(Special thanks to Matt Mayberry, director of the Pioneers Museum, for helping me with the history of the house, neighborhood and its owners!)
Take a good look at the Steven Stearman House on the campus of Penrose Hospital north of downtown Colorado Springs. In a couple days, it will be gone.
The old house has been vacant since 2008 when Penrose opened the new John Zay Guest House.
Now, it is coming down to make room for more parking for a nearly completed four-story medical office building, Penrose spokesman Chris Valentine said.
Folks in the adjacent Old North End Neighborhood had hopes of saving the house, moving it and restoring it into a community center.
Penrose even offered the $50,000 it will spend razing it toward relocating it.
But the cost of moving totalled $80,000. Then there was the expense a lot, which nearly doubled the cost. Building a new foundation and restoration would drive the price so high the neighborhood couldn’t afford it.
It’s a shame because it’s a great old house. From one angle, it doesn’t look much different than it did when it was built circa 1900.
In reality, it’s an architectural orphan — a Queen Anne Victorian-style house amid a sea of concrete slab parking structures and office buildings of Penrose Hospital.
The value of the house is not lost on leaders of the Old North End. They tried to save it, recognizing a rich piece of its history will be lost Saturday.
But like an organ donor, the house will live on in perhaps dozens of neighboring houses thanks to a last-minute salvage effort by neighborhood leaders.
They will take the salvaged fixtures, windows, doors, trim and other items and store them for a silent auction among the neighborhoods 900 or so residents and business groups.
Still, the Stearman House deserves to be remembered for the man who built it and the surrounding neighborhood now vanished, for its noteworthy owners and, more important, for the service it provided during the last 30 years as a guest home for out-of-town families of hospital patients.
The two-story frame home with large windows, hardwood floors, ornate trim, fireplace and wrap-around porch is the last link, in its original location, to Charles H. Tyler, who moved to Colorado Springs in 1900 from St. Louis where he had amassed a fortune in real estate and manufacturing.
He died at age 69 on June 20, 1902. But during his brief time here, Tyler built a handful of homes west of Nevada Avenue on “Tyler Place.” He went by the title “Captain Tyler” based on his claim as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River during the Civil War years.
(His obituary also claimed he invented the roll top desk. Of course, the 1850 U.S. Patent is held by Abner Cutler of Buffalo, N.Y. and historians trace the desk design to 18th century France.)
From 1915 to 1924, the house was home to T. Ernest Nowles, who joined the Evening Telegraph newspaper in 1901 as a reporter, rose to managing editor and eventually negotiated the merger with The Gazette in 1923. He became president and general manager of the merged Gazette Telegraph, titles he held until he sold the paper to R.C. Hoiles in January 1946.
In 1981 the house became known as the Steven Stearman House in honor of a cancer victim whose surviving family financed its conversion into apartments for families of Penrose Hospital patients.
Preserving that history was foremost in the mind of Vic Appugliese, president of the Old North End Neighborhood Association, when he learned the house was to be demolished.
“My grand scheme was to save this house, move it somewhere in the neighborhood and use it as a community center for the Old North End,” Appugliese said. “Ultimately, we realized that due to time, expense and location the house couldn’t be saved. So we decided to take what we could out of it and continue to dream of a community center.”
So Penrose agreed to let the Old North End hire a crew to remove the interior fixtures and trim. The items, combined with others salvaged from a home demolished by Colorado College, will be sold at a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the neighborhood.
The organ donation was a good idea but Appugliese doesn’t want people to forget Tyler Place, the captain, Nowles, Stearman and the rest.
“I want people to remember that this was a home to a lot of people,” Appugliese said.
“This was a place of solitude for years for people visiting the hospital. It gave a lot of comfort to a lot of people over the years.”