Crawford Hill Mansion
Description - French Renaissance
Constructed - 1906
Architect - Theodore Davis Boal
The Crawford Hill house is significant to the social history of Denver as home to one of Denver's most conspicuous socialite families and as its "social capitol." This house was designed and built in 1906 by architect Terry Boal and decorated by Louise Hill. Although the front porch faces 10th Avenue, the house was originally addressed 969 Sherman Street, because Sherman Street was on a direct axis to the State Capitol. It was assumed that the Sherman Street address gave more credibility to the residence, and its political and social stature.
Crawford Hill was the son of Nathaniel Peter Hill, most notably the founder of Colorado's smelting industry. Crawford Hill's mother was one of the original founders of the Young Women's Christian Association of America (YWCA). In 1895, Crawford Hill, a life-long Republican, married Louise Bethel Sneed, the daughter of a Memphis aristocratic family. As such, Louise Hill was familiar with all the rules of high society. She resolved to become Denver's social leader and ultimately ruled over Denver's social elite for more than 30 years. She was the leader of the "Sacred 36," a group of Denver individuals acceptable to the inner circles of New York and Newport Society. Mrs. Hill personally signaled the beginning of Denver's social season each spring, with the unveiling of her covered garden statue, a life-size nude figure of a woman holding a bouquet of Easter lilies, Mrs. Hill's favorite flower. (This statue was sold at auction, after the Crawford Hill house was purchased by HRC II.) Mrs. Hill wrote Denver's first social register and was one of the very few western women ever to be presented to the St. James Court, considered the epitome of social eminence at the time. Many distinguished guests were entertained in her home; three years after its completion, an addition was made to the south, specifically for house guest President William Howard Taft. An historic wooden lamp that is reputed to have come from Thomas Jefferson's old home still hangs in the vestibule near the front door. Mrs. Crawford Hill's reputation as the social leader of Denver was immortalized in the musical, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," in which it is she who works to keep Mrs. Brown out of Denver's social circles.
Crawford Hill died in 1922, leaving two sons, Crawford, Jr. and Nathaniel Peter, IV, to carry on the family name. Nathaniel, the younger son, married Elinor Dorrance, daughter of Dr. John Dorrance, the Campbell's soup king. Mrs. Hill lived in the house until 1942, when wartime help shortages made it impossible to maintain. Mrs. Hill moved to the Brown Palace where she lived in seclusion until her death in 1955.
The public conclusion to the reign of Denver's great social arbiter occurred in 1947, when the still-vacant Crawford Hill mansion was leased to the newly organized Denver Town Club, a social alliance and family organization. The Town Club purchased this property after Mrs. Hill's death and, in 1953, a swimming pool was constructed in the south garden. Numerous cordial social gatherings were held in the mansion, and many a young bride descended the elaborate, curved staircase on her wedding day. Due to dwindling membership, the future of the Crawford Hill mansion was threatened when the Denver Town Club placed it on the market in the fall of 1989. HRC II, a partnership comprised of Harold Haddon, Bryan Morgan, Lee Foreman, Norman Mueller, Saskia Jordan, and David Williams, purchased the mansion in early 1990, and undertook a certified restoration under the direction of architect Peter Dominick and interior designer Philae Dominick. The mansion is now listed as an historical landmark. On September 21, 1990, Haddon, Morgan, and Foreman, P.C. was selected to receive the Colorado Historical Society's 1990 Stephen H. Hart Award in recognition of the "sensitive rehabilitation of the Crawford Hill Mansion."