Blanche A. Wilson House
In 1890, the Blanche A. Wilson House, now known as Centennial House, was constructed in Aurora, Colorado. It is a 2-story, 1200 square foot house with a brick exterior and a Late Victorian Queen Anne architectural style. It has an irregular, steep roof that has intersecting gables. In the front, there is an open front porch which has a gable roof. There is also a secondary entry porch that is enclosed and includes a pantry and basement stairwell located at the rear of the house.
The exterior window sills and front and back door thresholds are made of rhyolite that was quarried in Castle Rock, Colorado. The house is located on the southwest corner of Galena and 17th Streets. Galena Street was formerly Hathaway Street and was the first street in the town of Fletcher (now Aurora, Colorado). The building’s exterior is still very close to its original design.
In the 1940s, the interior was modified to create a two-family home with one unit upstairs and one downstairs. At that time, the double entry doors that separated the entry hall from the parlor were sealed, an upstairs bedroom was converted into a kitchen and a storage area downstairs was converted into a bathroom.
The house was acquired by the City of Aurora in 1990-91 and it was turned back into a single-family home close to its previous configuration. The kitchen upstairs was turned back into a bedroom but the bath downstairs was kept intact. Because a heating duct had been added in the wall, the double packet doors were not reopened.
The original basement was only large enough for the furnace so a later owner dug a full basement and lined it with concrete. There is an outside cellar entrance on the back of the house.
There is a front-facing, gabled dormer that has a diamond-shaped window. On the roof, there are two brick chimneys and the front porch has a wood plank floor. The porch support columns are square and have lace-like fan brackets in the upper corners. The original porch had been altered, probably in the early 1900s. It was reconstructed based mainly on porch details taken from two other Fletcher-designed houses on Galena Street. Some of the original features inside the house are the wainscotting in the kitchen, the oak railing and balusters on the stairway from the first to the second floor, brass door knobs and decorated door hinges.
This was the first home built for developer Donald Fletcher in the town of Fletcher which he founded. The town was later renamed Aurora and was an integral part of the suburban movement around 1900 in the Denver area. This was one of a number of 2-story Queen Anne-style houses that he built in Aurora.
Fletcher himself was a prominent real estate developer with investments in local streetcar lines and water companies. He was also one of the founders of Fairmount Cemetery.
He offered new house models in three sizes (2-story, 1-1/2-story and 1-story) with many having the same architectural features and interior fittings. The houses were built in an area that was surrounded by ranches and farms that had an overall town development plan. This plan included the construction of houses that were smaller and less pretentious on other streets sometimes where there had already been rural, farm buildings.
The early real estate boom in Fletcher reached its peak in 1892, just before the Silver Crash of 1893. In that year, a single undeveloped town block was $400,000 and 2-story houses were selling for $3,500 with a ten-year mortgage at 7% interest. People were lured to the area with the promise of pure water, rapid transit and electric lights.
After the Silver Crash, lots sold for as little as $100 by 1897. Donald Fletcher lost most of his wealth including his investments in the town of Fletcher. He did remain active in Denver business until 1894 when he left Denver. He ultimately passed away in California.
In 1907, residents of Fletcher petitioned the state of Colorado to change the name of the town to Aurora and the town went on to become the third largest city in Colorado.
The first owner of the house was Blanche A. Wilson who purchased it on December 1, 1890 for $3,500. Her husband, M.W. Wilson had participated in the first meeting of the Town Trustees and served on the water and finance committees. Subsequently, the Wilsons moved to Ohio in 1894 and sold the property to Charles M. Truck (or possibly Turck). The property was deeded to Paul and Marie Boldt in 1989 in return for an unpaid debt. The property then staying in their family until 1946 and then there were four owners between 1946 and 1950.
The property became vacant in 1980 because the owner was in a nursing home and was finally sold to the City of Aurora on April 4, 1990. It is now the Centennial House and is a historic house museum.
The Wilson House is still the best example of Donald Fletcher’s 2-story Queen Anne house plan and, because it was the first house he built in the town of Fletcher, is most closely associated with him.