Victorian mansion tells of the good life years ago

June 16, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

Today, if you spent $100,000 on a house and all its furnishings, you'd probably be spending below the average. But in 1893, it bought you a mansion complete with intercom, security system, elevator, central heating and bathrooms with running water.

The Rosemount Victorian House Museum in Pueblo, Colo., built for Pueblo merchant, miner, banker and rancher John Thatcher, was a marvel in its time. The 37-room, four-story home was named for the favorite flower of Thatcher's wife, Margaret, and features roses in the decor throughout.

The 24,000-square-foot mansion was designed by progressive Victorian architect Henry Hudson Holly and cost $60,750 to build. The other $40,000 was spent on furnishings.

The pink rhyolite stone for the exterior was quarried in Castle Rock, Colo. The interior features lavish woodwork in maple, oak and mahogany, with the woodwork in each room coordinated with the fireplace surround and furnishings.

For example, in the grand entry hall, the first of 10 fireplaces seen in the house has a mahogany surround. The furniture in the room not only mirrors the wood choice, but also repeats the griffins carved into the fireplace surround. Other fireplaces are faced with oak, silver, marble and tile.

Hand-painted ceilings grace almost every room in the house -- even the nanny's bedroom. Coffered ceilings, ornate woodwork and built-ins make every room a work of art.

There's a Tiffany chandelier in every room, equipped to handle gas or electricity. "When the house was built, electricity wasn't available in this part of town," says tour guide Catherine Anderson. "But they knew it was coming."

Amazingly enough, the house is unrestored. It's as the family left it in 1968, when the last son died. About 85 percent of the furnishings are original, which is one of the reasons this gem is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Outstanding features of the house include a massive three-tier staircase with a 9-by-13-foot stained-glass window on the second landing and a dining-room table big enough for 36 guests. It's set with rose-patterned Minton china, silver and crystal.

Unusual pieces of furniture are found throughout the house. In the library are a bustle chair (the open back accommodates that stylish skirt), a courting couch (with movable backs, so the couple can sit facing, but not touching, each other) and a partner desk -- with kneehole and drawers on both sides.

"All this would be irreplaceable today at any price," Anderson says. "They just don't have the craftsmanship to replicate things like this [carved] staircase."

Up on the third floor of the house is something that doesn't belong there -- but Puebloans are glad it's there. The Andrew McClelland collection of artifacts includes a mummy, which is far and away the most popular item in the house with visiting children, Anderson says.

Outside the main house is a gift shop and tea room called Lindy's, where visitors can refresh themselves after the one-hour tour of the main house.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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