Craftsmanship from an earlier time

A look inside the Astor House as council debates its future

Posted 7/9/19

Despite that the Golden Fire Department has saved the Astor House from four fires in the historic building’s more than 150-year history, two-thirds of the original 1867 layout remains intact. …

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Craftsmanship from an earlier time

A look inside the Astor House as council debates its future

Posted

Despite that the Golden Fire Department has saved the Astor House from four fires in the historic building’s more than 150-year history, two-thirds of the original 1867 layout remains intact.

“What you’re seeing here is a real treat,” said local historian Rick Gardner. “The place has quite a story to tell through its walls.”

Gardner, who sits on the Jefferson County Historical Commission and the Golden Landmarks Association, took five members of the Golden Landmarks Association and one member of Golden’s Historic Preservation Board on a tour of the Astor House on July 1.

The Astor House, 822 12th St., has been city-owned since the early 1970s, when, after a public vote, the city bought it and opened it as an historic house museum. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Eventually, the Astor House began to struggle operating as a museum, and has been closed since 2015 when it underwent a major rehabilitation and preservation project.

Now in the midst of a Request for Proposals process to help the city determine its fate, Gardner advocates preservation of not only the structure itself, but its “significant interior elements.”

Suzanne Stutzman, chair of Golden’s Historic Preservation Board, took notes throughout the tour on July 1.

The history of the Astor House is integral to the town, she said. Its “story is one of our most important stories for the development of the West.”

On Sept. 11, 1867, the Transcript published the Astor House’s first ad, proclaiming it was open for business as a hotel, Gardner said during a previous interview with the Transcript. At that time, it was owned and operated by Seth Lake. It was rented to other proprietors for a period of time until Ida Goetz, a widowed German immigrant, bought it in 1892 and opened it as a boarding house.

During its time as a lodging establishment, the Astor House served everyone — the poor miners, Colorado School of Mines students and legislators from when Golden was the territorial capitol.

On the tour, Gardner led attendees through the house as if checking into Lake’s hotel. He showed attendees the dining room — which would’ve been able to entertain 100 guests — and went up the original 1867 staircase, all the while pointing out the carved woodwork, remnants of fire damage and the original upper floor hotel room layout.

The Golden Landmarks Association formed in the early 1970s primarily to save the Astor House from demolition — at the time, it was targeted to become a parking lot as part of urban renewal efforts.

Today, the group advocates that the Astor House remain open to the public in some fashion.

“The exterior of the house is protected by its historic designation,” said Golden Landmarks Association board member John McCready in an email following the tour. “However, the interior is not. If the house is sold, everything we saw during the tour can be torn out.”

There are only about a dozen structures remaining in Jefferson County that have interiors with such historical significance, Gardner said.

“It’s craftsmanship you’ll hardly ever see anywhere else,” Gardner said, “from a more, homemade, earlier time.”

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