“Come into My Parlor”
The DWPC Clubhouse, known as the Burr House, was built in the architectural style of a 20th Century English Craftsman cottage by famous American etching artist, George Elbert Burr (1859-1939). Burr originally came to Denver for health reasons and built this house in 1910 as a combination art studio and home. Burr designed much of the house working with the architectural firm Varian and Varian. He lived here with his wife until he sold it to the Denver Woman’s Press Club in 1924. Because of failing health, Burr and his wife moved to Arizona.
The Denver Woman’s Press Club members purchased the house for $9,000. Club members themselves raised the funds to purchase the building through a series of pageants, social activities and society balls. Remember, women reporters, in those days, were mainly relegated to writing for the society pages. The women of the club raised enough funds between 1924 and 1927 to pay off the mortgage.
The home has been restored over the years through grants from the State Historical Fund, the El Pomar and Kenneth Kendal King foundations and with contributions from DWPC members. In 1968 the house was designated a Denver landmark, and in 1995 it was placed in the State Register of Historic Properties.
The first room was Burr’s parlor. The very small nook with a sink is really not a kitchen. The original house had the kitchen and a printmaking room in the basement. That area is now an apartment occupied by a full-time caretaker. The kitchen is still in the basement. However, most events at the clubhouse are now catered. A dumbwaiter transports dishes and other items between the small nook and the downstairs kitchen.
As one climbs the stairs to the second floor, one views much of the history of the club on the walls including pictures of past club presidents and celebrities who were speakers at the club. The second floor was Burr’s bedroom. Originally there were two small bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The wall between the two rooms was removed sometime in the 70s. The room is now used as an office and study. A member donated the unique writer’s desk and another member donated the typewriter.
Books and publications by DWPC authors fill the bookshelves lining the stairs that lead from the small balcony into the main room. Much of the building’s original architecture has been preserved including the two-sided open fireplace between the parlor and studio, the north-facing artist’s skylight, and the front hooded entrance that Burr designed. Other physical reminders carefully preserved include the detailed woodwork in the banisters, paneling and bookshelves, and the second-story balcony overlooking the studio.
The main room is Burr’s former studio. He presented the Denver Woman’s Press Club fifteen of his black and white etchings and watercolors, including the large watercolor of Mt. Evans. Club members donated other Burr etchings as well as works by other artists. All artwork has been restored, matted and reframed to professional archival standards.
A large portrait of Mary Elitch Long hangs on the north wall. A struggling Hungarian named Friedander painted it. He died soon after completing the painting and his penniless wife begged Mary Elitch to buy the painting, which she did. Not wishing to keep it, she gave it to the club where she was an associate member.
Initially, the club’s membership included a number of non-writers. It occurred to the financially struggling reporters that the spacious homes of associate members would be best suited for the club’s lectures. So they invited leading women of the city and wives of well-known businessmen to become associate members. The most devoted member was Mary Elitch Long, who with her first husband John Elitch founded the world-famous Elitch Gardens. For many years, a picnic and the club’s annual meeting were held at Mary Elitch’s home.
A piano came with the house. In 1935 the club traded in that piano and paid an additional $495 for a Chase piano that sits in the corner of the main room today. The white silk shawl that sometimes drapes over the piano was donated by member Betty Swords (deceased), one of the first nationally known women cartoonists. The club has upholstered the walls above the original wainscoting with a cotton/linen fabric reminiscent of Burr’s original burlap wall covering. A small landing leads to a rear garden.
In 1935 club members considered adding on to the house in this area, but it was the middle of the Great Depression. Club members instead decided to refurbish the house with new carpet, drapes and French provincial furnishings. In 1985 and in 1995 the club received offers to acquire the land and move the house. After much consideration, the offers were turn down primarily because of concern over damage to the interior of the house.
In 1997, the club received a grant from the Colorado Historic Society to do restoration on the house. The contract stipulates that the club must stay in the present location for ten years. The house remains at its original location.