Loveland Building (1860-1868)

Loveland Building
1105 Washington Avenue

The Loveland Block - 1866 Photo courtesy Golden Historical Collection, Richard A. Ronzio Collection

The Loveland Block – 1866
Photo courtesy Golden Historical Collection, Richard A. Ronzio Collection

Nothing besides the Loveland Building has ever stood at its location of 1105 Washington Avenue. This building, with boarded-up windows at the right side of this photograph, was Golden’s first storefront, built by William Austin Hamilton Loveland in July through December of 1859. Made of logs and cut boards, its first floor housed Loveland’s Mercantile, while the upper floor served as the public hall. Here in this hall Golden’s 1st Christmas was celebrated; Colorado’s 1st Masonic lodge was organized; the Jefferson and Colorado Territorial Legislatures met; and Jefferson County’s government made its 1st home.

Jefferson County was created under Article X of the constitution of the Territory of Jefferson, an extralegal though otherwise freely elected government of the people formed in lieu of federal organization of our area. The 1st Jefferson County government official was Judge J.T. McWhirt, appointed by Gov. Steele as President Judge in December 1859. The Jefferson Territorial Legislature designated Jeffco’s 1st town, Arapahoe City, as the County Seat after several ballots; however, the people had their own say by electing Golden City the first seat on January 2, 1860. The contest was not even remotely fair; Golden City’s population far outdistanced all other Jeffco towns combined! This led 22 Golden City protesters to vote for the paper town of Baden (later transformed into the real town of Apex) instead.

In that first election, Jeffco’s first political ticket, the Miners Ticket, was elected. McWhirt was affirmed as President Judge, with future Jeffco Commissioner Theodore Perry Boyd and Asa Smith elected Associate Justices; Walter Pollard as our first Sheriff; Eli Carter as Recorder; Harry Gunnell as Clerk County Court; future 2nd Mayor of Golden Daniel L. McCleery as Assessor; George B. Allen as Treasurer; J.F. Rhodes as Attorney, and Golden City as the County Seat. Jefferson County was a very different place in this time; its original borders stretched from the South Platte River to 10 miles west of the source of Bear Creek, which was Jeffco’s southern border. Today’s Baseline Road was Jeffco’s original northern border. An angular chunk was omitted from the eastern edge so the town of Highland remained with Denver and Auraria in Arapahoe County. Jeffco’s original voting precincts included Golden City, Arapahoe, Golden Gate, Henderson’s Ranch (today’s Henderson), Mt. Vernon, and Bergen’s Ranch (now Bergen Park).

The government met here in the Loveland Building throughout its earliest incarnation, but led by no body of Commissioners at all. Because Jeffco’s government was extralegal, rebellion against it was rampant. The miners of the future Gilpin County towns of Central City, Black Hawk, Nevadaville and Russell Gulch never wanted anything to do with Jeffco, preferring no government outside of their own courts. The Junction, Bergen and Mt. Vernon districts seceded to form Ni Wot County early in 1861, leading Steele and others to secede from Mt. Vernon to form Apex. The most pitched battle of rebellion in Jefferson County, set against the backdrop of southern states seceding from the Union, took place within sight of today’s County government home.

Golden City, Golden Gate City, Apex, Arapahoe City and Henderson’s Ranch remained loyal to Jefferson County, and Golden City was permanently elected County Seat on July 2, 1860. Our government in the Loveland Building functioned orderly, its court system not subscribing to “the erratic and merciful code of Judge Lynch” but actually acquitting most who stood accused before it. Where Denver fell into vigilance rule, Jeffco remained true to the rule of law and its court system is the longest functioning in northern Colorado. Upon the organization of Colorado Territory, the original Jefferson County passed into history and it was re-created on November 1, 1861 by the Colorado Territorial Legislature. Golden City was affirmed as the County Seat, and after a brief stay in the Wall Building the new Commissioner-led government returned to the Loveland Building. People who served in Jeffco’s original government who crossed over to the new included Boyd, George West and Carter.

All that the Loveland Building was used for was transferred eventually to the new Loveland Block built down the street in 1863. The Mercantile and Masonic Lodge moved there immediately; the Colorado Territorial House moved there in 1866, and the County government soon followed. Afterward the Loveland Building served as Rufus E. Gamble’s store, and later the shop of noted carpenter Samuel Eldridge. It was destroyed in 1924, with a piece given to the Masonic Lodge. The other building in this picture, the Chicago Saloon of Col. Parker B. Cheney, was first built by McWhirt in 1859. Housing Cheney’s famous long bar with Pacific island motif, its tall pole flew the flag of the U.S.S. Cumberland, sunk by the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Chesapeake Bay before its showdown with the U.S.S. Monitor. The flag flew here every June 21st (the saloon’s birthday) and July 4th (the nation’s birthday). The saloon lasted until 1879, and the building until destroyed in a windstorm during the early 1920s.

by Richard Gardner – Gardner History & Preservation

Next: The Wall Building