Located on 35 acres in the mountains around Evergreen, CO is a log home that houses the personal collection of a once-prominent Evergreen family. Viewed from the driveway, the house appears deceptively small. Maybe it is the log construction that fools our brains. I mean it’s a cabin not a house, right? But once inside, you realize that it is a house that has ample space (3000 square feet of it), numerous rooms, and all essential amenities that any modern home should have. Okay, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi (I hope you didn’t expect it to), but it houses the many and varied artifacts, antiques, art, and collectibles that would make the stars of American Pickers, Frank and Mike, salivate at the chance of even making an offer on some of them.
In 1878, J.J. Clarke received, for free, from the state of Colorado 350 acres of land on the condition that he improve it and live on it at least three months out of the year for the next three years. At first he used the land to fatten his cattle. Once he fulfilled his obligation to the state, he built, in 1883, what is now the central section of the home. He began renting it to loggers seeking timber to supply the building boom that was going on in Denver at the time.
After Clarke’s death, his heirs sold 160 acres of the land to Denver Mountain Parks. In 1920, they sold the remaining land and the home to Hazel H. Hammer and Lucius Humphrey. The Humphreys dismantled Clarke’s other homestead house log-by-log and reassembled it on the end of the Humphrey home.
Lucious Humphrey, also called Lee, was a copy editor for the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. Living in Evergreen and working in Denver wasn’t as convenient back then as it is today. It is believed that Lucious traveled over 500,000 miles commuting from Evergreen to Denver during his career. When he died in 1946, playwright Mary Cole Chase, the author of the play Harvey (later a film starring Jimmy Stewart), spoke at his funeral where she referred to him as the mountain’s first commuter.
For me the guided tour started in the parlor. It’s not decorated like a mountain cabin or even a western home. It’s eccentric and eclectic. The obvious Asian influence is broken up by items from Turkey and Peru and complemented by Colorado landscapes. Confusing? Yes. Appealing? That too.
In an adjoining room is a guest bedroom usually used by Hazel’s mother, Mary Amaryllis Hammer. Her frequent train trips from Chicago to Denver took nearly a week in those days, so the mother-in-law tended to stay awhile. Mary, a popular Chicago socialite and world traveler, brought many of her personal items with her that, as a result of her frequent visits, found a permanent home in the Humphrey household.
After her death, Hazel locked the room permanently. Hazel’s daughter, Hazel Lou, did the same thing with the upstairs master bedroom after Hazel’s death in 1972. What you see today are each lady’s personal effects and collectibles exactly as they were when each lady lived there. According to the museum director, the family photographs verify the authentic layout now on display in each room.
Hazel was, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her, a person ahead of her time. She was, as a result of her animal rights activism, a vegetarian, two stances that were nearly unheard of in the early 1900s. She was an active environmentalist–she and her husband never cut another tree after they moved on to the property. In a community centered around cattle and logging, she was an anomaly. Despite her progressive views, she remained, in many ways, a conventional person: She was a member of the Republican Party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the League of Women Voters, and the Colonial Dames.
Hazel Lou’s parents homeschooled her. More than likely, the other kids bullied her as her classmates would have found vegetarians, animal rights activists, and environmentalists a bit odd in that day and time. Hazel Lou’s bedroom, upstairs and next to Hazel’s, is still arranged as it was when she was a youngster. Countless cats, porcelain and china ones that is, line the room and surround the bed where she slept. Was her childhood away from the other school kids a happy one? Probably. Why else would she leave her room arranged exactly as it was 70 years earlier.
Walk back downstairs across the parlor and through a dark-stained, wooden arch, and you are in the library–remember this is a log cabin on the outside. It’s small, but formal, and filled with the actual books that all three family members read.
The next room is the Indian Room. Hazel and Hazel Lou traveled extensively, and this is where many of their collectibles are on display (I’d definitely keep Frank and Mike out of here). Given what it contains, it is the most visually interesting room in the house. It is a museum in itself. Pottery, blankets, gloves, baskets, jewelry, and numerous other Native American handcrafted items adorn the walls, fill the cases, and lie on the tables and other furniture. It’s all authentic, and you can only guess at the collection’s value. It must be an astronomical sum.
Believe it or not, there is more. The Mexican Room, the last addition to the home, the dining room, the kitchen and the utility rooms. Each room seems to have its own story, and each item in the room is a reflection of what the Humpreys appreciated and valued. Outside are various barns and outbuildings, one of which contains Lee’s vintage Ford automobile that is awaiting restoration.
If you are in Evergreen, CO, take the time (an hour at least) to see Hazel Lou’s estate, a mountain ranch where, throughout the summer, locals and visitors still enjoy events and festivities, as well as a log cabin whose exterior facade belies the sophisticated interior and just beckons you to walk inside and see the treasures that it hides from the outside world.