The Hover Home and Farmstead is a historic mansion and agricultural property on the west edge of Longmont. Retired pharmacist Charles Hover and his wife, Katherine, bought the farm in 1902 and built the mansion in 1913–14. Over the next several decades, the Hovers ran one of the most successful farms in the area and became leading citizens of Longmont. After her parents died, Beatrice Hover lived at Hover Home until she moved in 1983 and gave the house to the nonprofit that ran the adjacent Hover Manor retirement complex.
In 1997 the nonprofit sold Hover Home to the St. Vrain Historical Society, which had already begun buying up the Hovers’ old farmland. The society rehabilitated the house and many of the old farm structures and has maintained the property to the present. The Hover Home and Farmstead was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Today, the property hosts weddings, corporate gatherings, and other events.
Coming to Longmont
Charles Lewis Hover was born in 1867 in Wisconsin. He studied pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin before entering the wholesale drug business in Denver. In 1898 he married Katherine Avery. By the early 1900s, the Hovers had grown tired of the city bustle and sought a quieter life along the Front Range.
Meanwhile, the Chicago-Colorado Colony established the city of Longmont in March 1871. Colonists, many of whom came from the Midwest, immediately began digging irrigation ditches, planting crops, and building the city’s first businesses and homes. Railroads arrived in 1873 and 1883, and businesses such as the Empson Cannery (1889) and the Longmont Sugar Factory (1903) helped make the city into a major agricultural center by the time the Hovers arrived in 1902.
The 160-acre farm the Hovers bought had been owned by a succession of early homesteaders. From 1875 to 1902 the farm was owned by the family of Mary Marshall, who expanded it to 1,500 acres. The Marshall family built a simple wood frame farmhouse there in 1893. In 1902 Mary Marshall sold the farm to Joseph Williamson, who quickly sold it to the Hovers.
The Hovers first moved into the farmhouse, but they soon built and moved into a new cottage. The farm had never been very productive, but Charles Hover was determined to change that. He immediately installed an expensive new drainage system that removed crop-killing alkali deposits and planted a third of the farm in alfalfa to restore nutrients to the soil. The alfalfa fed sheep and cows, which Hover relied on for fertilizer. He also used commercial fertilizers and implemented crop rotation.
Hover’s improvements substantially boosted the farm’s productivity. In 1912 the Rocky Mountain News was so impressed with Hover farm’s turnaround that it ran a story about the property with a headline that read “Prairie Farm is Paradise in 10 Years.” Many of the ancillary buildings on the farm are also believed to have been built by Hover in that first decade.
In 1907, while the Hovers were still developing their farm, the couple adopted a nine-year-old girl, Beatrice. With the farm’s productivity restored, in 1913 Charles Hover turned toward building a stately residence for his larger family.
Designed by famous Denver architect Robert S. Roeschlaub, the Hover Home is an impressive, 6,000-square-foot brick mansion built in the Tudor Revival style, with steeply pitched rooflines, parapeted gables, and multiple bay windows. Inside, the home features oak flooring and decorative woodwork throughout, as well as a brick-floor conservatory, an eight-foot brick fireplace in the living room, and built-in glass bookcases in Charles Hover’s extensive library.
The grounds of Hover Home reflect Katherine and Beatrice Hover’s affinity for gardening. The western walkway is lined with peony bushes, while yellow rose bushes flourish on the property’s eastern boundary. Irises once grew along the property’s irrigation ditch, but the plants were removed once the ditch was filled in.
Serving the Community
Once Hover Home was complete, Charles Hover began renting out the farm and shifted his focus to the community and other investments. During World War I, he served as treasurer for the local Red Cross chapter. He was also an agricultural advisor for the state’s draft, meaning he helped determine how many young men were to remain on Colorado farms during the war.
In 1920 Hover was part of a group of Longmont investors who purchased the Empson Cannery from the retiring John H. Empson. Hover served as president of the cannery until it merged with the Kuner Pickle Company in 1927. Hover also served as vice president of the Boulder County Fair Association, was a member of the Colorado Farm Bureau’s board of directors, and spent twenty-two years as treasurer of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
Katherine also supported the church, hosting annual fundraisers for St. Stephen’s at Hover Home. After her husband died in 1958, Katherine sold the old farmhouse to a cousin, Jack Wilson, who converted the house into apartments. Katherine, meanwhile, began pursuing her dream to build a residential community for the low-income elderly. She sold off family farmland to pay for the retirement community, which was to be built just west of Hover Home. Katherine did not live to see her plans come to fruition—she died in 1971—but Beatrice followed through on her mother’s vision. In 1979 she opened the Hover Manor retirement community, managed by the nonprofit Hover Community, Inc.
Donation and Preservation
In 1983 Beatrice Hover moved to Hover Manor and deeded Hover Home to Hover Community, Inc., hoping that the mansion could be used as a communal space for the elderly residents. However, the nonprofit found the giant house too costly to maintain, and in 1997 it sold the mansion and grounds to the St. Vrain Historical Society (SVHS) for $500,000.
Upon her death in 1991, Beatrice willed most of Hover Home’s original furnishings to the SVHS for preservation, so today the home’s interior looks much like it did when the Hovers lived there. In 1994 the SVHS purchased some of the Hovers’ surrounding farmland and began rehabilitating the old farmhouse and other structures. Over the next two years, the society received more than $90,000 in grants from the State Historical Fund (SHF) to perform restoration work on Hover Home. In 1998 the SHF gave the SVHS another $100,000 to acquire more of the family’s property, and the next year both the Hover Home and farm were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Restoration and rehabilitation work continued throughout the 2000s, with the SVHS receiving more than $387,500 in SHF grants between 2002 and 2013. Among other projects, the society rehabilitated the roof on Hover Home, rebuilt the family barn, and restored the iris bushes along the filled irrigation ditch.
Today, the SVHS rents out Hover Home for weddings, banquets, and other events. The society still rents the old farmhouse apartments to help pay for maintenance at the Hover property. The nonprofit Hover Manor continues to offer affordable living for residents age sixty-two and over, while the rehabilitated farm buildings and the restored Hover Home serve as reminders of the Hovers’ major influence in the Longmont economy and community.