Review: Byers-Evans House (Denver, Colorado)

During the summer, I traveled to Denver, Colorado for the first time for a work trip for my last job. I decided to fly out early on the day I had to get there so that I could visit a couple of museums since I had never been to the area before. One of the museums I visited was the Center for Colorado Women's History which is housed within the Byers-Evans House.

The Center for Colorado Women's History seeks to celebrate the role that women have played in the state's history. They host great events; I really wish I lived a bit closer than the other side of the country so I could attend some of them. While I was there, they had a Women/Work/Justice exhibit on in the museum where you buy your ticket to tour the house.

The Center gives guided tours of the house for a reasonable cost. I was lucky enough to catch the last tour of the day which only had one other person on it. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and very happy to answer questions. I also appreciated that he let me have as much time as I wanted to take photos in the house (photography is allowed without flash). I would recommend allotting an hour to visit the house.

The brick house was built in 1883 by William Byers, the founder of Rocky Mountain News. However, only a few years later, the Byers family moved out of the house and it was purchased by the son of a family friend. William Gray Evans and his wife Cornelia Lunt Gray moved in during 1889. Evans was the son of the governor of Colorado at the time.

William and Cornelia expanded the house and went on to have four children: John, Josephine, Margaret, and Katherine. In 1900, William's mother, Margaret Patten Gray Evans, and William's unmarried sister, Anne Evans, moved into the house. Anne Evans was an important figure to the cultural institutions of Denver throughout her life, both as an artist herself and as a philanthropist and organizer.

The Evans were a very cultured family. Several of the daughters spent time abroad, either in Paris studying or in France during World War I as a volunteer. The house is filled with books and artwork. I personally enjoyed seeing the amount of Dickens that they owned, as I used to volunteer at the Charles Dickens Museum. For any other bibliophiles, the house is a treat.

The Evans family lived in the house until 1981 and for many decades it was a house of only women. (There are some who say that at least one of the daughters' spirits occupies the house now.) In 1981, when the last of the original Evans family died, the house and its contents were donated to the Colorado Historical Society.

After being donated, the house was restored as closely as possible to the 1912-1924 period. I didn't think to ask why this period was chosen, but perhaps they felt it best represented the most exciting history of Denver. Most of the modern improvements to the house have been removed. I believe that the building that now houses the rotating exhibit and the ticket desk was once a carriage house or another outbuilding.

Almost everything in the house belonged to the Evans family and much of it has been in the house since the early 1900s. I've visited a fair number of historic homes and this might be the one with the most items, ranging from furniture to books to trinkets to hairbrushes. One of my favorite parts was looking at items on top of dressers and dressing tables and examining bookshelves. It was a great peek not only into the Evans family, but also into life in the early twentieth century.

I also couldn't write about the Byers-Evans House without mentioning how much I loved the storage system in one of the daughter's bedrooms. Look at this gorgeous built-in mirrored wardrobe. I'd like one of those for my bedroom, please.

The house feels incredibly lived-in. I know that it's a cliché, but I truly did feel like the Evans family might walk through the door at any point and demand to know why I was in their home. As you might be able to tell from the photos, for the most part there are no ropes or glass keeping you away from anything. You're allowed to freely roam each room as the tour guide provides information. In all honesty, being there towards the end of the day with only two other people in the house had a bit of an eerie feel to it, almost like I was intruding. It was easy to imagine what the house must have been like in its hey day when it was home to a leading Denver family with four children, extended family, and multiple servants.

To find out more about the house, ticket prices, or tour times, you can visit the Byers-Evans House website. I certainly would go for another tour if I am ever back in Denver. It's a lovely and educational way to spend some free time in the city.
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