Boulder History Museum
1206 Euclid Avenue
Boulder, CO 80302
ph: 303.449.3464
 
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Harbeck-Bergheim House

The Namesakes

The Harbeck-Bergheim house, site of the Boulder History Museum, is located at 1206 Euclid Avenue on the northwest corner of Beach Park. It was built in 1899 for John Henry Harbeck and his wife, Katherine Ardell Hammell Harbeck of New York City. They moved into the house in the summer of 1900.

Mr. Harbeck was a well-known figure on Wall Street and owned a large dry goods business with a fleet of 20 ships to transport his merchandise to and from New York City. He and his wife had spent previous summers in Boulder, arriving late in the spring and leaving in the fall for Mexico. Because they enjoyed the city so much they decided to build a summer home in Boulder. Harbeck MausoleumIn the fall of 1910 as the Harbecks prepared to leave for New York City and a visit to Europe, they ordered that, if they did not return, the house was not to be occupied for 20 years. This was meant to protect the nearby graves of their pet dogs, Beauty, Jim and Rover, to whom they were devoted and who had been accorded funeral services and casket burials. On November 9th of that year J. H. Harbeck died of pneumonia. Thereafter, Mrs. Harbeck lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City where she died in 1930 of injuries sustained in a revolving door accident. In her will she gave $50,000 to the Boulder Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which today is believed to be the Boulder Humane Society. John and Kate Harbeck are buried in a grand mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. Kate spent many years after her husband's death putting a lot of effort into making the mausoleum magnificent. The end result is a 90-foot-high marble octagonal structure with bronze doors, flying buttresses and a steeple. Inside the mausoleum are a pipe organ and two Tiffany stained glass windows.

From 1931 to 1937 the house changed hands several times following Mrs. Harbeck's death. In 1937 William Beach bought the land surrounding the house and presented it to the city as a park. Then, in 1939, Mr. and Mrs. Milton Bergheim, who owned a clothing store on Pearl Street, purchased the house. The family occupied the house for the next thirty years until 1969 when it was sold to the City of Boulder. The city used the house for a variety of community activities, such as, ballroom dance lessons, cooking classes, weddings and receptions. In 1985 the Boulder Historical Society moved into the house, added the sprinkling system and other upgrades and, in 1987, opened the Boulder History Museum to the public.

The House

Virginia and Lee McAlester, authors of A Field Guide to America’s Historic Neighborhoods and Museum Houses, state that “two-story cube-shaped houses (such as the Harbeck-Bergheim House) were so popular early in the 20th century that they have been given the special name ‘American four-squares’ or known locally as Denver Squares.” Unfortunately, all records of the home’s construction including the names of the architects and the builder along with the original plans were lost in the courthouse fire in 1932.

The two-story stone mansion contains 12 rooms, two baths, a full attic and basement. The porch across the front of the house features Grecian Ionic columns supporting the portico that, in turn, supports the delicately shaped balustrade. Dentils form the molding under the cornices and dormers with oval “eye” windows beneath the hipped roofline grace three facades of the house.

One enters the Museum through a large Dutch-style front door, flanked by leaded glass panels, into a spacious foyer. Visitors note the grand stairway featuring columns of hand-carved oak and graceful banisters leading up two landings to a dramatic 4'x9' Tiffany window in a distinctive art nouveau design of leaves and flowers; pink, brown, green and gold glass create a rainbow of colors in the late afternoon sun. The foyer fireplace is set with Italian tile, lined with brass and topped with a hand-carved mantel. The entry way also features a brass chandelier, window seats, the original radiators and a center hallway leading to the back of the house. Wood floors and decorative cornices are seen throughout.

To the left of the foyer through double pocket doors was the living room in the northeast corner of the house. A large bay window provides a view to the north. On the east wall is the fireplace, similar in style and proportions to the one in the foyer. Early photos of the house show that the two high windows flanking the fireplace to allow for morning sunlight did not exist and were most likely added by the Bergheims at a much later date. The living room leads to the dining room, the center room on the east side of the house. It has a bay window for morning light and a large built-in buffet on the south wall with leaded glass cupboard doors that are all fitted for keys. From the dining room guests could pass into the hallway or through the rear door to the back hall. What is now the downstairs bathroom is thought to have been the butler’s panty/laundry room during the Harbeck’s tenure in the house. From the kitchen, which is maintained and furnished with turn-of-the century appliances and cabinetry, is a small back entrance hall, probably added by the Bergheims, which leads to the outside and the view of the Beach Park playground.

A Museum office and the gift shop are housed in the two small rooms on the west side of the house and these were most likely used as servants’ quarters. It is also believed that a lavatory room had been built on the first floor under the massive stairway leading upstairs, although there are no present day indications of bathroom fixtures.

The second floor of the house has a northwest corner library with a fireplace and high windows to allow for ample light. It is joined through pocket doors to the large master bedroom in the northeast corner. The center room on the east side is speculated to be the Harbeck’s dressing room since it is connected to the bathroom at the back of the house. Across the hall on the west side of the house was the guest bedroom, which now serves as a Museum office. Down the hall, in the southeast corner, is the large family bathroom with a white ceramic tile floor and fixtures dating back to the early 1950s. Across from the bathroom, the current Museum office was once the Harbeck’s linen closet, although now, a door connects the two offices through the old guest bedroom’s closet. There is also a door at the end of the hallway leading to a full third floor attic, which is rumored, to have served as a roller skating rink for the Bergheim children, but today is used as office space and museum storage. The small half door on the 2nd floor hallway is a closet under the attic stairs.

The full basement, accessed from the stairway at the back of the first floor hallway, provided storage space, a furnace room, workshop area and a cellar door exit to the back of the house. It is interesting to note that there was never a garage or earlier carriage space attached to the mansion.

In 1900 the Harbeck House had an imposing presence at its hilltop location. An early photo shows the trees planted on the curbs of the property. The University neighborhood, which surrounds the Museum property today, is filled with interesting homes of the Craftsman era and others built in succeeding decades. Plus, Beach Park, located next to the Museum, is a gathering place for families in the area, many of whom are Museum members and supporters of its annual events. Only a few blocks away one can visit the National Historic Landmark, Chautauqua Park. Residents and visitors are welcomed to the Harbeck-Bergheim house by staff and volunteers to learn more about the special story of the house and all of Boulder County.