HISTORY OF THE SITE

LOVE AT FIRST SITE: There it stood—an 1872 property so much the stereotype of the American West that at first Kimary thought it was a reproduction. 10400 W. 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, with its charming old west storefront, the house with the pillared front porch, overhead apartment with its windows peeking out over the trailing wisteria, the chicken coups, outhouse and wonderful cottage to the west was undeniably an attention getter. The realtor immediately cautioned her pointing out that it was a very high maintenance property.

A VARIED PAST:The seller’s real estate agent referred to a colorful history that included a tavern in the cottage and a stagecoach stop in the main house. Kimary joined the Wheat Ridge Historical society and they had an old photo in the archives that neither confirmed nor disproved either claim. Originally they thought being a tavern was farfetched because this was a “dry” county for many years. However, a 2002 conversation with Helen “Beliel”, age 86 at the time, revealed that her parents bought the property just 3 days before her wedding in 1936, and at that time the cottage on the west end was “Sis’s Tavern”. It was heated by a coal stove and had no plumbing. They were using the double-seated outhouse that is still out back. Kimary has yet to confirm the stagecoach part of the history but suspects that it was indeed the last stop on the Lookout Mountain stagecoach line as local lore has it.

The original abstract was obtained at the loan closing. The property was purchased from Susan Craig Bongers. It had been run for decades by her parents, Jack and Elsie Craig, as Prospect Valley Grocery, a kind of general store, which all the locals called “Jack& Elsie’s Place”. Wheat Ridge natives fondly tell stories of running across the street from the, now long gone, Prospect Valley Elementary School building, and delightfully choosing from 100 kinds of penny candy. An old newspaper clipping makes it obvious that the Craigs were pillars in the community and anyone left who knew them has fond memories of Jack and Elsie. Apparently Elsie did a little hair dressing out of the storefront and in addition to being the local shop-keep, Jack was a Sunday School Teacher. The site did a brief stint as a combination store and gas station but the tanks were pulled up and moved by Texaco ages ago.  

THE INHERITANCE: Susan was a young child when her parents moved here and she had married, moved to Loveland and had children of her own before her parents passed away and she inherited “Jack& Elsie’s Place”. She rented out the storefront to a series of miscellaneous business’ that have included a vegetable stand, a yarn shop, a baseball trading card shop and lastly … an Antiques Store. Susan was in a quandary. She lived too far away to keep the place in shape but knew most prospective buyers were only interested in the commercial zoning and might tear down the beloved historic structures. Kimary’s love of history convinced Susan Craig Bongers that Kimary would preserve the original character of the property. Mrs. Craig Bongers agreed to sell it to Kimary for less money than a previous offer she had from a liquor store!

THE HOMESTEAD BUILDINGS: The Abstract showed that the United States government had deeded the homestead to Mr. James Kelley in 1870. By 1872 the main house was built. In 1911 the storefront was added. It was probably also in 1911 that the second level of the main house was converted to an apartment and the front half of the cottage/tavern was built. The back half of the Cottage is cinder block construction and its date is unknown. There are several out buildings, including two structures that were most likely originally chicken coupes. Susan Craig Bongers says that by time her parents and she arrived one was used like a tool shed and the other for coal storage. Kimary uses one for gardening tools and the other has been converted to a garden chapel. Don’t forget the original double seated out house! The out buildings were all down closer to Lena Gulch since the farming days and were later moved by the City when they took part of the property for the Lena Gulch Reclamation project.

A NEW VISION:From the beginning Kimary knew she would need to restore the residential units to rent.  Her desire was to host Christian missionaries, as often as she could afford to, primarily in thecottage but when that wasn’t available then in the overhead river view apartment orshe would share the main house.

The property finally closed with the temporarily financing on Thanksgiving weekend 2001. It is almost a blur what happened from that point on.  While scores of volunteers worked on the rest of the property the apartment tenant, fixed up the river view overhead apartment at their own expense.

The Storefront is the flagship feature of the property and a people-magnet.  It was so charming, even in it’s rundown state, hardly a day passes when someone does not come by to commend the restoration and inquire about a “tour”. People would say “You must have had a lot of faith to buy this place”. Kimary would respond truthfully, “I had only a little faith when I bought the place and NOW I have A LOT of faith!”

A CONTAGEOUS VISION:The men’s group from New Community Christian Church in Denver was the first to embrace Kimary’s vision.  They volunteered on Saturday mornings for several months. They did everything from finishing off the collapsing “barn”, to propping up the mailbox, to stripping off 4 layers and 130 years’ worth of flooring in the main house. From there others began to catch the vision—A carpenter and member of Arvada Covenant Church began organizing friends from the church singles group started to work on the missionary guest cottage. Another volunteer was a manager at LL Johnson, the sprinkler company. In addition to a great pond and fountain that he put in he also made the yard the poster child for a special underground drip system that rooted new sod in record time and saved 65% over the normal sod watering bill! Since all this was being done during a drought it was critical to get the water board to grant special permission to bypass drought planting restrictions and allow the new landscaping to take place. The same volunteer began converting the old chicken coupe, turned coalhouse, into a chapel garden structure. The property was also a project for the Foothills Bible Church youth group. A woman who was a member of Wheat Ridge’s Harvest Christian Community salvaged the original blue and red heart shutters on the cottage. And one of Kimary’s favorite days was when a friend brought kids from the Hudson, Keenesburg and Fort Lupton farming communities and let them go with chain saws and a borrowed tractor. They cleared the land then played video games. The tractor was borrowed from Lindgren Landscaping-owned by a man who had never even met Kimary or seen the property!

CITY WIDESUPPORT: Kimarys faith was soaring—so many people, contributing so much to a project that had no guarantee of succeeding. Sometimes complete strangers would knock on the door and say, “I heard you need help”. Every profession imaginable showed up as needed, from a commercial electrician from Heritage Christian Center to an engineer from Church in the City. All total more than two-dozen churches and civic groups, not to mention countless individuals, contributed to the transformation of this property. Not everyone volunteered, but even the paid help was usually greatly discounted. Then there was the project manager, nicknamed “Michael the Angel”—people would drive right up to the project and ask to hire him away at more than double what he was being paid for coordinating the renovation but he wouldn’t budge, determined to make the reappraisal and financing deadline. Even the City of Wheat Ridge zoning department seemed to be rooting for the project—going the extra mile to explain what was needed for every step and permit. It seemed like the whole community had loved and supported the revitalization of this property. With hardly a few weeks to spare the property was reappraised with enough equity to bring the risk level of the loan down. After a talk with the CEO of a credit union the permanent financing came in just in the nick of time. The improvements to the property that first year far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Kimary says, “It was like having a front row seat to a miracle!”

The first missionaries were from an orphanage in Uganda, Africa before the cottage was even renovated. They had to “camp out” in the main house. Immediately, there were contacts from Tibet, Ghana, France, Kenya, Ireland, Peru, Korea, Namibia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Rwanda, England, Columbia, American relief workers for Honduras, Romania and workers on Native American Indian Reservations!  Even Catholic nuns from Guatemala have stayed with Kimary.

The storefront is connected to the main house.  For a while Kimary used it as a kind of dining room /meeting room.  Once her storefront-turned-dining-room was used to train volunteers to go into 3rd-world countries to dig and maintain water wells.  Now the former storefront serves as an extension to her home and has had no commercial use since she purchased the property in 2001…but only God knows what lies in “store” for its future.

 
 

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PROSPECT VALLEY HOSPITALITY 10400 West 38th Ave. Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 USA (303) 722-5835 info@prospectvalley.com