Harbeck-Bergheim house, site of the Boulder History Museum,
is located at 1206 Euclid Avenue on the northwest corner
of Beach Park. It was built in 1899 for John Henry Harbeck and
his wife, Katherine Ardell Hammell Harbeck of New York
City. They moved into the house in the summer of 1900.
Mr. Harbeck was a well-known figure on Wall Street and
owned a large dry goods business with a fleet of 20 ships
to transport his merchandise to and from New York City.
He and his wife had spent previous summers in Boulder,
arriving late in the spring and leaving in the fall for
Mexico. Because they enjoyed the city so much they decided
to build a summer home in Boulder. In the fall of 1910
as the Harbecks prepared to leave for New York City and
a visit to Europe, they ordered that, if they did not
return, the house was not to be occupied for 20 years.
This was meant to protect the nearby graves of their pet
dogs, Beauty, Jim and Rover, to whom they were devoted
and who had been accorded funeral services and casket
burials. On November 9th of that year J. H. Harbeck died
of pneumonia. Thereafter, Mrs. Harbeck lived at the Plaza
Hotel in New York City where she died in 1930 of injuries
sustained in a revolving door accident. In her will she
gave $50,000 to the Boulder Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals which today is believed to be the
Boulder Humane Society. John and Kate Harbeck are buried in a grand mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. Kate spent many years after her husband's death putting a lot of effort into making the mausoleum magnificent. The end result is a 90-foot-high marble octagonal structure with bronze doors, flying buttresses and a steeple. Inside the mausoleum are a pipe organ and two Tiffany stained glass windows.
From 1931 to 1937 the house changed hands several times
following Mrs. Harbeck's death. In 1937 William Beach
bought the land surrounding the house and presented it
to the city as a park. Then, in 1939, Mr. and Mrs. Milton
Bergheim, who owned a clothing store on Pearl Street,
purchased the house. The family occupied the house for
the next thirty years until 1969 when it was sold to the
City of Boulder. The city used the house for a variety
of community activities, such as, ballroom dance lessons,
cooking classes, weddings and receptions. In 1985 the
Boulder Historical Society moved into the house, added
the sprinkling system and other upgrades and, in 1987,
opened the Boulder History Museum to the public.
Virginia and Lee McAlester, authors of A Field Guide
to America’s Historic Neighborhoods and Museum Houses,
state that “two-story cube-shaped houses (such as the
Harbeck-Bergheim House) were so popular early in the 20th
century that they have been given the special name ‘American
four-squares’ or known locally as Denver Squares.” Unfortunately,
all records of the home’s construction including the names
of the architects and the builder along with the original
plans were lost in the courthouse fire in 1932.
The two-story stone mansion contains 12 rooms, two baths,
a full attic and basement. The porch across the front
of the house features Grecian Ionic columns supporting
the portico that, in turn, supports the delicately shaped
balustrade. Dentils form the molding under the cornices
and dormers with oval “eye” windows beneath the hipped
roofline grace three facades of the house.
One enters the Museum through a large Dutch-style front
door, flanked by leaded glass panels, into a spacious
foyer. Visitors note the grand stairway featuring columns
of hand-carved oak and graceful banisters leading up two
landings to a dramatic 4'x9' Tiffany window in a distinctive
art nouveau design of leaves and flowers; pink, brown,
green and gold glass create a rainbow of colors in the
late afternoon sun. The foyer fireplace is set with Italian
tile, lined with brass and topped with a hand-carved mantel.
The entry way also features a brass chandelier, window
seats, the original radiators and a center hallway leading
to the back of the house. Wood floors and decorative cornices
are seen throughout.
the left of the foyer through double pocket doors was
the living room in the northeast corner of the house.
A large bay window provides a view to the north. On the
east wall is the fireplace, similar in style and proportions
to the one in the foyer. Early photos of the house show
that the two high windows flanking the fireplace to allow
for morning sunlight did not exist and were most likely
added by the Bergheims at a much later date. The living
room leads to the dining room, the center room on the
east side of the house. It has a bay window for morning
light and a large built-in buffet on the south wall with
leaded glass cupboard doors that are all fitted for keys.
From the dining room guests could pass into the hallway
or through the rear door to the back hall. What is now
the downstairs bathroom is thought to have been the butler’s
panty/laundry room during the Harbeck’s tenure in the
house. From the kitchen, which is maintained and furnished
with turn-of-the century appliances and cabinetry, is
a small back entrance hall, probably added by the Bergheims,
which leads to the outside and the view of the Beach Park
A Museum office and the gift shop are housed in the two
small rooms on the west side of the house and these were
most likely used as servants’ quarters. It is also believed
that a lavatory room had been built on the first floor
under the massive stairway leading upstairs, although
there are no present day indications of bathroom fixtures.
The second floor of the house has a northwest corner library
with a fireplace and high windows to allow for ample light.
It is joined through pocket doors to the large master
bedroom in the northeast corner. The center room on the
east side is speculated to be the Harbeck’s dressing room
since it is connected to the bathroom at the back of the
house. Across the hall on the west side of the house was
the guest bedroom, which now serves as a Museum office.
Down the hall, in the southeast corner, is the large family
bathroom with a white ceramic tile floor and fixtures
dating back to the early 1950s. Across from the bathroom,
the current Museum office was once the Harbeck’s linen
closet, although now, a door connects the two offices
through the old guest bedroom’s closet. There is also
a door at the end of the hallway leading to a full third
floor attic, which is rumored, to have served as a roller
skating rink for the Bergheim children, but today is used
as office space and museum storage. The small half door
on the 2nd floor hallway is a closet under the attic stairs.
full basement, accessed from the stairway at the back
of the first floor hallway, provided storage space, a
furnace room, workshop area and a cellar door exit to
the back of the house. It is interesting to note that
there was never a garage or earlier carriage space attached
to the mansion.
In 1900 the Harbeck House had an imposing presence at
its hilltop location. An early photo shows the trees planted
on the curbs of the property. The University neighborhood,
which surrounds the Museum property today, is filled with
interesting homes of the Craftsman era and others built
in succeeding decades. Plus, Beach Park, located next
to the Museum, is a gathering place for families in the
area, many of whom are Museum members and supporters of
its annual events. Only a few blocks away one can visit
the National Historic Landmark, Chautauqua Park. Residents
and visitors are welcomed to the Harbeck-Bergheim house
by staff and volunteers to learn more about the special
story of the house and all of Boulder County.