Denver’s Country Club Historic District has been one of the most prestigious and exclusive neighborhoods in Colorado for more than a century. Originally developed in conjunction with the Denver Country Club, which opened just to the south in 1904, the district contains 380 residences and has housed some of Colorado’s most prominent figures in politics, business, and society. In addition to the residents, the houses themselves feature the work of some of the most famed architects in Colorado history, including fine examples of the Colonial, Gothic, and Mediterranean Revivals. The neighborhood is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a Denver landmark.
The Country Club Historic District was originally developed in conjunction with the neighboring Denver Country Club. Founded in 1901 as a reinvention of the Overland Park Club, the Denver Country Club was initially based at Overland Park while a group of influential club members (referred to as “the syndicate”) began a search for land where they could build not only an eighteen-hole golf course and clubhouse grounds but a Country Club neighborhood as well. The syndicate was headed by attorney Henry T. Rogers and consisted of nine prominent Denver men: Lawrence Phipps, Charles Boettcher, Charles J. Hughes Jr., Gerald Hughes, William E. Hughes, Frank Crocker, John A. Ferguson, and Edwin S. Kassler. William Gray Evans served as an advisor for the group, though he never invested.
With the assistance of future Denver mayor Robert Speer, the syndicate was able to purchase land known as the Reithmann estate in the Cherry Creek area by Arlington Park (an area used as a picnic ground by early Denver residents). John Jacob Reithmann was an early Colorado immigrant who developed several businesses but lost a great deal of his fortune in the Silver Crash of 1893, and his large estate was subsequently put up for sale.
The club men who bought the land incorporated as the Fourth Avenue Realty Company. They sold 120 acres to the Denver Country Club at the price of $300 per acre and developed the acreage to the north as the Country Club neighborhood. The company chose William Ellsworth Fisher as chief architect for the project. Fisher designed at least sixteen houses in the Country Club Historic District as well as the remodeled Denver Country Club clubhouse in 1925.
Other prominent Denver architects who designed houses in the district included Temple Hoyne Buell, who designed the Fels House (1925) at 355 High Street in the Dutch Colonial style; Jules Jacques Benoit Benedict, who designed at least five houses in the district, including the Beaux Arts–inspired Arthur House (1932) at 355 Gilpin Street; and Maurice B. Biscoe, who designed his own Mediterranean-style stucco residence (1908) at 320 Humboldt Street. Burnham and Merrill Hoyt worked together on the Italian-style Merryweather House (1922) at 375 Humboldt Street and the French chateau–style Sewell Thomas House (1925) at 380 Gilpin Street. Burnham Hoyt also designed the International-style Maer House (1940) at 545 Circle Drive.
The Country Club neighborhood was developed as four subdistricts: Park Lane Square, Country Club Place, Park Club Place, and Country Club Annex. Each district has a different streetscape. Park Club Place, at the west end of the neighborhood, was the first area developed starting in 1905, with a second portion completed in 1907. It features brick gateways, tree lawns, detached sidewalks, and smaller lots. Country Club Place, just to the east, followed in 1906. Although it was not the first to be developed, it was the first to be designed. William E. Fisher and his brother Arthur Fisher collaborated with nationally renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to plan Country Club Place. This area of the neighborhood features landscaped medians, exceptionally long and broad blocks, and large lots. At the entrance to the subdivision, William E. Fisher designed a Spanish-style entry gate with a tile roof, the largest and most ornate gateway in the district. Country Club Annex, at the southeast end of the neighborhood, was added in 1924–27. It is similar to Park Club Place in street style and to Country Club Place in architectural style. Park Lane Square, also known as New Country Club, started in the northeast corner of the neighborhood in 1926. It is devoid of sidewalks and has narrow streets but boasts large lots.
Many influential figures in Colorado history have lived in the Country Club Historic District. William E. Fisher not only designed Country Club Place and many of the houses in the district but also lived in the neighborhood. In 1910 he designed his own Spanish-style residence at 110 Franklin Street. The house boasts a red-tile roof, stucco walls, and wide, decorative eave brackets. His brother Arthur Fisher lived a block away at 128 Gilpin Street. There he designed an English cottage or Tudor-style house with stucco and red brick. Mayor Robert W. Speer built a house in the neighborhood at 300 Humboldt Street in 1912. Designed by architects Willis A. Marean and Albert J. Norton, the Speer residence is a square, brick house with a wraparound porch; Speer’s widow, Kate Speer, lived there until her death in 1954.
One of the grandest mansions in the neighborhood is the Reed Mansion at 475 Circle Drive in the Park Lane Square. Built in 1931, the Tudor-style mansion was commissioned by Mary Reed, the widow of Colorado businessman Verner Z. Reed. The residence was designed by architect Harry James Manning and boasts a steeply pitched slate roof, brick walls, four elaborate chimneys, and limestone trim, with half-timbered gable at both ends of the house.
Noteworthy residents remained through the latter half of the twentieth century, including former Colorado governor John Love, who lived on Lafayette Street until 1992, and Brian Priestman, the director of the Denver Symphony in the 1970s.
In the century after the Country Club neighborhood’s development, the city of Denver expanded greatly to include more affluent areas and clubs, making Country Club just one of many prestigious neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the Country Club Historic District remains one of the premier places to live in the city because of its exceptional architecture that reflects early Denver affluence. The western half of the Country Club neighborhood (Country Club Place and Park Club Place) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The Denver Country Club grounds were added to the National Register listing in 1985, and the entire Country Club area was recognized by the city of Denver as the Country Club Historic District in 1990.