Wolhurst Memories

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The following account of Wolhurst was written by Edwin A. Bemis, former editor and publisher of the Littleton Independent newspaper:  “Although Wolhurst was not in Littleton in the earlier days, it was always a part of Littleton life.  Wolhurst lies three miles south of Littleton on the old Colorado Springs Road.

In the Littleton Independent of August 8, 1891, appears an article describing Senator Wolcott’s home (in Wolhurst):  It says:  ‘This place was formerly known as Estlack Ranch and afterward as the Legre Ranch and contains 230 acres of land.  It was purchased last year by Senator and Mrs. Wolcott with a view to setting up a summer residence and there are about sixty men at work there at present.’  The paper goes on to state that:  ‘Less than three months ago there was nothing there but the old ranch buildings, but now there is a stately house of some twenty rooms built in the old English style and finished entirely in rustic work.’  At that time the Senator had started to build the lake which was being graded and excavated by George Olmsted.  The lake, which still exists, covers about sixteen acres.

 wolhurst
      Wolhurst, c. 1905. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library.

Senator Wolcott gave his estate the name ‘Wolhurst’ which obviously was a combination of his name and “hurst” which for a generation has been a common name meaning home or estate.  Wolhurst was a great show place and was looked upon not only by Littleton, but Denver and the entire surrounding country, as the most beautiful country estate in Colorado.  Soon after the home was constructed, Senator and Mrs. Wolcott began entertaining groups from Denver and Littleton.  I remember attending one of these parties and seeing the pleasure which especially Senator Wolcott got out of having the Littleton folks there.  Senator Wolcott was a heavy set man with a very fine sense of humor and he and Mrs. Wolcott never failed to send his guests away with a feeling that they had experienced one of the finest social events of their lives.

In August of 1898 a group of Denver people decided to raise money to help care for sick and wounded soldiers returning from the Spanish War.  Senator Wolcott offered the use of Wolhurst for this undertaking and on Saturday, August 27, they held the ‘Wolhurst Fete’.  All kinds of entertainment features were set up throughout the big ranch and people flocked there by the thousands.  They ran special trains from Denver to Wolhurst.  It was reported that the affair netted about $10,000 for the charitable work to be done for the returning soldiers.  There was little activity around Wolhurst after that until the place changed hands.

Social circles in 1899 were jarred by the announcement that Mrs. Wolcott had begun proceedings for a divorce from Senator Wolcott.  Nothing appeared outwardly to indicate that they were on the point of separation, but the divorce became final.  After that time, Senator Wolcott seemed to show signs of the sorrow which resulted from this divorce.

Senator Wolcott died on March 2, 1905, at Monte Carlo, after having served for 12 years as Colorado’s United States Senator.

The next owner of Wolhurst was Thomas F. Walsh.  Walsh was a millionaire mining man, having made his fortune in the San Juan country, near Ouray, Colorado.  The Littleton Independent, under the date of January 26, 1906, states that:  ‘Thomas Walsh, known the world over as Colorado’s famous mining king, has secured a lease on Wolhurst, the beautiful home our late Senator E.A. Wolcott.   Wolcott is undergoing a thorough clean up and will be artistically arranged by the able management of Matt Plews, so that it will be ready for occupancy for Mr. Walsh about April 1st.’  The Walshes spent their summers here at Wolhurst and their winters in Washington.  During the occupancy of Wolhurst by the Walshes, Mr. Walsh talked the Town Council of Littleton into renaming Rapp Street ‘Clonmel Road’.  However, this name did not prevail for long because it later changed back to Rapp Street.  The Walshes had a daughter by the name of Evelyn who married a Washington millionaire publisher by the name of Edward B. McLean.  Evelyn was known mostly through her adult years as the owner of the famous Hope Diamond.

I got pretty well acquainted with both Mr. and Mrs. McLean because of the fact that, at that time, I owned the first bookstore in Littleton and it was located on Main Street.  I also handled Kodak cameras and supplies.  One day, Mr. and Mrs. McLean came into the store and purchased a ten dollar Kodak camera.  Neither of them had any experience in operating cameras and they insisted on having me go out with them around Wolhurst and over the hills and up the river valley in order to be sure that they were doing a good job of taking pictures.  Every few days, McLean would call in and ask me if I could come out and go on a tramp with them.  He would then send in his automobile and take me out to Wolhurst.  Later, he built a dark room there and I helped him develop and print his own pictures.

McLean seemed to be a bit bored out here with the lack of activity to which he was accustomed in Washington and on many occasions he would come into my store and lie down on my counter.  If a customer came in, up in the air would go his feet; then he would roll off the counter and move over so I could take care of the customer; but as soon as the customer was gone, he would again lie down and I had a number of hours visiting with him.  In those days, in the middle of the summer, customers were few and far between, but I enjoyed his visiting and enjoyed the time spent with him and Evelyn around Wolhurst.

 Mrs. Walsh and Taft
 Mrs. Thomas F. Walsh and President William H. Taft at Wolhurst, 1909. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library.

On occasions, United States Presidents, when going through Colorado, would visit Wolhurst.  On September 22, 1909, President of the United States, William H. Taft, paid a visit to the Walshes, at Wolhurst.  Main Street, as well as many residences, were decorated with flags and bunting for the occasion.  Main Street was packed with school children and citizens in the hope that the president would stop just a minute, but when the official car turned on to Main Street, it speeded along.  However, when Taft made his second visit to Wolhurst, on October 3, 1911, he did make a stop on Main Street and was presented with some flowers and a cheering reception by the crowd on the street.  On his first visit in 1909, President Taft renamed Wolhurst ‘Clonmel’ in memory of the birthplace of Thomas F. Walsh.

 

Horace W. Bennett purchased Wolhurst from the Walsh estate and renamed it ‘Wolhurst’.”

Today Wolhurst is a community of homes and includes an area for mobile homes.  The manor house, which served as a restaurant and nightclub for a period of time, burned down in 1951; it was rebuilt and then burned down again in 1976.

Bibliography

Bemis, Edwin A.  Historical Notes. Littleton, Colorado. Date unknown.

Narde, Kelli, executive producer. “Littleton History Moment—Wolhurst.”  City of Littleton, March 5, 2014,

 

Compiled by Phyllis Larison

May 2021