History of Denver's Molly Brown House Museum

June 4, 2023

The Molly Brown House Museum in Denver stands as a remarkable testament to the turn of the 20th century. As Denver faced the demolition of many historic properties in the 1960s, a group of preservation-minded citizens came together in 1970 to save the home of Margaret Tobin Brown, famously known as a survivor of the Titanic. This group formed Historic Denver, Inc. and embarked on a significant restoration project to bring back the home's early 20th-century grandeur. 

Today, the museum welcomes an average of 45,000 visitors each year, sharing the captivating story of Margaret "Molly" Brown and the history of Denver. Through educational programs, exhibits, and stewardship, the Molly Brown House Museum, under Historic Denver, Inc., is committed to enriching the city's unique identity and inspiring engaged citizens by exploring the dynamic connection between the past and present, ultimately shaping a stronger community for the future.

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In the 1880s, the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver attracted the fortunate few who had made fortunes in mining, railroads, or trade. Among them were Isaac and Mary Large, who amassed their wealth through silver mining and built a magnificent house at 1340 Pennsylvania Avenue. They enlisted the renowned architect William Lang to design their home, which blended the styles of Classic Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque, resulting in a distinctive and eclectic architectural masterpiece. The Large residence incorporated the latest technological advancements of the time, including electricity, indoor plumbing, heating, and a telephone.

Unfortunately, the Larges fell victim to the silver market crash shortly after completing their dream home. In 1894, they sold the house to James Joseph "J.J." and Margaret Brown. Over the next three decades, the Browns made various alterations to the house, including modifying the front and back porches, the roof, and adding a third floor. In 1898, J.J. transferred the house's title into Margaret's name. When Margaret was away on her travels, she often rented the house to wealthy families. In 1902, during the Browns' world trip, the home served as the Governor's mansion for James Orman and his family. Margaret continued renting the house until the declining neighborhood and the Great Depression compelled her to convert it into a boarding house, overseen by her housekeeper, Ella Grable.

Tragically, Margaret passed away in 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, and the house was sold. Subsequent owners made significant alterations to the property, dividing it into twelve separate spaces for tenants. In 1958, Art Leisenring purchased the house and rented rooms to male boarders. Later, he leased it to the city for use as a Jane Addams Hull home for girls. However, Leisenring, recognizing the importance of preserving the history of Margaret "Molly" Brown, as she gained immortalization on stage and screen in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," grew concerned about the urban renewal developments occurring in the neighborhood. Led by Leisenring, a group of citizens appealed to the Governor's wife, Ann Love, for assistance.

On December 11, 1970, these concerned citizens formed Historic Denver, Inc., initiating a grassroots effort to rescue the Molly Brown House from impending demolition. Through media appeals and fundraising endeavors, Historic Denver was able to purchase the "House of Lions" and commence the painstaking restoration process. With the help of paint analysis, architectural research, and the study of original house photographs from 1910, the Molly Brown House has been meticulously restored to its original Victorian splendor.

The Molly Brown House Museum stands today as a living testament to the remarkable history of Margaret "Molly" Brown and the vibrant city of Denver.

Exploring the Molly Brown House Museum

Visiting the Molly Brown House Museum is like taking a step back in time to experience the opulence and charm of Denver's past. The museum showcases the rich history of Margaret "Molly" Brown, a woman whose life and activism left an indelible mark on the city.

The house itself is a marvel of architectural beauty. With its blend of Classic Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque styles, it exudes a sense of grandeur and elegance. The meticulously restored interior transports visitors to a bygone era, complete with period furnishings, decor, and artifacts that offer a glimpse into the daily life of the Browns and the societal norms of the time.

Guided tours of the Molly Brown House Museum provide fascinating insights into the life and achievements of Margaret Brown. Known as the "Unsinkable Molly Brown" due to her survival of the Titanic disaster, she was much more than just a survivor. She was a philanthropist, activist, and advocate for social justice. Through educational programs and exhibits, the museum sheds light on her remarkable journey and her contributions to Denver and beyond.

But the Molly Brown House Museum is not just a repository of historical artifacts. It is a place where the past and present intersect, creating a space for dialogue and exploration. By examining the dynamic relationship between history and the present, the museum encourages visitors to reflect on the lessons of the past and apply them to the challenges of today. It serves as a catalyst for conversations about social issues, community engagement, and the power of individuals to effect change.

As you stroll through the rooms of the Molly Brown House, you can't help but feel a sense of awe and admiration for the woman who once called it home. Margaret "Molly" Brown was a trailblazer, a woman ahead of her time. Her story inspires us to embrace our own agency and make a positive impact on the world around us.

In conclusion, the Molly Brown House Museum stands as a testament to the rich history of Denver and the remarkable life of Margaret "Molly" Brown. Its restoration and preservation represent the dedication and passion of the community to honor and celebrate the past. By exploring the museum's exhibits, engaging in educational programs, and participating in the ongoing dialogue it fosters, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the historical context while finding inspiration for their own journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I visit the Molly Brown House Museum without taking a guided tour?

No, the museum offers guided tours to ensure visitors have a comprehensive understanding of the house's history and Margaret "Molly" Brown's legacy. The knowledgeable guides provide valuable insights and answer any questions you may have.

2. How long does a guided tour typically last?

Guided tours of the Molly Brown House Museum usually last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. However, the duration may vary depending on the size of the group and the level of engagement.

3. Is photography allowed inside the museum?

Yes, non-flash photography is permitted inside the museum. Feel free to capture your favorite moments and share them with others.

4. Are there any special events or programs held at the Molly Brown House Museum?

Yes, the museum hosts various special events, educational programs, and exhibitions throughout the year. Check the museum's website or contact them directly for the latest information on upcoming events.

5. Can I purchase souvenirs or memorabilia related to the Molly Brown House?

Yes, the museum has a gift shop where you can find a variety of souvenirs, books, and other items related to the Molly Brown House and its history. It's a great opportunity to take home a memento of your visit.

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