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Phipps House (Belcaro)

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Belcaro
1932, Charles A. Platt; William E. Fisher and Arthur A. Fisher. 3400 Belcaro Dr. (NR)

One of the last and best designs by the New York master of country houses, Belcaro (beautiful dear one) is Denver's grandest residence, a symmetrical Georgian design with eight massive chimneys. On a low hilltop of what was once a much larger estate, the fifty-four-room, 33,123-square-foot mansion, built for $301,063, retains some of its gardens and its huge, enclosed tennis court. The Fisher firm slightly revised Platt's design for the house, especially its “Italian” tendencies.

The poured concrete building is clad in red brick, with dressed Indiana limestone trim and a slate roof. Beyond the entry, with its columns and broken pediment, are a reception area and stair hall finished in Colorado travertine from Wellsville. The oak paneling of the billiard room was transplanted from a Jacobean house in London. This room, the paneled dining room, and some interior fixtures were provided by Charles Roberson, who also furnished interiors for Edsel B. Ford's home in Detroit and William Randolph Hearst's castle at San Simeon.

The ivy-covered Tudor Revival tennis house was designed by John Gray of Pueblo, the initial project architect replaced by Platt and the Fishers. The glass-and-tile-roofed, 423,000-cubic-foot structure is, like the mansion, clad in brick and Indiana limestone. Exposed steel beams appear in the barrel vault over the court, which has a loggia entrance trimmed in wrought iron. The tennis house has a two-bedroom second-floor apartment, dressing rooms, kitchen, soda fountain, and fireplace lounge. In the lounge a large mural by Allen True depicts Phipps family members skiing at the Winter Park Ski Area, which they helped develop. Carved into the fireplace mantel for this millionaire clan to ponder is the motto, “Why should life all labour be.”

Annette Hoyt Flanders of New York designed the 8.5-acre gardens in collaboration with Platt, who was also renowned as a landscape architect. The estate, now reduced to five acres, was given in 1964 to the University of Denver for use as the Lawrence C. Phipps Memorial Conference Center.

Lawrence C. Phipps, a multi-millionaire vice president and treasurer of Carnegie Steel in Pittsburgh, moved to Denver for his wife's health. He served as a U.S. senator (1918–1930) and invested successfully in many local ventures. The Phipps family's Belcaro Realty and Investment Company began developing the area surrounding the estate in 1931 as one of Denver's posher residential enclaves, with Belcaro as the centerpiece.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Thomas J. Noel

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