introducing one of our 2022 Awardees!
The Colonial DamesStewardship of the McAllister HouseThe Old North End
The McAllister House is one of the three oldest homes in the Pikes Peak Region and is the only one to be open to the public and maintained as a museum. Constructed in 1873 by Major Henry McAllister, the home has been lovingly restored to its original floor plan and appearance, which contributes to its historical significance. McAllister was a close associate of General William J Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Palmer placed Major McAllister at the head of his Colorado Springs Company and charged him with the growth and management of the fledgling Colorado Springs business life of Colorado Springs, serving on the Board of Directors for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, a trustee for Colorado College, as a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention, and as Town Manager. McAllister’s son, Henry McAllister Jr., continued his father’s legacy of community service as District Attorney in Colorado Springs, a prominent Denver lawyer who served as general counsel and as a director to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and as an original board member and legal counsel for the El Pomar Foundation. Two generations of highly productive and respected McAllisters are associated with the McAllister House and contribute to its significance in the area of local history/settlement.community. McAllister played a significant role in the political, social and
The McAllister home was designed by architect George Summers, based on a previous design by famous landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing. Summers was brought by General Palmer from Philadelphia to serve the early residents of Colorado Springs. Summers was responsible for the design of several notable Colorado Springs buildings including Cutler Academy (later called Cutler Hall at Colorado College) and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot. Construction services were provided by Lewis Whipple, and the finish carpentry was provided by Winfield Scott Stratton who later achieved fortune and fame as a mining magnate.
The McAllister House is designed, according to Downing (1850), as a Farm-House in the English Rural Style and is an example of Gothic Revival and English Cottage architecture constructed of common red brick. The “T” shaped plan has exterior brick walls that are four wythes thick set atop a cut stone foundation, featuring chiseled limestone quoins at building corners with matching limestone window lintels and sills. The roof is hipped gable style with wood shingles. Exterior wood trim elements are highly decorative and include bead board eaves, window shutters, wooden porch posts and brackets, as well as a unique built-in bench on the front facade. Nearly all of both the interior and exterior trim work, designed and installed by Stratton, remains today and contributes to its overall significance.
Major McAllister resided in the home until his death in 1921. His daughters inherited the home and rented it to Mrs. Fanny Robbins who operated the Fanny Robbins Candy Studio in the former McAllister home until her death in 1958. The home was purchased by the NSCDA in CO in 1960 to save it from demolition, and restoration was immediately begun based upon a preservation report performed by a preservation consultant. Mrs. Robbins had made minor modifications to the floor plan and appearance during her tenancy, all of which were reversed during initial restoration. The interior of the home was restored to its original configuration and appearance, with work including a paint analysis, repainting, the removal of non-historic wall paper and plaster restoration. Wood trim and flooring was also restored, as was the kitchen at the rear of the home. Three original marble fireplace mantels remain, which were imported from Philadelphia during construction. Original wood frame double hung windows also remain in most locations, including three original “pocket windows”. A modern heating system has been installed and the electrical system has been updated, though minimal disruption of historic materials has occurred as a result of modernization.
Though much work was done to restore the interior of the home, only minor modifications, including trim painting and shutter restoration, were performed during the 1960 restoration because the exterior of the home retained a very high degree of integrity. Due to Henry McAllister Jr.’s extensive involvement in El Pomar Foundation, the organization provided much of the restoration funding, and the museum was opened to the public in 1961. The home was officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 with the period of significance identified as 1874-1884. The designation includes both the building and surrounding site which both retain a high degree of integrity.
Recent Preservation Work
Following the completion of a 2006 Historic Structure Assessment (HSA), which was funded by the State Historic Fund, the McAllister House Committee acted upon as many of the recommendations. We have accomplished much in the face of difficult funding conditions including roof replacement, thanks to generous donations of labor and materials from Aspen Roofing and the Pikes Peak Roofing Association, who replaced our carriage house roof free of charge. The McAllister House Committee is grateful to have received two grants in 2015 and 2016 from the State Historical Fund to address exterior masonry issues. These grants allowed for the removal of an inappropriate sealant material that had been applied by previous well-meaning stewards, and for the complete repointing of the building.
Given the extensive restoration efforts of the Committee on the interior of the home, most elements in the house are in fair to good condition. However, the 2006 HSA prioritized exterior woodwork as a critical item. We lost many of the historic shutters during a massive storm that blew them off the building in 2009, and many others were damaged in that storm. This was a significant loss of character-defining material as the shutters appear in the earliest photos of the building (see attachments) and contribute greatly to the overall cottage architectural style of the home. The woodwork was addressed with our most recent SHF grant (2020) that was completed in 2021.
This SHF grant included the rehabilitation of the front wooden bench, which is a unique and prominent feature of the primary façade. The bench is topped by a hipped shingle roof and supported by ornately carved columns that match the interior and exterior woodwork produced by Stratton. This project stabilized the bench and repaired deteriorated finishes. Other exterior wood elements were addressed as well, including the original carved decorative front (west) porch columns and trim, and the paneled wood-framed bay window on the south.
Finally, the scope of work included rehabilitation work on the four sets of exterior doors, which were in need of adjustment and had experienced extensive finish deterioration and damage to the wood over the years. The carved and paneled front (west) set of entry doors were included, as were the rear (east) set of entry doors which feature carved panels and a glass half lite above. The paneled wood entry door to the kitchen addition and its screen were rehabilitated, and the north paneled wood entry door and its screen received rehabilitation treatment.