Charles Boettcher (1852–1948), one of Colorado’s most important early businessmen and philanthropists, built Lorraine Lodge (now known as Boettcher Mansion) in 1917 as a summer retreat at the top of Lookout Mountain, west of Golden. It stands as a particularly elaborate example of the rustic foothills lodges that were popular among wealthy Denverites in the early twentieth century. Now owned and operated by Jefferson County as a special events center, the property also serves as an important example of adaptive reuse and preservation in the late twentieth century.
Charles Boettcher’s Summer Retreat
Boettcher became familiar with Lookout Mountain when William “Cement Bill” Williams was building Lookout Mountain Road from Golden to the top of the mountain in 1911–14. Boettcher’s Ideal Cement Company, one of his many lucrative enterprises, donated cement for the road. At the time, a developer was planning a resort on top of the mountain, but the project never moved forward and the mountaintop property soon became available.
Boettcher bought the sixty-two-acre site in 1915 and commissioned the brothers William E. and Arthur A. Fisher to design a summer home and hunting lodge. Fisher & Fisher, as their firm was known, helped define Denver’s cityscape over the first half of the twentieth century, designing dozens of commercial buildings, apartments, and private houses. For Boettcher’s “Lorraine Lodge,” the Fishers used stone and wood from the site to construct a massive retreat whose local materials and irregular plan made it a prime example of the Arts and Crafts style. The estate, which included the main residence, carriage house, gazebo, and well house, emphasized traditional craftsmanship in its design. Large east-facing windows allowed Boettcher to take in the view of Denver, and rooms at the lodge could accommodate fifteen to twenty guests.
Lorraine Lodge was completed in 1917. The origin of the name remains a mystery. After Boettcher and his wife, Fannie, officially separated in 1920, the property became Boettcher’s personal retreat. For much of the next three decades he stayed at the lodge each year from June to September, using it as a base for hunting and entertaining.
Jefferson County’s Conference and Nature Center
Upon Boettcher’s death in 1948, the estate passed to his granddaughter, Charline Humphreys Breeden. Breeden raised her family at the lodge before making plans in the late 1960s to donate the house and surrounding grounds to Jefferson County for public use. When she died in 1972, the 110-acre property officially became county land.
Jefferson County built a nature trail on the grounds and opened the lodge to the public in 1975 as a combined conference and nature center. In the 1980s the entire property was managed by Jefferson County’s Open Space program, but in 1989 Lorraine Lodge was renamed Boettcher Mansion and became its own entity within the Jefferson County Parks Department. These changes were intended to help differentiate the mansion, which had become a popular conference and wedding venue, from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center, which moved into a new building on the property in the 1990s.
Boettcher Mansion and the Lookout Mountain Nature Center continue to share the open-space park at the top of the mountain, which has grown from Boettcher’s original 62-acre purchase to the 134-acre Lookout Mountain Nature Preserve. In 2010 Jefferson County secured more than $3 million from Colorado’s Conservation Trust Fund to pay for ongoing maintenance of Boettcher Mansion and its grounds.