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The Cass Mansion Historically Famous and Famously Inhabited

I do not think it would be proper to write about Denver and not mention the landmarks of our great city so long as the characters have reason to pass them. Even if it doesn't end up in the book, this is a great Denver treasure.

Full text and images reproduced from Market Perceptions.

Even before completion, the press touted the Cass Mansion as “one of the most attractive of Denver’s attractive homes…” and “one of the handsomest in the vicinity…” One newspaper announced that the price would reach the staggering sum of $13,000, and the reporter justified that by commenting that the residence was to be “first class,” “modern in every particular,” with “no expense spared.”

​​The articles did not exaggerate; the home was masterfully conceived from its design to its final details by two of the foremost architects in Denver’s history: Willis A. Marean and Albert Julius Stead Norton, whose work also includes The Brown Palace Hotel, the Colorado Governor’s (Boettcher) Mansion, and the Cheesman Park Pavilion. These prominent architects combined Dutch Revival style with contemporary Victorian features to create the Cass Mansion.

Today, the Cass Mansion still displays the details that placed it among the finest residences of its time. A 19th century Scottish stained glass window, brought from Glasgow, decorates the foyer, arched cabinets and moldings of golden oak provide a warm atmosphere, the main staircase has custom-designed oak railings and banisters, and seven beautiful fireplaces still heat the spacious rooms during the winter.

Oscar D. Cass, MD

Dr. Oscar David Cass was born in Lyman, New Hampshire on August 2, 1823 of English and Scotch ancestry. He graduated from medical school in 1845 and started his practice in New York. His practice would later take him from New Orleans to Panama, California, Iowa, and Kansas.

Dr. Cass settled in Denver in 1860, and became a successful businessman, engaging in a number of different industries. In the early 1860s, Dr. Cass began trading gold dust. According to Frank Hall’s "History of the State of Colorado", during the height of their dealings O. D. Cass & Co. was buying $15,000-$20,000 of gold each week with a net profit about $1,000 per day. By 1865, Dr. Oscar D. Cass was the tenth largest income-tax payer in Denver, as reported by the Rocky Mountain News.

Later, Cass's brother joined him and together they founded the Exchange Bank, became the agents of Ben Holliday stage line in Central City, and engaged in freighting with mule trains from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.

Dr. Cass also began to invest in Denver real estate, and in 1891, bought the land for the Cass Mansion. After his death on December 15, 1894, his wife, Emogene M. Cass, ordered and supervised construction of the Cass Mansion, which was completed in 1899. Upon his passing, it was reported that Denver “had lost one of its most highly respected and honored citizens.” Furthermore, “Those who knew him… esteemed him most highly, and his name is inseparably connected with the history of the city.”

Other Notable Residents

Rabbi William S. Friedman

The Cass Mansion was also home to the Friedman family. Juliet Friedman owned the mansion from 1918 to 1939. But it was her husband, Rabbi William S. Friedman of Temple Emmanuel, who is best remembered for his contributions to the growing city of Denver.

In 1887, Rabbi Friedman joined with other Denver religious leaders to create Charity Organizations Society, an entity to raise funds in support of local health and welfare agencies. Today, his organization is known as United Way, America’s largest private charity. A few years after founding his ground breaking community group, the charitable spirit of Rabbi William S. Friedman would give birth to another enduring organization, as reported by the Jewish Encyclopedia:

“The most important philanthropic institution in Denver is the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives, founded by Rabbi William S. Friedman on Sept. 10, 1890. This hospital became an imperative necessity by reason of the hundreds of penniless Jewish victims of tuberculosis who came to Colorado.”

Rabbi Friedman's main ally in initiating both of these major charitable projects was Frances Wisebart Jacobs, a very prominent Denver figure in her own right, known as "The Mother of Denver Charities."

Ann B. Davis

Noted character actress, and two-time Emmy Award-winner, Ann B. Davis also was a resident of the Cass Mansion. Davis played Schultzy, the secretary on "The Bob Cummings Show" in the 1950s, but was best known for her role as Alice Nelson, the maid on "The Brady Bunch" television series in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Ann B. Davis moved to the Cass Mansion in the seventies to join an Episcopal community led by Rev. William C. Frey. The experience was inspiring, as she remembered it in an interview with Associate Press in the early 1990’s: “We moved into a big Victorian house that looked like an ark floating in a sea of high-rises, 21 or 22 of us. To live with people who were that much in touch with the Lord was wonderful. After five months, I realized I lived there. I sold my house in Los Angeles.”

In 1990, she moved to Pennsylvania following Rev. William C. Frey and his wife. Today, Ann B. Davis resides in San Antonio, Texas.

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