed
clerk stared at him, trying to figure out if he might be a new
member, the irritated tourist issued a string of profanities that
"curled up in blue rings of flame towards the ceiling." Finally, the
steward explained to the traveler that a room couldn't be had at any
price.65
The Denver Club was an immediate success. By 1885, the club
boasted 218 members. According to the 1885 club book, which appears
to have been the first one published, the initiation fee was a
minimum of $100; annual dues were $80. The 1885 rule book also made
it clear that the club wanted to more than double its membership. In
that year, the membership limit was 500, a total of 300 resident and
200 non-resident members. The club was already looking for larger
quarters. In 1883, Henry Wolcott had offered to sell a house he
owned on Curtis Street to the Denver Club, proposing that it could be
remodeled into a clubhouse. Although the club discussed the
proposal, the deal fell through.66
On December 6, 1887, the Denver Club purchased a site at 17th
and Glenarm Streets from Samuel N. Wood. Although now in the heart
of downtown Denver, that site was still largely residential in the
1880s. Staked in 1858 by the Denver City Town Company, the clubhouse
property had gone through several ownerships. Previous owners
42


included stage line owner Ben Holladay, banker Charles Kountze,
William Clancy, James B. Reid, Richard E. Whitsitt, George W.
Clayton, and Judge Jacob Downing. The initial site included Lots 29,
30, 31, and 32 of Block 174. At the time of purchase, two residences
stood on the property, both of which were removed to make way for the
new clubhouse. Lot 28, the farthest to the west and once owned by
the Leavenworth City and Pike's Peak Express Company, was added to
the Denver Club property in 1906.67
For the design of the clubhouse, the Denver Club solicited bids
from architectural firms as far away as Boston. But the building
committee -- comprised of Henry Wolcott, John Lathrop Jerome, Harry
Fowler, James B. Grant, and Edward W. Rollins -- selected two local
architects, Ernest Phillip Varian and Frederick Junius Sterner.
Architects Ernest P. Varian and Frederick J. Sterner
Ernest P. Varian and Frederick J. Sterner were two of early
Denver's most prominent architects. The partnership of E.P. Varian
and F.J. Sterner was relatively short, lasting from 1884 to 1901, but
their legacy includes several landmark buildings. The Denver Club
was one of their most important collaborative efforts.68
Clubhouses were something of a Varian and Sterner specialty.
Besides the Denver Club, the partners also designed the Denver
Athletic Club in 1889, and the University Club in 1890. Their
private residences, several of which were designed for Denver Club
members, include the Tears-McFarlane House (1898), now the Capitol
43


Hill Community Center, at 1290 Williams Street; the Pearce-McAllister
Cottage (1899), which was the home of Denver Club president Henry
McAllister and is now a Colorado Historical Society museum at 1880
Gaylord Street; the Sykes-Nicholson-Moore House (1897) at 1410 High
Street; and the Cuthbert-Dines House (1901) at 1350 Logan Street.
Born in New Jersey, Ernest Phillip Varian, 1854-1927, came to
Denver in 1880, where some of his earliest works were churches.
Together with Willoughby J. Edbrooke, Varian designed Denver's Zion
Baptist Church. Varian also designed the Calvary Baptist Church at
27th and Stout Streets. In 1910, Varian went into a partnership with
his son Lester. The firm of Varian and Varian designed the Byers
Branch Library at 675 Santa Fe Drive, the Colorado State Home for
Dependent Children, and a studio home for artist George Albert Burr
at 1325 Logan Street, which later became the Denver Women's Press
Club. The father-and-son team also designed numerous residences in
the Capitol Hill and Country Club neighborhoods.
Frederick Junius Sterner, 1862-1931, was born in England. He
came to the United States at the age of 16, and by 1882 was working
as a draftsman for Denver architect Frank E. Edbrooke, the younger
brother of Willoughby Edbrooke. After dissolving the partnership
with Ernest Varian, Sterner teamed up with George Hebard Williamson.
With Williamson, Sterner designed the Daniels & Fisher Department
Store (1911), with its famous still-standing tower at 16th and
Arapahoe Streets in downtown Denver, and the William Sweet residence
(1906) at 1075 Humboldt Street. By 1909, Sterner was living in New
44


York, where he also had an architectural practice. In 1924, Sterner
retired and moved to London.69
Varian and Sterner's three-story Denver Clubhouse was completed
in 1888, and was built of red and gray sandstone that was quarried at
Larkspur, Colorado. The building's high-pitched red slate roof had
clusters of dormers and tall chimneys. According to historian Jerome
Smiley, the Denver Club spent $120,000 for the building, and the
clubhouse's "architecture, size, elegance and completeness of
appointments, make it one of the notable establishments of its kind
west of New York."70 With its turreted corners and broad low arched
entrance, the new building was clearly not an office building. Yet,
it was obviously much more than a single-family residence.
Architects Varian and Sterner designed it to look exactly like what
it was -- the exclusive, downtown retreat of Denver's rich and
powerful.
In the 1950s, one Denver Club member waggishly called the
design of the 1888 clubhouse "Cherry Creek Romanesque." But
contemporary newspapers called the design "English basement
clubhouse," and observed that most British club-goers would have felt
right at home. In all likelihood, the similarities to a London
clubhouse were intentional. James Duff, as well as the club's
several English members, were very familiar with British clubs. One
of the club's architects, Frederick Sterner, was born in England.
And Senator Edward Wolcott, who was a prime mover behind the new
clubhouse, owned a well-worn copy of the book Clubs and Club Life in
45


London. which was published in 1872 and included architectural
descriptions and drawings of English clubs.71
Ironically, when the new Denver Club Building was constructed
in 1954, the membership wanted a futuristic-looking building. But in
1888, the Denver Club membership wanted to create an "old world" look
for their new clubhouse, and the furnishings included several
antiques, including antique light fixtures. The Denver Republican
reported that the club's great, oak-lined, main hall, which had a
winding staircase, was "more like that of some ancient castle than
any which Colorado has ever seen."72
Architectural historian Richard Brettell believes that Varian
and Sterner's design of the Denver Club was strongly influenced by
the work of architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson designed
Trinity Church in Boston and the Glessner house in Chicago, and was
one of America's most influential architects. The "Richardsonian
Romanesque" style was characterized by massive walls, rusticated
stone blocks, rounded arches, and Romanesque detailing. The Denver
Clubhouse also had multi-colored "Richardsonian-style" stonework.
The first floor was red sandstone, as was the trim around the second
and third floors. The second and third floors of the building were
of gray "lava stone." The Denver Clubhouse's rounded arches "crowded
each other on the facade ..." noted Brettell, "and a massive
entrance arch expanded outward to form one of the grandest entrance
spaces in Denver." The Denver Club building, wrote Brettell, "was a
singular example of the dark richness of the eighties . ."73
46


The Denver Club sent out 1,200 invitations for its opening
reception on October 20, 1888, allowing Denverites their first chance
to look at the magnificent new clubhouse. The main portion of the
Denver Club building was 60 by 100 feet. An adjoining wing at the
rear of the building, which held the kitchen, servants quarters, and
storerooms, measured 25 by 45 feet. Besides the main hall, the first
floor held an office, a "strangers' room," billiard room, card room,
and bar. The second floor had a library, committee room, private
card room, kitchen, two private dining rooms, and main dining room.
The library and dining rooms opened onto the loggia, the great stone
veranda that fronted on 17th Street. The main dining room, described
as looking like an English banquet hall, was 30 by 30 feet. The
third floor had 17 sleeping rooms for members and guests, which were
furnished with brass beds, oriental rugs, and fireplaces. Also on
the third floor were the servants' sleeping rooms. The ladies'
restaurant, barber shop, bowling alley, gymnasium, and laundry were
in the basement. The building's massive winding staircase extended
from the basement level to the third floor.74
In the style of H.H. Richardson, Varian and Sterner also
designed the club's interior furnishings, making the Denver Clubhouse
one of the first entirely architect-designed buildings in the city.
"The days of the stiff-backed, haircloth parlor chairs and sofa are
gone forever," the architects announced. The Denver Club furniture,
the architects assured everyone, was of "the latest design . .
rich, artistic, and in keeping with the interior decorations of the
47


club." The architect-designed furniture was made to order for the
club by Andrews & Company of Chicago. The carpets were imported from
England, and the silver, also custom made, came from Tiffany's.75
48


CHAPTER 6
CLUB LIFE
And when he's done, he always takes a toddy,
'Cause toddy is the real, red fun,
And when he's sad, he always takes a toddy,
'Cause toddy sure will make him glad.
And when he drinks, he always drinks a toddy,
But doesn't drink at a "Pub."
Where does he drink? Why don't you know?
Why, at the Denver Club!
The Denver Club Songbook, 1911.
The Denver Club's founders eventually gave way to newer
generations of members. After spending 12 years as president, Henry
Wolcott stepped down in 1897, giving up his office to former Governor
James B. Grant. Henry Wolcott's long-running presidency had been
interrupted only three times -- when James Duff was made president in
1884, Samuel N. Wood in 1885, and John Lathrop Jerome in 1893-1894.
In 1892, Henry became one of the club's first "life members," sharing
that honor with his brother Edward, Samuel N. Wood, and William
Hamill.
Denver's club life boomed in the early years of the 20th
century. The city's explosive growth of the 1880s, followed by the
economic depression of 1893, had given way to a slower but more
diversified economy. The more relaxed pace had its benefits -- it
allowed more leisure time. And Denverites pursued leisure-time
activities with the same vigor they had pursued money-making a few
years earlier. During the ten years following the founding of the
49


club, Denver's population doubled, reaching 70,000 in 1890. By the
turn of the century, 130,000 people lived in Denver; the population
having quadrupled from the time of the Denver Club's founding 20
years earlier.
The Denver Club was the city's first, exclusive, gentlemen's
club, but it was soon followed by several others. The University
Club, founded in 1891, was ostensibly limited to men with college
degrees, although the ever-clubbable Henry Wolcott, who never went to
college, was a member. Henry Wolcott may have been admitted because
he gave money to colleges; the Wolcott Observatory at Colorado
College was built in his family's name. The University Club resided
in David Moffat's old mansion at 14th and Curtis before moving into
its own Varian and Sterner-designed clubhouse at 17th and Sherman
Streets in 1896. Other early Denver Clubbers who belonged to the
University Club were Moses Hallett, Governors James B. Grant, Charles
S. Thomas, Charles H. Toll, John Evans II, and Gerald Hughes.76
Much to the delight of the city's growing ranks of golfers, the
Denver Country Club was founded in 1901, offering lush putting greens
along Cherry Creek between Downing Street and University Boulevard.
Several Denver Clubbers -- including Gerald Hughes, Clayton Dorsey,
Tyson Dines, and Frederick Ross - were charter members. The
establishment of the Denver Country Club spurred on the development
of the city's first luxury neighborhood after the close of the
Victorian era. As historian Sharon Elfenbein has noted, the Country
Club area increasingly became the neighborhood of choice for the
50


children and grandchildren of Colorado's 19th century empire
builders, who may have inherited a family fortune but often went on
to make their own.77
Several clubs were organized around a common interest. The
Denver Wheel Club, founded in 1892, promoted cycling. The
Candlelight Club, established in 1886, held monthly dinner
discussions. Denver's "horsey set" could swing their mallets at the
Polo Club, located between University and Steel, Alameda and
Exposition. (Like the Denver Country Club, the Polo Club also had
the effect of pulling the city's trendier neighborhoods southward,
away from the established enclave on Capitol Hill.) Denver's
sportier types joined the Denver Athletic Club at 1325 Glenarm
Street, which had a swimming pool, workout rooms, and organized
sports teams.78
At the Denver Club, the membership was more interested in
socializing than working up a sweat. The Denver Club has always
prided itself on the fact that it brought the game of squash to
Colorado, and the club's 1888 clubhouse included squash courts.
However, those combination squash-tennis courts were off-size. Not
until after World War II, when the club installed regulation-size
facilities in the new Denver Club Building, did athletics became a
major part of Denver Club membership. Traditionally, most Denver
Club members came to the club to relax, conduct business in a social
setting, play pool or cards, and enjoy the club's exceptionally fine
food.
51


By 1908, the membership rolls of the Denver Club had swelled to
over 550 members, stretching the limits of the ten-year clubhouse
building. Under the direction of President Thomas B. Stearns, the
Denver Club began an extensive remodeling. The third-floor sleeping
rooms were completely overhauled. Workers took down the original
wallpaper and covered the walls with paint-coated cloth. They also
laid new carpets, moved in more modern furniture, repainted the
billiard room, installed a new basement-level barbershop, and
enlarged the library. The Denver Republican reported that the club's
new plumbing was the best that money could buy. The club also added
an Otis-brand, self-operated, electric elevator next to the main
entrance. "Any one can learn to use it in a very short space of
time," the newspapers promised.79
The remodeling, completed in 1909, also added a rear wing onto
the Glenarm side of the building, located atop the fifth lot that the
club had purchased in 1906. Card games were one of the most popular
club activities, and the wing included a new cherrywood-lined card
room. In November 1909, in a celebration of their new card room, the
club's board of directors instituted a weekly "Club Night," when
members could play "games of chance and skill." Since these games
might be costly for some members, the club also offered a free dinner
buffet on club nights. The announcement of Club Night came with a
reminder of another of the club's more popular events, the annual
Bridge Whist Tournament.80
52


The club's new wing also included the Palm Room, which had
"Pompeian red" walls, ivory-colored wood work, a red brick floor and,
of course, palms. Following through with this natural decor, the
Palm Room opened directly into the Club's rear open-air garden. The
new wing was only one story high, but the Denver Club ensured that
its walls were strong enough to carry at least two more stories, in
the event of a likely future expansion.81
As a result of the remodeling, the Denver Club cancelled the
1908 Denver Club Ball, causing Denver society to suffer "a keen
disappointment."82 But the 1908-1909 renovation was only a
temporary interruption, and Denver Clubbers soon settled back into
their comfortable routine of card playing, socializing, and having
lunch, dinner, or both, at the club. In his book Bonanza Rich.
Richard Peterson observed that gentlemen's clubs, such as the Denver
Club, provided a "pleasurable escape from the scrutiny and
responsibility of family life." Ironically, these all-male respites
from domesticity usually took place in clubhouses like the Denver
Club, which duplicated all "the comforts and conveniences of
home. "83
Unlike women's clubs, which traditionally centered around civic
and social causes, the typical men's club was purely recreational.
Within cozy, home-like surroundings, Denver Clubbers were waited on
by attentive staff members who knew them by name, and brought them
drinks, cigars, and their favorite newspaper. Although the 1888
53


clubhouse had telephone service, club staffers could deflect the
calls from anxious wives trying to locate their husbands.
The Denver Clubhouse was off limits to women during most of the
club's history. It was not until 1978 that women became fully
entitled club members. More typical of the club's history was the
rule in the 1893 membership book that stated: "Ladies are only
admitted on Thursdays, between one and five p.m., and only when
accompanied by members." As a further indication of their standing
within this all-male social domain, women could only enter through
the back door, located off the alley. Only for the Denver Club Ball,
held once a year, could women come through the front door.
If Denver Club wives had anything to be grateful for, it was
that the club alleviated them of some of their responsibilities for
entertaining their husband's business associates. One of the major
advantages of Denver Club membership was the ability to entertain
there. The club made all arrangements for private luncheons or
dinners, right down to having the invitations engraved, addressed,
and mailed. Menu-planning, invitations, reservations, and guest room
accommodations were all handled by club staff.84
Club rules called for an annual meeting each November, at which
time new officers were elected and committees established. By 1916,
the Denver Club had a variety of committees, including the Library
Committee, Billiard Committee, Entertainment Committee, Squash
Committee, and Art Committee. One of the most important was the
54


Membership Committee, the primary purpose of which was to screen the
club's prospective new members.85
Indeed, the Denver Club's exclusivity was one of its major
attractions, and was ensured by a membership process that has changed
little over time. In the mid-1980s when Neil Bush, a Denver
businessmen and son of then vice-president George Bush, was the
club's membership secretary, the admission process was essentially
the same as it had been during the previous 100 years. New members
are introduced to the club through an informal networking process. A
prospective member is then proposed for admission by a current Denver
Club member, and that proposal must be seconded by at least three
other members. In the early years, the endorsements could be verbal,
but in later years had to be in writing, attesting to the prospective
member's "good character."86
Specifically, the Membership Committee wanted the members'
written endorsements to state: 1) how long and how well the member
knew the candidate; 2) if the candidate was a newcomer to Denver,
what were his former residence, business, and club connections; 3)
length of the candidate's residence in Denver; 4) other club
connections; 5) social qualifications and race; and 6) information on
the candidate's spouse and family members.87 Regarding that last
question, a circa 1950 club directive advised the members to always
bear in mind that the Denver Clubhouse included a ladies' dining
room, which could be used by members' wives and female friends.88
55


It is not clear if candidates were ever denied membership
because their wives were deemed unsuitable. However, friends could
be a problem. The files of one Denver businessmen indicate that, on
at least one occasion, a nominee was turned down because his business
associates were not welcome. The Denver Club membership committee
did not want to "risk the possibility" that those associates might
come to the club as guests.89 In the event the club found itself
with an unwanted clubber, the board of directors had the power to
suspend or expel any member for any infraction or violation of the
club's rules, or for "any conduct which, in its opinion, is likely to
endanger the welfare, interests or character of the club."90
The most public event of the Denver Club was its annual ball,
held each December. The Denver Club Ball officially opened Denver's
winter social season, which most Denverites only read about in the
society pages. The city's socialites began their winter social
whirlwind with the Denver Club Ball, and followed it up with a round
of symphony concerts and charity events. The archives of the Denver
Club still contain a series of beautiful hand-painted programs for
Denver Club Balls that date from the turn of the century. The
program for the 1913 Denver Club Ball shows that the membership
danced to waltzes and the tango. Other favorites: "Peg of My Heart,"
"When That Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam," and "Apple Blossom
Time in Normandy." The social season ended in the summer, when the
families that comprised the higher echelons of Denver society could
leave the city's sweltering heat behind as they retreated to their
56


summer homes along Upper Bear Creek Canyon near Evergreen or, as they
would increasingly after World War II, to their homes in Aspen or
Vail.
As the Denver Club moved into the 20th century, its leadership
continued to reflect Denver's economic and social elite. Charter
members such as James Grant, Hugh Butler, Edward Bishop, and Henry
Wolcott could still be found in the lounge, but their generation was
dwindling. Increasingly, the Denver Club membership, like Denver's
business community, was a mix of old and new. While the membership
rolls still included an impressive number of mining magnates and
cattle barons who heralded back to the era of the club's founders,
newer members tended to be attorneys, realtors, merchants,
industrialists, and professionals --a reflection of the city's more
diversified business interests.
Lucius Montrose Cuthbert, an attorney with the firm of Rogers,
Cuthbert & Elllis, became Denver Club president in 1903. Cuthbert,
who had the distinction of having been a member of the Hayden Survey
in Colorado, was also the club's first librarian.91 Cuthbert, who
was later assisted in this task by Neville Hughes, did a good job.
The library included over 6,000 volumes and contained the writings of
Hubert Howe Bancroft, Francis Parkman, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow
Wilson. Later sold to the University of Wyoming, the library
collection also included historical biographies, English literature,
and travel books, many of which had been collected by Edward
Wolcott.92
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William H. Bryant, a lawyer, served two terms as Denver Club
president in 1906 and 1907. The 1913 president, Cass E. Herrington,
was a lawyer for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Mining engineer
David Miller, who was associated with the A.E. Reynolds Mining
Company for 20 years, was elected president in 1917. William V.
Hodges of the legal firm of Hodges, Wilson & Hodges took on the
presidency in 1918. And lawyer Henry McAllister, Jr., general
counsel for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, served in
1919.
Wholesale grocer Chester Morey, founder of the Morey Mercantile
Company and long-time head of Great Western Sugar, served as club
president in 1905. Chester's son, John W. Morey also worked for
Morey Mercantile and was a Denver Club member.9* Another retailer
who became a Denver Club president was Charles MacAllister Willcox,
general manager of the Daniels & Fisher stores, who served in 1912.
Merritt W. Gano (1866-1954) became club president in 1915.
Typical of the club's newer members, Gano was the son of a Denver
pioneer. Gano came to Denver in 1873 as a child with his parents and
infant brother George. In 1886, Merritt Gano founded the Gano
Clothing Company, first located in the Windsor Hotel. In 1904, W.D.
Downs joined the firm which became known as Gano-Downs, and which for
generations was a fashion institution and the place to shop for
Denver businessmen.
The Gano family were regulars in the Denver club scene.
Merritt Gano's brother George, who was also involved in the family
58


retail business, became Denver Club president in 1931 but died a week
later. At the time of his death, George Gano also belonged to the
Denver Country Club, the Cherry Hills Country Club, the Cactus Club,
the Rocky Mountain Harvard Club, the Cherry Hills Saddle Club, and
the Mile High Club.95 Multiple memberships were increasingly
becoming the rule, and club activities were the mainstay of a busy
social life for Denver's high-profile families.
Another well-established Denver family that had roots in the
city's pioneer past was that of John Clark Mitchell. Mitchell, who
was president of Denver National Bank, was a three-term Denver Club
president, serving in 1902, 1910, and 1911. Mitchell's wife was
Clara Goodell, one of Leadville's Goodell sisters, who were as famous
for their beauty as they were for marrying well -- perhaps a result
of having read Clara's well-known cookbook, The Wav to a Man's Heart.
John Clark Mitchell, his son, and his brothers-in-law -- James B.
Grant, Major Zeph Hill, James Whitemore, and Albert A. Blow -- were
all Denver Club members.96
Like the Mitchells, Denver's high society families increasingly
intermarried. As Denver got bigger, the city's elite social circles
got smaller, particularly as younger generations of the now-
established "old guard" intermarried. John Clark Mitchells'
daughter, Clara, married real estate titan Henry C. Van Schaack,
combining their family fortunes. Lucius Montrose Cuthbert married
Gertrude Hill Berger, the daughter of Nathaniel Hill. Before
marrying Cuthbert, Gertrude Hill had been married to Charles Berger,
59


son of Colorado National Bank cashier William Lewis Bart Berger.
John Evans, Sr., married Gladys Cheesman, the daughter of Walter
Cheesman. Merrit Gano wed Carrie Tritch, daughter of pioneer
hardware merchant George Tritch.
While these matches were predictable since the families moved
in the same social circles, they were also socially and economically
advantageous, as they tied Denver's wealthiest residents into an
increasingly interwoven web of financial and personal relations. As
historians Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel observed in Denver:
Mining Camp to Metropolis, intermarriage "helped keep the upper crust
from crumbling."97 The combined family fortunes also gave the
newlyweds a considerable head start in their married life. When
Chester Morey's daughter, Mary, married Barry Sullivan, the son of
Denver Club charter member Dennis Sullivan, the newlyweds received a
trip abroad from the Sullivans, and a custom-built furnished home
from the Moreys.98
Despite the proclivity for intermarrying, Thomas Stearns, the
Denver Club president who oversaw the club's 1908-1909 remodeling,
raised a few eyebrows in 1926 when, at the age of 67, he married his
32-year-old daughter-in-law. Dorothy Brown Stearns had been widowed
in 1918 by the death of her husband, Bert, who was Thomas Stearns's
son. When Dorothy, who was the granddaughter of pioneer builder
Henry C. Brown, married her deceased husband's father, the marriage
was reported as a "surprise" in many Denver social circles.99
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Thomas Stearns, 1859-1946, was more typical of the mining men
who made up the club's charter membership. Stearns was a three-term
Denver Club president, serving in 1904, 1908, and 1909. Stearns had
been involved in mining operations in Colorado, Utah, and Montana
before moving to Denver in 1885. Two years later, he founded T.B.
Stearns & Company, later consolidated as the Stearns-Rogers
Manufacturing Company, which made machinery for smelting, sampling,
milling, and concentrating ores. Like so many of Denver's early
capitalists, Stearns diversified his fortune. He was also president
of the Stearns Investment Company, the Delta Beet Sugar Company, and
the General Iron Works, a division of Stearns-Rogers.100
Another Denver Club president who heralded back to the empire
builders of old was John Cleveland Osgood, 1857-1926. Osgood moved
to Colorado in 1882 and, together with a handful of men known as the
"Iowa Group," opened up Colorado's fuel resources under the auspices
of the Colorado Fuel Company. In 1892, the company merged to form
the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. One of Osgood's closest friends
and business associates was John Lathrop Jerome, 1854-1903, a two-
term Denver Club president.
Jerome was one of several Denver Club members with strong ties
to Osgood. The Wolcott brothers, James B. Grant, William James,
Edward Eddy, James V. Dexter, Dennis Sullivan, J.K. Choate, Charles
Toll, and Samuel Wood -- all Denver Club members -- invested in
Osgood's enterprises. Henry Wolcott was one of CF&I's vice-
presidents and, together with many other Denver Club members, was a
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director of other Osgood ventures, including the Denver Fuel Company.
But club ties run only so deep, and Osgood's dealings with the
Denver Club underscored the fact that although "clubbing" may enhance
money-making, it doesn't interfere with it. When John W. Gates, the
flamboyant Chicago financier popularly known as "Bet a Million
Gates," tried to wrest control of CF&I away from Osgood, much of that
power struggle took place in the Denver Clubhouse. In 1901, when
Gates inflated the market value of CF&I's stock, many of Osgood's
business associates, including some in the Denver Club, sold their
stock. Osgood held out against Gates' attempts, but was disappointed
in his friends. "I think they might have been a little more decent,"
he complained to Jerome, "as they must have known they were simply
selfishly taking their profits and letting me hold the bag." One
year later, Jerome, representing Osgood, met with Gates at the Denver
Club to discuss their opposing views. Later, Osgood met with the man
who now represented Gates's interests, Edward Wolcott. Ironically,
it was Wolcott who had introduced Osgood to the men in the Denver
Club. Osgood managed to maintain control of CF&I until 1903 when it
passed into the hands of Eastern capitalists, including the
Rockefellers. In 1914, Osgood became president of the Denver Club.
Afterwards, he spent most of his time in Europe. In 1925, terminally
ill, he returned to his Tudor-style mansion in Redstone, Colorado, to
live out his remaining days.101
Osgood took the helm of the Denver Club just at the start of
World War I. During the war years, members in the service could
62


continue their club affiliation through the special Army and Navy
membership category, which had lower dues. In August 1918, Denver
Club president William V. Hodges approached the University Club about
a temporary wartime merger. The Denver Club proposed that the
University Club close its doors and combine with the Denver Club for
the duration of the war. But the University Club balked at any
suggestion of closure, no matter how temporary, and voted against the
proposal.102
Denver Club members who stayed in Colorado during the war years
served in their own way. President Woodrow Wilson put Denver Club
member Lawrence Phipps in charge of a four-state Red Cross fund
drive. Thomas B. Stearns served as federal food administrator for
Colorado during the war. On August 23, 1917, the Denver Club held a
special dinner in honor of Denver men who returned from Ft. Riley
with commissions in the Officers Reserve Corps. All Denver Club
members were charged $3.00 to cover the cost of the dinner, whether
or not they attended.103
Club Rules: Money and Manners
In 1906, Denver Club president William Bryant broke one of the
club's cardinal rules: no women. Wives, daughters, and female
friends were only allowed to visit the club on Thursday afternoons,
and only when accompanied by Denver Club members. However, one
evening, presumably after a few rounds of drinks, William Bryant
invited two women into the club's lounge "to enjoy a round of late
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tippling" with him and his club buddies. The next day, Bryant, an
attorney, tacked up a signed statement on the club bulletin board
that read:
For violating the rules and for conduct unbecoming a gentleman,
William H. Bryant is denied privileges of the Denver Club for
30 days.
William H. Bryant, President
William Bryant's self-inflicted suspension reflected remorse at
a lapse in judgement. It also reflected that era's accepted
standards of conduct for a gentleman. Gentlemanly behavior was a
required component of the cosmopolitan civilized image that Denver
Club members were trying to promote for their city. Denver's elite
judged each other not only on how much they owned -- and the typical
Denver Clubber owned a lot -- but also on how they acted, dressed,
and behaved.
In his study of manners, Rudeness & Civility: Manners in
Nineteenth-Centurv Urban America. John F. Kasson notes that the
Victorian-era emphasis on etiquette had several underlying goals. A
primary one was the desire for financial success. The explosive
urban growth of the 19th century offered great opportunities for
economic and social mobility; it also created a great deal of social
unrest. Cities, particularly "instant" ones such as Denver,
"gathered in dense proximity the prosperous and miserable, the
refined and rude, the virtuous and depraved," thereby increasing
social tensions and contradictions.104
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Within this social flux, one way to set yourself apart from the
unwashed masses was by having a refined, "civilized" demeanor. In
the same way that Denver's upper crust created a social structure
that included private clubs and elite neighborhoods, they also
subscribed to an accepted standard of behavior. Nineteenth-century
businessmen, always looking to get ahead, hoped that their courtly
behavior would tag them as one of the city's "best people," rather
than the common riff-raff, charlatans, and "sneaks" that urban
centers also attracted. The gentlemanly code of conduct filtered
through all levels of society. At Redstone, Colorado, which John
Cleveland Osgood built as a model town for his coal workers, the
Redstone Club had house rules that were almost identical to those of
the Denver Club.105
This 19th-century obsession with manners resulted in a
profusion of etiquette manuals, which reached their peak between 1870
and the turn of the century. In Denver, it was the Blue Book,
published in 1892, that set the tone and the rules for Denver's upper
crust. The Blue Book helped Denver nabobs keep track of each other's
addresses, club ties, and family connections. Denver's well-to-do
weren't always well-born, and they also turned to the Blue Book for
information on how to set their table for a formal dinner, and the
proper format for a wedding invitation. Also setting the rules was
Mrs. Crawford Hill, who the 1908 Who's Who in Denver Society hailed
as "the arbiter of Colorado Society." Further pressuring the social
nabobs into dressing right and behaving themselves were the
65


contemporary society and gossip columns, which openly criticized
those who broke the "rules."106
In his study of Denver's foreign-born population, Stephen
Leonard observed that the high moral tone exhibited by William Bryant
and other Denver Club members may have been influenced by the club's
large number of British members. Horace Tabor did not take his
second wife, Baby Doe, to the Denver Club Ball in 1881. Apparently,
Tabor was concerned that the straight-laced Britons at the Denver
Club would snub Baby Doe, with whom Horace had carried on a
scandalous affair while still married to his first wife, Augusta.
Ironically, Horace and Baby Doe's openness about their relationship
may have been their social downfall. Mrs. Crawford Hill was always
welcome at Denver Club Balls. This, despite the fact that both her
husband, who was the son of Nathaniel Hill, and her reputed lover,
Bulkeley Wells, were both Denver Club members.107
By the mid-20th century, Denver Clubbers had apparently learned
how to conduct themselves, at least at the dinner table. In 1950,
one Denver reporter noted that if you had the privilege of eating at
the Denver Club, "you were fairly confident that those at the same
table would select the right fork."108
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Henry R. Wolcott. Credit: Colorado Historical Society
67


The 1888 Denver Clubhouse was designed by architects Ernest P. Varian
and Frederick J. Sterner. Credit: Colorado Historical Society.
68


Floor plans of the Denver Clubhouse designed by E.P. Varian and F.J.
Sterner. Credit: Western Architect and Building News. Vol. 1, No. 1.
69


The furniture of the Denver Club, designed by E.P. Varian and
Sterner. Credit: Western Architect and Building News. Vol. 1,
F. J.
No. 2.
70


The furniture of the Denver Club, designed by E.P. Varian and F.J.
Sterner. Credit: Western Architect and Building News. Vol. 1, No. 2.
71


The library in the 1888 Denver Clubhouse. Credit: Colorado
Historical Society.
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The Denver Clubhouse is front center in this c. 1924 postcard
promoting the Mile High City. The 1909 addition at the rear of the
building can be clearly seen in this view. Credit: Colorado
Historical Society.
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Coverage of the annual Denver Club Ball garnered a full-page
newspaper spread in 1939. Credit: Rocky Mountain News. December 30,
1939.
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A Denver Club visitor admires the clubs personalized shaving mugs.
Credit: Rocky Mountain News. October 12, 1941.
7 5


The new Denver Club Building, designed by architects Raymond Harry
Ervin and Robert Berne, was completed in 1954. Credit: Western
History Department, Denver Public Library.
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The 17th floor lobby of the new Denver Club Building included
refurnished furniture from the old clubhouse, including the "tete-a-
tete" chairs designed by E.P. Varian and F.J. Sterner. The clock,
seen in the background, was also built to the architects
specifications. The glass case in the center of the lobby holds the
keystone of the sandstone center arch of the old clubhouse. Credit:
Mile High Photo, March 1955.
i i


CHAPTER 7
THE 1920s THROUGH THE 1940s: POWER AT PLAY
Temple "Sandy" Buell, who in 1989 became the founding chairman
of the Denver Club's council of life members, joined the club in
1923. Buell, an architect, had been gassed in World War I and, at
the suggestion of his doctor, moved to Denver where the dry climate
might help heal his damaged lungs. Through the sponsorship of Paul
Loughridge, an old friend from New England, Buell became a member of
the Denver Club. For Buell, an avid clubber in the tradition of
Henry Wolcott, the Denver Club was a second home. "It was a great
place," said Buell, adding that the "Denver Club had a name ... A
lot of people in Denver in those days would have given their shirts
to become members."109
Although many thought those shirts were stuffed, Denver Club
membership remained a prized possession. Throughout the 1920s, club
membership stayed robust, always numbering in the 500s. Even the
tumultuous events of the 1930s had little effect on club life. As
newspapers carried photographs of people in food lines and headlines
blared ominously about frightening events in Europe, the Denver Club
Balls still garnered a full-page newspaper spread, and club life took
up several pages in the society section.
By the 1920s, the social establishment created by Denver's
founding socialites was well-entrenched, and generations of Denver
78


Club members now marched to a drum beat of social respectability.
Members like Tyson Dines, Jr., and Gerald Hughes grew up in the same
neighborhood, had the same friends, went to the same parties, golfed
together at the Denver Country Club, and followed their fathers into
the Denver Club. As historian Lyle Dorsett noted, the group that
comprised Denver's power elite of the 1920s "went from infancy to
college, and on into the Denver Club and handsomely furnished 17th
Street offices without questioning a lifestyle laid out for them by
their successful and ambitious fathers."110
That social routine continued for several more years. Walter
Emery, a Denver Club member since 1946, followed his father into the
club and recalled that it was "a matter of course that I would join."
Arthur Rippey was sponsored into the club in 1943 by Karl Kuner
Mayer, head of Kuner Foods. His sponser, recalled Rippey, was "very
much a gentlemen of the old school, he saw in the inviting of younger
men to be members as the continuity of the gentlemen's club."111
One sign of this social lock-step was how Denver Club
presidencies became generational, particularly in the 1930s and
1940s. Lawrence Cowle Phipps, Jr., became president in 1937; his
father, Senator Lawrence Cowle Phipps, Sr., had served in 1916.
Merrit W. Gano, Jr., became president in 1948; his father, Merrit W.
Gano, Sr., had been elected in 1915. William V. Hodges, Jr., who
would negotiate the deal for the new Denver Club Building, was
elected in 1949. The senior William V. Hodges who, like his son, was
an attorney, was Denver Club president in 1918.112
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Eugene Dines, who was not named after his father, became
president in 1939. His father, Tyson S. Dines (1858-1929), a
prominent attorney who headed the Denver Chamber of Commerce, served
two terms as Denver Club president in 1921-1922. (The Dines family
ranks among the most loyal Denver Club members. Tyson S. Dines's
brother, Orville, was also a club president, and Tyson's two other
two sons, Courtland and Tyson Jr., were active Denver Clubbers.)113
One of the sons who followed his father into the Denver Club
was Gerald Hughes (1875-1956). Hughes represented how Denver's newer
generations of power brokers had strong links to the past. His
father, U.S. Senator Charles J. Hughes, joined the Denver Club in
1884 and was a powerful figure in Colorado. His sons Gerald and
Lafayette went on to make their own careers and fortunes. Like his
father, Gerald Hughes was a close ally of David Moffat. Following
Moffat's death in 1911, Gerald saved the First National Bank from
collapse. Moffat, the bank president, had borrowed heavily from the
bank to finance the construction of his last major project, the
Moffat Tunnel. Charles Hughes, who had been the bank's lawyer, died
a few months before Moffat; his son Gerald took on the responsibility
of putting the bank's finances in order.114
The obituaries of a remarkable number of Denver Club members
include the description "boss of Colorado politics." Gerald Hughes,
who was Denver Club president in 1924, garnered that title as a
leader of the Colorado Democratic party from the 1920s through the
1940s. He helped put Lawrence C. Phipps in the U.S. Senate; the
80


senator was so grateful that he named one of his sons Gerald Hughes
Phipps. Hughes shared a law practice with partner Clayton Dorsey,
Denver Club president in 1927. In yet another example of sons
following in their fathers' footsteps, when Clayton Dorsey died in
1948 his son, Montgomery, took his father's place in the firm.115
There was also, by the 1930s, a sense that the club's early
history was slipping away. Frank Ricketson, who joined the Denver
Club in the 1930s, recalled his first meeting with James Owen. An
attorney, Owen practiced law in Pueblo and Cripple Creek before
moving to Denver in 1905. During the depression years, Ricketson was
having a hard time raising money for the Community Chest. For Owen,
who joined the Denver Club in 1912, Ricketson's fundraising problems
were not rooted in the economic depression, but in the fact that "the
big men have gone," and he recited to Ricketson the names of powerful
men who once made up the Denver Club membership and who had since
passed on.116
By the 1940s, some of the club's oldest members were meeting
regularly for "oldtimer" luncheons, where they would reminisce about
the club's early history. No records, however, exist of those early
luncheons. In the 1950s, long-time member Ralph B. Mayo, Sr.,
organized a committee to preserve some of the club's historical
items. In the 1970s, Arthur Rippey and Benjamin F. Stapleton, Jr.,
whose father, Benjamin F. Stapleton, Sr., was Denver's mayor from
1923-1931 and 1935-1947 -- spearheaded an effort to assemble and
record the club's history. As part of this effort, Rippey and
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Stapleton interviewed long-time members. The transcripts from those
sessions focus on the years between the two world wars and highlight
the members' favorite memories.117
The members fondly recalled the intensity of the lunchtime pool
games, the rivalry of the bridge tournaments between the Denver,
University, and Country Clubs, the raucous partying that sometimes
followed the annual meetings, and memorable club balls - including
the one at which the members' wives carried home the table
decorations as souvenirs, despite the fact that they were only on
loan from the May Company Department Store. They recalled how Tyson
Dines, the president of U.S. National Bank, always took an afternoon
nap in front of the fireplace right after lunch. One is struck, upon
reading the memoirs and interviewing long-time members, how the
camaraderie of club life is of the utmost importance.
Bridge tournaments took place almost every two weeks.
Typifying the seriousness of the game was member James Owen. "My
father was a cripple from childhood, so he couldn't play golf or do
the things that his other friends were doing," recalled his son James
Churchill Owen. So, by 4:00 p.m. every day, James Owen could be
found at the Denver Club playing bridge. "He spent more waking hours
here, I think, than he did at home," recalled "Church" Owen.118
Like many club members of his generation, Church Owen was more
interested in playing pool. Temple Buell, Tyson and Gene Dines, A1
Humphries, Montgomery Dorsey, and Bo Seitz were some of the club's
best pool players, and were often engaged in pool games that "were
82


more important than other things they were supposed to be doing."
The annual pool tournament started in February and lasted for
months.119 The younger generations of Denver Club members also
became more interested in squash; many of them had played the game
while attending Ivy League schools. Among the club's more active
squash players were Erie Kistler, Church Owen, Joe Holland, William
Hodges, Berrien Hughes, and Henry Van Schaack.120
For Eugene Bowes, head of Bowes and Company, who joined the
club in 1942, some of his best times were at the club's annual balls,
which were grand black-tie affairs. Apparently just as it was at the
first Denver Club Ball, dancing the night away was a club tradition.
Several club members recalled how they often went right from the
Denver Club Ball, traditionally held on the first Saturday in
December, to the club breakfast the next day.
Another cherished tradition was the club's annual New Year's
Day celebration. Since the days of President George Washington, the
practice of holding New Year's day receptions was popular in
communities throughout the country. In the club's early years, New
Year's Day open houses were formal affairs; the men wore cutaways and
high hats. Fashions changed over time, but the celebrations remained
festive. Several members recalled the annual New Year's Day carriage
rides from the Denver Club to the University Club. William "Squire"
Petriken, long-time head of Great Western Sugar, would appear at the
door of the old Denver Club Building with a carriage pulled by six
horses. As one club member later recalled, Squire Petriken would
83


transport any members "who were willing to put their lives in his
hands" to the University Club.121
On a more serious note, members also recalled the club's
involvement in the 1920s federal investigation of Teapot Dome, a
naval oil reserve in Wyoming. Teapot Dome was a major topic of
conversation in the club -- not only because it was making national
headlines, but also because it was uncomfortably close. A key figure
in the scandal was Henry M. Blackmer, one of Denver's best-known
socialites. Blackmer's Continental Trading Company had been involved
in the Teapot Dome leases that U.S. Interior Secretary Albert Fall
made to Edward Doheny and Henry Sinclair. A Denver club regular,
Blackmer was renowned as a story-teller. However, he apparently did
not want to tell his story to a Senate investigating committee. When
government inquiries sent Doheny, Sinclair, and Fall to jail,
Blackmer quietly slipped out of the country.
The Blackmer scandal rocked Denver society. The high-living,
fast-spending Blackmers had topped Denver's "Sacred Thirty-Six," with
their trendy parties and lavish spending. Henry Blackmer was hailed
as a "child of the gods." The newspapers claimed he had a "Midas
touch" when it came to his numerous mining, oil, railroad, banking,
and real estate ventures. Blackmer's beautiful second wife, Lucy
Carter Blackmer, was the heiress of a pharmaceutical dynasty made
famous by Carter's "Little Liver Pills." If Blackmer had been a man
of lesser means, he might have swallowed a few of the brightly-
colored pills when, following his exile, the government froze his
84


U.S. assets, which were valued at $10 million. But Blackmer's
estimated worth in 1925 was $24 million, and what the U.S. government
didn't get allowed Blackmer to live a gilded exile, hob-nobbing with
the upper crust of European society.
After Blackmer left the country, several Denver Club members
were called as witnesses in the Teapot Dome investigation, although
none were indicted. Finally, after 25 years in exile, 80-year-old
Henry Blackmer, who was a life member of the Denver Club, returned to
Denver in 1949. As part of his carefully negotiated return, Blackmer
paid $20,000 in fines and nearly $4 million in back taxes. Bringing
Blackmer back to Denver was his family, which included his son Myron,
a Denver Club member, and daughter Margaret, who was married to Erie
0. Kistler, also a member of the Denver Club.122
By the late 1940s, club life had settled into a comfortable
routine. Younger members came to play pool. Those who didn't play
often watched. The walls of the pool room were lined with chairs,
and members watched the ever-ongoing pool games while they ate lunch.
Older members came to relax, play cards, and chat with old friends.
Increasingly, it was de rigueur for the heads of large
businesses and banks to belong to the Denver Club. The top
executives of Colorado Fuel & Iron always belonged, as did the heads
of utilities companies. Walter Koch, president of the telephone
company, regularly held luncheons for his board of directors at the
Denver Club, a custom that continued for many years. Koch later
85


recalled the Colorado's political leaders, including Senator Ed
Johnson, regularly rendevouzed at the club.123
Making club membership even more attractive was the fact that
the employers often picked up the tab. In 1942, the initiation fee
was $450 for residents; $250 for non-residents, and $100 for special
members. This was also the first year that associate women members
were listed in the membership rolls. These women were Mrs. Emilie
Byars, Mary P. Converse, Isabelle Gallagher, Mrs. Lee Ramsey, and
Mrs. H.H. Tammen. The honorary members listed that year were
Governor Ralph Carr and Mayor Benjamin Stapleton.
By the 1940s, some of the club's oldest members were Thomas B.
Stearns, who joined in 1888; sugar beet king Charles Boettcher Sr.,
who joined in 1890; and William H. Leonard, who joined in 1894.124
Other long-time members included Harold Kountze, a member since 1912;
William Porter, who joined in 1910 and who lunched at the Denver Club
every day; and William Iliff, who joined in 1902 and was the son of
cattle baron John Iliff. Also heralding back to the days of the
West's open range cattle days was Henry Swan (1883-1971), heir to
Wyoming's famous Swan Land and Cattle Company. Representing the
West's newer generations of cattlemen was Wilson McCarthy (1884-
1956), long-time head of the National Western Stock Show and
president of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.
Another long-time club member was Senator Lawrence Cowle Phipps
(1862-1958), who joined the Denver Club in 1901 and eventually became
a life member. The Denver Club was one of the Senator's regular
86


haunts, and he took lunch every day at the upstairs round table. His
arrival at 11:55 a.m. was so punctual that members could set their
watches by it.125
For many of the younger club members, one of the biggest
attractions of Denver Club membership was the opportunity to
socialize with Colorado legends like Senator Phipps. Many members of
the Denver Club made their fortunes after they moved West, but
Lawrence Phipps's association with Andrew Carnegie and U.S. Steel had
already made the Pittsburgh native a fabulously wealthy man by the
time he arrived in Denver in 1901, ostensibly to retire. Short in
stature, Phipps soon became one of Colorado's financial giants, as he
turned his business ability and vast financial resources to making
more money in the West. Phipps invested in numerous railroad,
irrigation, and public utilities projects, and represented Colorado
in the U.S. Senate from 1918-1930.
Member Bob Reynolds recalled that "Phipps was a very stocky
gentleman, and he had this shuffling kind of walk." "Everyday he
would shuffle straight in, taking these small steps, and he would
just kind of nod his head at everyone, and go straight into the bar."
There was always a pair of dice on the bar. One day, Reynolds was
sitting quietly at the bar when Phipps asked him, rather gruffly,
"Well, are you going to roll those dice or am I?" The loser paid for
the drinks. "I lost," said Reynolds. "Senator Phipps was just
tickled and, of course, so was I. After that, he was always looking
for me in the bar."126
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Bob Reynolds, who headed the Rocky Mountain Export Company, was
part of the regular bunch that played pool and recalled that the game
of "300," the goal of which is to come up with exactly that score,
was very popular. Also popular was the game of Calcutta. On
Calcutta Night, when the best players were "auctioned off," it was
not uncommon for the betting pool to reach upwards of $15,000. Like
many of the club's long-time members, Reynolds stressed that the
business aspect of the Denver Club was secondary; more important was
the socializing. During those years, 17th Street was often just
referred to as "the street." For Reynolds, Denver Club membership
was a way of becoming more involved in "the street," of which the
Denver Club was an established fixture.127
One of the fixtures at the Denver Club was Herbert Edward
Collbran, who first became president in 1920. Bert Collbran was one
of the longest-serving presidents of the club, second only to Henry
Wolcott. After Collbran's first term, he served again between 1940
and 1946. Collbran was a second-generation member; his father, Henry
Collbran, joined the club in 1884.128
Like so many of the club's early members, Bert Collbran's
father was an Englishman. Henry Collbran came to the U.S. in 1881
and in 1893 became general agent of the Colorado Midland Railroad.
In the early 1900s, Henry moved to Korea and formed a development
company that provided that country's first railway, sewage, lighting,
and communications systems. He later built railroads in Japan.
After Henry Collbran left for Korea, Bert oversaw some of his
88


father's international dealings, including the Seoul Mining Company
which had several Colorado investors. He was also a director of
Denver National Bank. A brother, Arthur H. Collbran, was a local
mining engineer.
Bert Collbran devoted a great deal of time to the Denver Club,
and is credited with greatly reviving the club's lagging membership
and activities during World War II. (Being a good host was
apparently a Collbran family trait. Margaret Collbran and Louise
Harrison, two of Bert's three daughters by his first marriage to
Augusta Coors, lived in Empire, Colorado, and ran the Peck House,
which they renamed "Hotel Splendide.")129 During World War II,
Bert Collbran ran the Denver Club almost single-handedly. Staffing
was minimal. And so many club members were in the service that the
Denver Club Ball was temporarily discontinued.130 In lieu of the
Denver Club Ball, the club held special Military Nights for "our
members in Service, Here and Over There." At a Military Night on
January 29, 1943, the Denver Club invited members and their families
to meet the commanding officers of local Army and Navy Posts. The
club also invited Governor and Mrs. Vivian, Mayor and Mrs. Stapleton,
Major General and Mrs. Curry, as well as the special guest of honor,
Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower, wife of General "Ike" Eisenhower.
During the war years, many of the Denver Club's members were
away in the service. But the war years also brought new members into
the club. Many servicemen who were stationed in Colorado became
acquainted with Denver's club life during World War II. During the
89


war years, both the University Club and Denver Club waived the
membership fees for servicemen.
One of the servicemen who took advantage of those free
memberships was long-time Denver Club member Claude M. Maer, Jr. The
Texas-born Maer came to Colorado via Lowry Field in October 1941.
After serving his tour of duty and attending law school, Maer, like
"any Texan with any sense," returned to Colorado and joined the
Denver Club in 1948.131 But there was more than the city's club
life bringing him back. While stationed at Lowry, Maer met his
future wife, the daughter of Judge J. Foster Symes (1878-1951). A
long-time Denver Club member, Symes had been appointed as a U.S.
District Judge for Colorado in 1922 by President Warren G. Harding.
When he returned to Denver after the war, Maer chose the Denver
Club over the University Club because the Denver Club had squash
courts. Maer, Henry Van Schaack, Willie Hodges, and Tommy Buchanan
played squash at the Denver Club several times a week. Another avid
squash player in the post-war years was Byron White, who headed the
club's Squash Committee in 1950-1951. The CU football star, who was
then working as a Denver attorney, would later be appointed to the
U.S. Supreme Court by President John F. Kennedy.132
A major attraction during the late 1940s and early 1950s were
the Denver Club's sleeping rooms. Hotel accommodations in Denver
were scarce. Ralph Rickenbaugh recalled that when he came to Denver
shortly before the end of the war, "you couldn't stay in a hotel five
days" due to the shortage of available rooms. Through member Art
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Rippey, Rickenbaugh stayed at the Denver Club, where he experienced
the club's hospitality. "The first night I was here, I went down to
the bar to have a drink before dinner, and a very gracious individual
sitting on my left bought me the first drink I ever had in Denver.
It was Sandy Buell."133 Temple Buell, who had been welcomed into
the club following the first world war, was there to greet the
returning soldiers of World War II.
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CHAPTER 8
A NEW ERA AND A NEW BUILDING
Denver's old tycoons have at last surrendered to progress. For
years they sat heavily on the millions made out of gold,
silver, cement, railroads, real estate -- scorning, if not
actually resisting, any new enterprises. They preferred an
old, small, static community that they could control.
. . the "table round" at their gloomy red sandstone Denver
Club, where a dozen of them lunched daily, symbolized the
circular defensive formation they automatically assumed against
outsiders -- like old buffaloes in a ring on the Colorado
prairie.
Fortune magazine, April 1958.
After running the Denver Club almost single-handedly during the
war years, President Bert Collbran was presented with a new problem
after the end of the war. As the soldiers came back, the membership
rolls swelled, and the club enjoyed a boom that coincided with the
post-war population boom that the entire city experienced. But, in
one respect, the club also began suffering from its own success.
Suddenly, the 57-year-old sandstone building looked a little
shabby and old-fashioned as it stretched to accommodate a new
generation of members, which numbered almost 700 in 1948. The old
Otis cage elevator, which had been the club's pride when it was
installed in 1909, creaked and malfunctioned. The staff complained
that the kitchen was small, antiquated, and inconveniently located.
The wiring and plumbing needed to be upgraded, and the club
management warned that city building inspectors could not always be
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counted upon to agreeably overlook the clubhouse's multiple code
violations. For the first time since the Denver Clubhouse was
constructed in 1888, the members considered tearing it down and
replacing it with a new building.
In 1946, a special committee of the Denver Club began
investigating the possibility of new club quarters. Prompting that
study were offers being made to the club of upwards of $300,000 for
the increasingly valuable downtown site of the clubhouse. Some
members suggested vacating the old building for penthouse clubrooms
atop a "futuristic" office building, a move that clubs in other
cities, such as Kansas City, had already taken. But other members,
such as Bert Collbran, were horrified at the prospect. They feared
that if the old building went, so would the club's unique traditions
and purpose. According to Collbran, the Denver Club had a surplus of
$460,927 at the end of 1945. Why not use some of that money, he
argued, to renovate the old building?134
In fact, it would be several years before the club made the
decision not to renovate the old structure, but to tear it down and
replace it with Denver's first post-World War II skyscraper in 1954.
But the events surrounding that decision still generate heated
discussions among long-time members of the Denver Club. Ultimately,
the battle over the old building was more than a debate over outdated
kitchens and elevators. The old building versus new building
controversy became a tug-of-war between Denver's old guard and new
blood, between tradition and progress, between inner circles and
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outside influences, and between differing visions of what direction
Denver should take in the modern post-war era. These were questions
that were being debated not only in the billiards and private dining
rooms of the Denver Club, but throughout the city.
"There was a general feeling that it was high time that the
city build something new," recalls club member Walt Emery. "There
hadn't been anything built in the downtown since 1929. "135 As it
did with the rest of the United States, World War II and the post-war
years brought great changes to the Denver, and the city seemed poised
on the edge of great expansion. In 1880, Denver had 36,000 people.
By 1954, the population was estimated at 485,000, and 70,000 of those
people had arrived within the previous four years. Many of the
city's new residents were former servicemen who had been stationed in
Colorado during the war, liked what they saw, and returned. One
former soldier who appreciated Colorado's charms was newly-elected
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose wife Mamie was from Denver.
The President and First Lady often visited and vacationed in
Colorado, ensuring that the state stayed in the nation's headlines.
Clint Murchison, a Dallas oilman with an estimated $300 million
fortune, was among those assessing the opportunities in Colorado
after the war. In 1949, Clint Murchison came to Denver to take a
first-hand look at the city's downtown after a study had shown a
critical need for new office space in the Mile High City. Murchison
had also been contacted by Gerald T. Hart, a Denver realtor who was
proposing a major new office building in downtown Denver and who,
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