The Wheeler/Stallard House is a three-story Queen Anne style residence built in 1888–89 by Jerome B. Wheeler on the west side of Aspen. Edgar and Mary Ella Stallard occupied the house from 1905 to 1945, when Walter Paepcke acquired it for use as overflow guest rooms for the Hotel Jerome, employee housing for the hotel, and, eventually, the residence of the Aspen Institute’s president. Since 1968 the Aspen Historical Society has used the house as a museum and headquarters, and in 1975 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Starting in 1882, Macy’s department store president Jerome Wheeler transformed the young town of Aspen by investing tens of thousands of dollars into its mining and transportation infrastructure. In 1884 Wheeler consolidated his growing portfolio of Aspen mines and other businesses into a corporation called the Aspen Mining and Smelting Company. Thanks to Wheeler’s investments and the arrival of two railroads in 1887–88, Aspen’s economy started to boom. Wheeler sold his interest in Macy’s and focused on his Aspen properties, financing the Wheeler Opera House and the Hotel Jerome.
As a sign of his commitment to Aspen, Wheeler started to build a family home there on a piece of land that he had acquired in 1885–86 on Bleeker Street, in Aspen’s wealthy West End neighborhood. Few records about the house’s construction survive, but it likely began in 1888 and was completed in 1889. The unknown architect designed a three-story Queen Anne style residence made of red brick with timbered gables, a large bay window, and a wide porch that wrapped around the southern and eastern facades. It was the only house in Aspen to sit alone on an entire block, which allowed Wheeler to build the house in the center with extensive open ground on all sides. Inside, the house had a large foyer, parlor, and dining room on the main floor; three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor; and a large attic on the third floor.
Wheeler’s family never enjoyed the elegant house he had built, perhaps because his wife did not want to live in a rough mining town. Wheeler started to build a new summer residence for his family in Manitou Springs, and he rented the Aspen house to his friend James Henry Devereux, the former general manager of the Aspen Mining and Smelting Company. The Devereux family lived there only a year, during which they were often absent. In March 1890, Wheeler rented the house to Henry Woodward, perhaps as a benefit of Woodward’s new job managing Wheeler’s Colorado investments.
The Woodward family moved out of Wheeler’s house in 1892. Wheeler sold the house to his mother-in-law, Charlotte M. Valentine, to quickly raise cash while keeping the property in the family, but no one ever lived there. Wheeler’s fortune collapsed after the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the Panic of 1893, and in 1901 he filed for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, his Aspen house continued to stand vacant as the city struggled through the post-crash years.
In 1896 a New Yorker named Christopher Bell bought the Wheeler Opera House and the Bleeker Street house, probably to help the Wheeler family raise money. After Bell’s death in 1902, the opera house and the residence passed to his son, Dennistoun Bell. Soon after that, in 1904, a local real estate agent named Edgar Stallard became the manager of the Wheeler Opera House. Perhaps as compensation for Stallard’s work with the opera house, Bell allowed him and his wife, Mary Ella Stallard, to move into the Bleeker Street residence in 1905.
The Stallards rented the house for twelve years, during which the Bell family neglected it and stopped paying taxes. In 1917 Pitkin County sold the property to a rancher named Fred Light for $150 (mostly back taxes). Within weeks, Light sold the house to the Stallards for the same price. The Stallards lived in the house with their children and a variety of relatives who needed help during Aspen’s long economic depression in the early twentieth century. To survive, the family cultivated a vegetable garden and maintained a dairy and chicken coop.
The Stallards remained in the house despite Aspen’s continued decline in the 1920s and early 1930s. Edgar died in 1925, and the children and relatives moved away in the early 1930s. Thereafter, Mary Ella sometimes closed off the upper floor and used only the kitchen and dining room to save money on heat.
In 1945 Mary Ella moved to a smaller house on Main Street and sold the large Bleeker Street residence to William Tagert, who was acting as Paepcke’s agent and immediately resold the house to Paepcke. At the time, Paepcke was in the process of acquiring property throughout Aspen to remake the town as a ski resort and cultural retreat. Under Paepcke’s ownership, the Wheeler/Stallard House was restored and modernized to serve as an extension of the Hotel Jerome, which Paepcke leased starting in 1946. By 1952, the Wheeler/Stallard House provided overflow rooms for the hotel’s guests, and it housed employees a few years later.
In the early 1960s, Paepcke’s wife, Elizabeth, remodeled the house to serve as the residence of the Aspen Institute’s first president, Alvin Eurich. In 1964 Eurich and his family moved into the house, where they lived until shortly after Eurich’s resignation in late 1966.
Aspen Historical Society
When the Aspen Institute moved its headquarters to New York in 1968, it no longer needed a dedicated president’s house in Aspen. The Paepcke Trust continued to own the Wheeler/Stallard House and leased it to the Aspen Historical Society, which had no permanent home at the time. In January 1969, the society opened the house as a museum, and within a year it raised enough money to buy the building. In 1976 the society constructed an outbuilding called the Carriage House, which now contains the society archives.
Today the Aspen Historical Society continues to use the Wheeler/Stallard House as a headquarters, house museum, and exhibit space. The main floor is maintained in the style of a late nineteenth-century parlor and the second floor houses local history exhibits. The property’s extensive gardens often host special events.