Review: Molly Brown House Museum (Denver, Colorado)


Last year (back when we could still go out and do things), I went on a work trip to Denver, Colorado. I took an earlier flight out so that I could fit in a few historic sites and the one I was most excited to see was the Molly Brown House Museum. I've had these photos and notes sitting for over a year, so I thought it was finally time to share them. 

Margaret Brown might be known as "the Unsinkable Molly Brown," but she was never actually called Molly. It's a nickname given to her by the musical and film about her that has persisted so strongly that most people likely don't know her real name was Margaret. She was a philanthropist, activist, and socialite who had a home in the once fashionable Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver for many years. 


Margaret Tobin was born in Missouri to Irish Catholic immigrant parents. At the age of nineteen, she married 31-year-old J.J. Brown who was equally poor but with whom she was very much in love. They had two children, Lawrence and Catherine, born soon after their marriage. Fortunately, J.J. struck gold in Colorado in the 1890s and the family were instant millionaires. They moved to Denver and bought the home that is now the Molly Brown Museum. In 1909, J.J. and Margaret legally separated but they remained on good terms for the rest of their lives. 


Margaret was passionate about education and employed tutors for herself, learning five or six languages. Both of her children were sent to French boarding schools. Margaret became involved in many causes from women's suffrage to miners rights to maritime law. She helped create the juvenile court system and even ran for Senate. However, she dropped out of the Senate race to volunteer in France when World War I broke out. When her son Larry was temporarily blinded in the war, she learned Braille. She was eventually awarded the French Legion of Honor. 


Margaret was famously a passenger on the Titanic and survived the crossing. While she is most known for trying to convince the lifeboat she was in to return to try to save people in the icy water, she also raised $10,000 for Titanic passengers while they were aboard the ship that rescued them, the Carpathia. When the wealthy survivors didn't donate their money quickly enough, she publicly shamed those who hadn't given until they did. This money was used to help second- and third-class passengers upon docking in New York. 


Margaret took acting classes and was even in a few plays towards the end of her life. She died in 1932 at the age of 65 due to a stroke. While "the Unsinkable Molly Brown" has become a mythic figure in American history, the truth of her life is arguably even more fascinating. 


The house itself is a lovely Victorian home designed by architect William A. Lang. It was built in 1889, with all of the best modern features of the time: electricity, central heating, indoor plumbing, and a telephone. The Browns purchased the house from Isaac and Mary Large in 1894 for $30,000. Four years later, they changed over the house to be in Margaret's name. The Browns added on the porch, grand staircase, and back porch. The house, which is decorated in a lavish style, is close to Capitol Hill and other museums. In addition to the Browns' two children, Margaret's parents lived with them for many years and it's easy to imagine it as a bustling and busy home. 


In 1970, the house was almost torn down and replaced with a parking lot. Luckily, it was acquired by Historic Denver. It has now been restored to its 1910 appearance based on historic photographs, written descriptions of the home, and paint-chip analysis. It's filled with furniture, linens, books, and other pieces to make you feel like you've stepped back in time. It's set up as the house would have been right before the Garden Party held that year, to which 800 guests were invited. They also have small exhibits about the other people who have lived in the house. 


When I went, I had a great guided tour by a nice and very knowledgable tour guide. I would definitely recommend getting their early to secure your spot on the tour because they do fill up (at least they do...when we're not dealing with a pandemic). They have a neat little gift shop that you can browse through while waiting for your tour time (I bought some gifts to bring back to my family). There is a small fee for the tour, which lasts forty-five minutes, but it's worth it to help keep this amazing museum running. 


If you're ever in Denver, a tour of the Molly Brown Museum is the number one thing that I recommend you do. You can visit their website to learn more about Margaret Brown and the museum. You can also find information about their measures for ensuring safety while visiting during the pandemic. 

No comments

Post a Comment

Blogger Template Created by pipdig