Sunday, January 31, 2016

Castle Marne - Denver CO

The holidays were wonderful and I'm just now getting back into the 2016 groove.  I actually had 2/3s of this post completed, saved it to a draft to complete and when I opened it to finish a week later, all of my work had been deleted.  Have no idea what happened so I had to begin again, sigh.  Sometimes, technology can be twitchy.  

Our family is highly nomadic and it is easier for me to visit my sons and their families rather than having them come see me.  So this Christmas it was off to Aurora, Colorado to spend time with my youngest son and his family.  I always have a marvelous time as we eat, laugh, tell family stories, eat and laugh even more.  A Christmas tea has become a tradition for the family women.  Last visit we had high tea at the Brown Palace Hotel.  This visit, the three generations (mother, mother--in-law, daughter and granddaughter took a luncheon tea at the historic Castle Marne in Denver. 

A majestic building, the exterior construction is rusticated native lava stone, known as Castle Roc Rhyolite quarried in Castle Rock, Colorado.  Composed mainly of quartz, mica, and feldspar, it sparkles and glitters.  The Marne stood unoccupied and neglected from 1982 until 1988.  The owners turned off the gas to save money but neglected to turn off the water. Serious water damage ensured, vagrants got into the building and stole virtually everything that wasn't nailed down and seriously vandalized the building.  

The Peiker family purchased the derelict structure in 1988.  A year later and after an extensive restoration and renovation, the Castle Marne Bed and Breakfast opened its doors for business on the 100th anniversary of the construction of the house.  For a detailed history of Castle Marne, click here, it is enjoyable reading.  

As we entered the Castle Marne, we were greeted by Melissa Feher-Peiker with a welcome and a smile at the door.  The family are hands on owners and are all busy working around the castle.  I have to say that I was immediately over stimulated by this beautiful building.  I didn't know where to turn or look first.  I was surrounded by marvelous things and all were decorated for Christmas.  Owner, Louis Peiker, gave a lovely guided tour before the luncheon.

Main tea room is beautifully decorated in the period of the day, very high ceilings, plaster walls and oak sliding doors, moldings and gingerbread abound.

The turret room had a lovely decorated Christmas tree and garland. If I lived in this house, the turret room would be the home to my spinning wheels and I would sit here, spin fiber and watch the busy street activity outside.

A second room off to the side of the main room was set for another tea service.

Our tea room had this stunning Welsh buffet with hidden drawer.  Our host asked if I knew were the drawer was hiding so I put my hand under the half moon decorative element and pulled out.  Yes, this is where the hidden drawer was, hiding in plain site.  I must admit it was a lucky guess on my part. The buffet was bursting with Victorian quadruple silverplate and decorated with vintage Christmas items.

A closeup of my favorite service on the buffet, don't you love the fussy little pumpkins on the lids to the pots?  Victorians loved the details.

Lovely 19th century oil of George Washington graced our room.  There was so much to see and hear about Castle Marne, that I never got to ask why this painting was never finished.

Denver's citizens have donated antique tea bowls and chocolate pots to Castle Marne and the castle owners bring them out during the holidays.

Everywhere, pretty painted friezes hid the gas lines and heating pipes.

A magnificent tall case clock (grandfather clock) was delightfully decorated with vintage Christmas balls and garland and candy canes.

We headed up the stairs to the second floor.  Gorgeous golden oak paneling abounds and showcases the lovely banister.  

I adore plaster walls but this beauty also has hand cast, plaster relief golden Fleur de Li's on it that have been beautifully restored.

On the landing before you take the last stairs to the second floor you pass the extraordinary "Peacock Window".  

Designed for the house in 1889 by Denver artist M. Watkins, it is a stunning example of the Impressionist Movement in stained glass. The window is 6 ft. in diameter and represents a Peacock with his feathers fully extended.

A pretty mantle clock is decorated for Christmas and hanging on the wall at the top of the second floor.

Most of the bedrooms were already booked and we could not enter them but, one room had its fireplace constructed of Van Briggle glazed firebrick.  I had no idea that Van Briggle Pottery also produced firebrick and tiles.  

This room was not booked so we were able to visit it.  Filled with lovely antique pieces, the bed was dressed with soft sheets and toasty blankets.  What a lovely room to stay in.

At the top of the landing to the third floor were three Palladium windows.    These windows along with other architectural elements classify this building as a castle.

The third owner of the Marne was John T. Mason. Born in Lincolnshire, England, he emigrated to Houston, Texas, where he founded a chain of dry goods stores. Selling his business in the 1880s, he became a world renowned lepidopterist (moth and butterfly collector), and a founder and first curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.   Mason displayed many of his world famous collection of over 400,000 butterflies and moths in the Ballroom on the third floor of the Marne.  He donated his collection to the museum in 1918.  

Castle Marne is lucky to display a small part of his personal collection today in the Butterfly Parlor on the third floor, and in the John T. Mason Suite.  Castle Marne owners have them displayed to the original specifications that Mason displayed his original collection.    They are rich in color and fascinating to look at.

Incredible gingerbread work is part of the staircase paneling.  We had such a lovely tour and now it was time for our tea and luncheon.

The first course was a cup of rich, tomato curry soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh sage.  A lovely way to begin this meal on a cold, Denver day.  

Following the soup, our second course was a lighter than air, spinach quiche souffle. Pure heaven and it was paired with four tea sandwiches and a fruit melange.  Each course was fresh and full of flavor.

Closeup of that lovely plate.

Third course was a heart shaped cinnamon scone that we could "gild" with fresh lemon curd sauce, freshly whipped queen and the house berry spread made from local berries.  I added all three and it was heaven on a plate.

The tartness of the lemon was as exquisite as the berry sauce and I must admit that I obsess about this course when I daydream.

Finally, a pretty little, three tiered patisserie tray was passed with an assortment of desserts.  I'm afraid, that in my enthusiasm for the choices that I forgot to take a photo.  So you see two empty wrappers of which one held a chocolate truffle rolled in chocolate powder, a lemon tart bar, and a butter cookie.

As we took our final service of tea and allowed this excellent luncheon digest, I began looking around our room and noticed details that I missed during the tour.  Behind a series of parlor chairs was this brass, newspaper rack.  How lovely to hang the days news for later reading.

My favorite piece in our room was this gorgeous ornate tea strainer.  I hate to admit it, but I had thoughts of putting this beauty in my purse, but being a good Christian woman, I took a photo instead.  Now I'm on a hunt for such a beauty.

As we waited for our coats, I showed my granddaughter how to use a stereoptic.   I explained that this was the first 3D that we now take for granted when we watch a 3D movie.  She went through most of the cards and really liked this early technology.

It was a lovely afternoon  and I wasn't ready to leave but it was too chilly to be sitting on the front porch or swinging on the swing so we worked our way to the cars.

Castle Marne is one of the cities that participates in the leave a book, take a book program... mini libraries that are throughout the city.  I love finding pockets of libraries all over the world and this is such a neat idea.

If you visit Denver, I hope you make an opportunity to tour, stay or take tea a Caste Marne.   Without a doubt, my favorite tea to date.  Blessings to you and those you love.  Sea Witch