The Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion at 420 E. Eleventh Avenue in Denver is one of the oldest still-standing residences in the city. It was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the castle-like mansion’s residents represented a cross-section of the American upper class. Today, the building is home to the four-star Patterson Inn, which opened in 2013.
Thomas Bernard Croke was born in 1856 to Irish immigrants in Magnolia, Wisconsin. Having taught school in Wisconsin, he moved to Denver in 1874 with several of his younger siblings. Opting not to teach in Denver, he took a job as a clerk in the carpet department of the Daniels & Fisher store downtown. In just a few years Croke rose from clerk to manager of the store’s carpet department. Through a partnership with Daniels & Fisher—in which Croke, Daniels, and Fisher each received one-third interest—Croke opened his own store, Thomas B. Croke & Co., at 1630 Lawrence Street. Croke’s carpet store earned him enough to build a mansion in Quality Hill. In December 1890, Croke pulled a permit for an $18,000 brick-and-stone dwelling on the southwest corner of East Eleventh Avenue and Pennsylvania Street. The home was to be a chateau-style structure of red sandstone with gables and turrets meant to mimic those of the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, a sixteenth-century French castle. Today, the mansion is considered one of Denver’s three finest examples of the Chateauesque style, and the only one to survive. The others were the McMurtrie-Good Mansion, a block away at Tenth and Pennsylvania, and the Bethel-Phipps Mansion, at Colfax Avenue and Marion Street.
To build his new house, Croke hired contractor J. M. Cochran and noted architect Isaac Hodgson, Jr., who had designed the nearby McMurtrie-Good Mansion and similarly styled stone dwellings in Portland and Omaha. It boasted three stories and a full basement. Turrets, spires, finials, dormers, bay windows, and arched doorways enhanced the facade. An archway connected the castle with a stable that was a miniature of the main house. Inside, the entrance opened into a large hall, the focal point being the massive grand staircase illuminated by large stained-glass windows. On either side of the great hall stood the library, parlor, and dining room with their elegantly carved oak trim. Ornate fireplaces accented each of these rooms, including a welcoming stone fireplace in the entry hall across from the staircase. Upstairs, the second floor opened up into another large hall leading to five family bedrooms, and narrow stairs rose to the third floor with its playroom for the children and three small bedrooms for servants. The basement featured a ballroom, and tucked in the corners were laundry and storage rooms.
Thomas Patterson and Richard Campbell
Almost immediately after building his grand showplace—and for reasons he never explained—Croke decided to sell. He had only lived there for six months. After the death of his wife, Margaret Dunphy Croke, in 1887, he had moved into the mansion with his two young children and his parents, but his mother also died shortly thereafter. Perhaps these two losses made the lavish home seem too ostentatious for the rural Midwesterner. Preferring the ranch that he owned north of Denver, Croke traded the house to Thomas Patterson for an additional 1,440 acres of ranchland. Croke went on to become a prominent businessman, rancher, and politician.
Thomas Patterson was born in 1839 in County Carlow, Ireland. His mother’s family was French Huguenot. He and his family came to the United States when he was ten, living first in New York and then settling in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Young Thomas worked with his father in his business as a jeweler, and as a printer. After serving in the Eleventh Indiana Infantry during the Civil War, Patterson enrolled at Asbury College (now DePauw University) and went on to study law at Wabash College, eventually passing the bar in 1867. He bought 1075 Pennsylvania from Thomas Croke in 1893. A lawyer, journalist, and politician, Patterson wanted a home that reflected his standing in the community. But the castle-like dwelling he purchased became more than just a showplace—it was his close-knit family’s retreat for more than thirty years.
Born in 1865 in Wheeling, West Virginia, Richard Campbell was the son of a newspaper publisher. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1886, Campbell moved to Alabama for a short time, then to New York, where he wrote for the New York Sun. In 1894 he came to Denver, where he met Thomas Patterson’s daughter Margaret and decided to marry her. The Campbells eventually had three children of their own. Margaret and Richard lived with the Pattersons at 1075 Pennsylvania until 1924, when Richard’s profitable investment business allowed the couple to buy a more modern mansion at 909 York Street. The Campbells only enjoyed their new home for a few years, though, as Margaret died in June 1929; Richard died the following February.
Margaret and Richard’s daughter, Margaret Campbell, sold the property to the Louise Realty Company, after which it served as the Joe Mann School of Orchestra. In 1927 the building became home to the KFVR radio station. Then, in 1930, it was converted into seven apartments and changed hands several times over the next two decades. In 1932 the address officially changed to 420 East Eleventh Avenue. In 1972, the demolition of another palatial Capitol Hill residence, the Moffat Mansion, sparked a grassroots effort to save what was left of old Denver’s architectural treasures. That same year, one woman led her own effort to save the crumbling Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion. Realtor Mary Rae fell in love with the house and refused to see it torn down. She bought the property, and, keeping it as apartments, saved the building from likely demolition. She and her husband, John, succeeded in getting the property listed as a Denver Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
In 2011 director and architect Brian Higgins bought the Croke-Patterson-Campbell mansion for $565,000, looking to convert the property into an upscale bed-and-breakfast. Higgins immediately began renovation work, which included repairing the red sandstone exterior, replacing old electrical wiring and plumbing, and installing an elevator. Aware of the building’s long and storied history—including rumors it was haunted—Higgins directed and produced a documentary on the renovations called “The Castle Project.”
As they knocked down walls, workers uncovered a variety of artifacts dating back to the late nineteenth century, including old newspapers, children’s clothing, and eyeglasses. But they also might have turned up more than just artifacts; during the renovations, Higgins and the work crew reported seeing ghostly figures of children, hearing strange voices, and feeling unexplained changes in temperature.
The film was released in 2013, and the remodeled Patterson Inn opened that same year. The Inn boasts refurbished hardwood trim, original stained-glass windows, vintage telephones, restored chandeliers, and movie-themed rooms with modern flat-panel televisions and a variety of unique furniture. Nightly rates begin at $169, a price that includes evening wine and hors d’oeuvres and a gourmet breakfast.
Adapted from Amy Zimmer, “A Stronghold of the ‘Smart Set’: Denver’s Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion,” Colorado Heritage Magazine (Spring 2005).