Monday, April 20, 2009

In which we get to see the insides of all kinds of cool buildings, part the first.

This weekend was Doors Open Denver, which I was looking forward to because we had so much fun last year. And this year my camera actually talks to my computer, so I won't have to wait six months to post the photos of our adventure.

I actually forgot about it until Sunday morning, but ultimately I guess that was OK because Saturday it poured freezing rain all day long and the six inches of snow we got on Friday (wet, slushy snow) didn't melt! Like, at all! The weather was gross and weird so the only thing to do was go shopping. The clothing acquisition part of the shopping excursion was mostly unproductive, because nobody seems to be selling work-appropriate tops or shirts that are knits (not button-down, since those just don't seem to fit me anymore) that are less than a million dollars. (Seriously? I'm not paying $50 for a shirt that's kind of ugly, Macys. You disappoint me.) I found a couple of things at Old Navy (one of which I'm sporting today) and a couple more at NY and Co, one of which was on clearance (woot!). Then we went to Blood Bath and Beyond and, with all our coupons and the remainder of a wedding gift card from Dan's aunt and uncle, we got $200 worth of stuff for $80. Plus, did you know BB&B is selling toiletries and cosmetics now? I had no idea! We hadn't been in there since sometime last year and when we walked around a corner there was a whole makeup and bath product section, and I found some brands of things I haven't been able to find anywhere else in years. So I stocked up on my favorite conditioner and deoderant.

It turns out that Cost Plus World Market (next door to BB&B) no longer carries our favorite Russian chocolate (the best chocolate on earth, in my opinion) which put a damper on our recession-be-damned spree at BB&B, but the tasty blood orange sody pop kind of made up for it. (A quick consultation with Google tells me this is no longer available at all since the maker of the chocolate was bought out by Wrigley. Boo.)

But all that was on Saturday. On Sunday, it was gorgeous and sunny out, with a blue cloudless sky and water everywhere from all the rain and melting snow (highly unusual for Colorado at any time of the year). As Dan was making breakfast (pizza omeletes, breakfast potatoes made with sweet potatoes), I suddenly remembered that it was Doors Open Denver weekend and went to the website to look up what places were participating this year, since I hadn't remembered seeing any of the signs while walking around. Luckily, there was a big list of places that were open (especially several museums which were FREE during the event) that we wanted to see, particularly a couple that we missed out on last year due to timing or claustrophobia (mine). So over breakfast we planned out an itinerary, showered, and headed out for the day's adventure to explore the innards of some of Denver's most well-known (and least-explorable on a daily basis) places.

Our first stop was the Molly Brown House Museum, which is in our neighborhood and only about a block away from our previous apartment. I'd walked by it oodles of times and always wanted to go in, so was really excited about going to see the inside of it for free. We got there about 10 minutes before the first tour but weren't able to get in until the second tour because so many other people were excited about seeing it for free, too. To kill time, we wandered around the outside of the house taking photos and then (just like last year) my camera suddenly decided its batteries were low. I went into the gift shop to see if they sold them (no) and then I audibly exclaimed over some cute hats they had and was told not to take photos of them. Because I had a camera in my hand. This kind of pissed me off, so I snarkily asked if there was anything else in the gift shop I was prohibited from photographing (no). You know, there were a lot of things in that gift shop I might have wanted to buy, but there's no way that I was going to buy anything after getting that from the salesperson. We hightailed to the corner store up the block and paid federal pound-me-in-the-ass prices for 4 AA batteries and got back in time to wait another 10 minutes on the front porch for our tour.

It's also known as the House of Lions.

Succulent in the sun; the shady side of the house was still snowy.

Once inside, though, the tour was pretty awesome. I highly recommend it to any Denver resident interested in Denver history or Molly Brown (her name was Margaret, the tour guide told us, she never went by Molly, that was bestowed after she died) or what the houses of rich Victorian-era folks looked like. The tour guide (or docent, maybe? it is technically a museum) explained what the functions of each room were (entryway, with statuary holding trays for calling cards; formal parlor and what one could discuss in there (your family, my family, and I think maybe the weather?); library; formal dining room on the first floor (and an explanation of Victorian custom regarding meals, how many one ate a day, and nothing about how one stayed thin when eating 12 courses at dinner)), why photos weren't allowed (something to do with the antiques that furnish the house, many of which are original, aren't owned by the historical preservation society that owns the house but instead by other people? probably just a ruse to get people to buy postcards.) and what Margaret Brown's life was like, her relationship with her husband, when/how they came to Denver, how they ended up with all that money, etc.) and then we went up to the second floor, where she told us about the Titanic-related stuff and explained the function of each room we would see. The second floor had a bedroom for their daughter (but not their son; apparently he was mostly away at boarding school), for her parents, for her, for him, and perhaps the original Man Cave aka his study. Also, one bathroom. For the entire household. But in 1894, to find a great big house with running water, indoor plumbing, and heat and electricity, it was probably worth every penny of the $30,000 they paid!

After we oohed and aaahed over the fainting couches and the gorgeous stained glass, we went down the servants' staircase to the kitchen, with a dry goods pantry and a butler pantry. The back porch was closed in, and held the laundry drum and the ice box. There was one more room, I guess where they have different exhibits and you can watch a movie about Margaret and her family if you like. The exhibit we saw was about lingerie during Victorian times, aka unmentionables for men and women (13 pieces! for women. 13! Sheesh.)

After we left the Molly Brown House, we headed up the street to the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, which was mostly full of paintings by Vance Kirkland and whole crapton of stuff like you might see in a Modern Art museum (you know, things like chairs and teapots that are DESIGNED but probably not especially FUNCTIONAL). We spent about 15 minutes walking through rooms that were so full of stuff that you couldn't really SEE anything, but it was still kind of interesting. Plus, the building is where Kirkland's studio was, and he was a short guy who felt that his paintings shouldn't have an up or a down (he sometimes would sign in two different places to encourage this) so he had this funny rig set up so he could paint horizontally (and also used skateboards to move his unfinished paintings around. or something). It reminded me of Maude Lebowski's paint swing system, so I got a photo of it.

Kirkland painting. We couldn't use flash, so the photo isn't great, but I was trying to get a sense of the texture.

Brochure for some sort of "snack server" suggesting you serve snacks after (or during) bridge, movies, golf, motoring(!), boating, and football games. What, no tennis? Mah Jong?

And here's the "snack server."

I didn't find the painting underneath to be especially vaginal.

We headed south to the Governor's Mansion (and yes, the governor of Colorado and his family actually live there, though only the first floor was open to the public) and admired the opulence of all the different formal rooms (dining, library, solarium, etc.). The mansion was first lived in by the widow of Walter Scott Cheesman (who now has a park named after him, since he's buried there along with a bunch of other people) and was later bought by the Boettchers, a well-known wealthy Colorado family. Apparently most of the furnishings were purchased by the Boettchers and never replaced, so there's a lot of Art Deco-ish stuff, gilded French decor and repeated motifs of things like flowers and faces. I enjoyed seeing the inside of the house and also the grounds, which would be a perfect place to hold a wedding and grand reception.

Fancy lighting.

A whole lot of stuff in the house looked like this.

Back of a chair - but there were faces everywhere.

Also in this room, but not pictured: the desk where Obama signed the stimulus bill (transported to the Nature and Science museum for the occasion).

Sign of habitation: laundry basket on the second floor.

Back side of the house.


tmjackson said...

That was very interesting and educational. And hell, I didn't even go on the tours! Thanks for sharing.

Abby said...

The Molly Brown House sounds like a lot of fun, I will have to remember that for the next time I am in Denver!

Emily SW said...

fun fact: my fiance helped film a short film in the governor's mansion.

i am sad to hear that i missed doors open denver--you got to check out some awesome places!