A bid to save a City Park West mansion from the wrecking ball cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday.
Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously at an afternoon meeting to forward the landmark designation application for the vacant home at 1741 Gaylord St. to the City Council, which will make the final decision on the matter.
“The house qualifies absolutely,” said commissioner George Dennis.
More than a dozen members of the public, in addition to the three Denver residents that submitted the application, spoke in favor of preserving the structure. Four neighborhood organizations have sent letters of support.
“Majestic. Grand. Stately. These are a few of the words I’ve heard people use to describe 1741 Gaylord,” said Peggy Muldoon, one of the three applicants.
The only person who spoke against the designation at the meeting was Mike Mathieson, a local developer who paid $1.5 million for the property in 2021. Mathieson wants to demolish the home and build a new 37-unit apartment building that he said would be priced so as to be affordable to those making between 80 to 120 percent of the area median income.
Being named a city landmark, however, effectively prevents a structure from being demolished.
The brick house at 1741 Gaylord St. dates to 1902. The applicants argue it should be a landmark for three reasons: its representation of Dutch Colonial Revival style, its being the work of notable architecture firm Gove & Walsh and its direct association with people who influenced Denver society.
The home originally was constructed for Edward Holmes Hurlbut, a local grocer, and was later owned by James and Edith Burger. James was a banker and state senator for four years, while Edith helped start Children’s Hospital Colorado, according to the applicants.
It was Edith Burger who the commissioners found most notable on Tuesday.
“We don’t even need the grocery store,” commissioner Dennis said, referring to debate over whether Hurlbut was truly a prominent figure. “She would suffice by herself.”
Mathieson’s arguments against landmark status on Tuesday largely focused on a City Park West-specific report released in 2019 as part of Discover Denver, a project led by Historic Denver that aims to create a “comprehensive inventory of Denver’s historic and architecturally significant resources.”
As he previously told BusinessDen, Mathieson highlighted the fact that the home was not among 61 buildings in the neighborhood that the report concluded “might be architecturally significant,” nor was in a possible “area of significance” named by the report. He said he consulted the report before deciding to buy the property.
But Kara Hahn, a city staff member, noted that the report also said it was not intended to be comprehensive, and that more research would be needed to determine whether 1741 Gaylord itself was worthy of preservation.
Commission members largely appeared to agree with her points, and one said that Discover Denver’s report wasn’t that relevant anyway.
“It’s a great tool, but it can’t really inform our decision here,” commissioner Graham Johnson said.
In recent years, Denver has seen one or two owner-opposed landmark applications annually. Nearly all of them have been unanimously forwarded by the landmark commission, although commissioner Larry Sykes said the board is not a “rubber stamp,” noting it rejected one such application in December.
The City Council, however, has only ever designated one individual building as a landmark against the wishes of its owner: the former Beth Eden Baptist Church at 3241 Lowell Blvd. in 2014.
Knowing that history, Scott Holder, one of the three people who submitted the application, told BusinessDen after the meeting Tuesday that his outlook for the future was “don’t get your hopes up.”
Holder said he and his co-applicants have “a very strong case” that the home can be preserved and that the property can still be used for multi-unit housing. But he said he couldn’t predict how council members might vote.
But prospects for a preservation-minded buyer to swoop in and acquire the property appeared dim on Tuesday. Mathieson told BusinessDen he’d heard from the firm that preserved the former funeral home, but that it had yet to check out the house. And he said he didn’t want to sell the home to a fellow developer anyway, even one that would keep the structure standing.
“If there’s someone that’s a homeowner that wants to restore it to its former glory … we would strongly consider selling it at cost,” Mathieson said. “We’re not going to sell at cost to another developer.”