The History of 400 South Emerson

Historical Insights, Inc.
May 2005

T C
able of

ontents

Welcome..............................................................................................1 Section 1: Breaking Ground.................................................................2 Area History.....................................................................................2 Subdivision History...........................................................................3 Street History...................................................................................6 Section 2: Home Sweet Home.............................................................8 Property Record................................................................................8 Building Permit...............................................................................10 Tap Record......................................................................................10 Section 3: If These Walls Could Talk…...............................................11 Owners and Residents....................................................................11 Life in the Home.............................................................................11 Section 3: A Map to the Past.............................................................20 Area Maps......................................................................................20 Housing Maps.................................................................................27 Appendix: Discovering More..............................................................37 The Home’s Identity.......................................................................37 Further Study.................................................................................40

History of 400 South Emerson Street

W

elcome

When people think of history, they tend to conjure images of great events, fascinating leaders, monumental institutions, and pivotal movements in a society’s direction. In such focus on “history writ large,” the lived experiences are lost and history becomes a mindnumbing timeline of dates and names. Rather than reconnecting us to the past, such history can alienate events, making the past even more distant and unknown. In contrast, old homes connect people intuitively to the past. Reverberating with the lives of former owners, such homes naturally bind architects, builders, city planners, neighbors, and current and former residents in an intimate setting. When we wonder about the room design, construction materials, or the feelings that certain rooms exude, we are communicating with the past. These are private spaces, after all, where residents and guests have exchanged laughter, tears, friendships, and concerns over many years. How can we not know them, these people with whom we share such space? By starting with the historical record, we begin to approach such insights. By discovering who lived here and for how long, what the neighborhood looked like, and what the recent history suggests, we can start to reveal clues about the history in your own Denver home.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

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ection 1:

Breaking Ground

Area History
According to city records, the oldest existing home in West Washington Park is just two blocks from 400 South Emerson. Built in 1880, the home at 304 South Ogden was surely made possible by the Broadway bridge, which in 1878 was first substantial viaduct over Cherry Creek to the south. But credit for the population of area can also be given to the editors of the Rocky Mountain News. The paper’s first editor, William Newton Byers, populated a large section of the area both east and west of Broadway between Bayaud (100 South) and Virginia (400 South). In 1878, the paper’s next editor, William Loveland, bought the News, and soon thereafter purchased a large swath of property in the area, organized the famous National Mining Exposition, and set the renowned Denver Circle Railroad deep into south Denver – all of which helped to set the area into motion. [See 1885 Rollandet map, below].

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

But the truth is, very few homes were built in the area before 1890, and virtually all of them were built in the area just west of 400 South Emerson. Thirty-six of the forty-one remaining pre-1890 homes in West Washington Park are located in the sliver of land bounded by Alameda, Lincoln, Washington, and Center streets. This was the birthplace of the neighborhood. Of course, no one would have known the area as Washington Park back then. The park hadn’t even been so-named until 1899, and it was little more than an empty prairie at the time. Readers at the time were invited to imagine “thirty acres of bare land, lying above the city ditch, with no tree or even shrub upon it,” too far east of most residences, not connected with a major street, and hard to find. It wasn’t until 1902, when the city bought an additional 35 acres around Smith’s Lake that a true park began to emerge in the area. Coincidentally, that would be the same moment at which the home at 400 South Emerson would come to life.

Subdivision History
A generation earlier, landowner Elizabeth Smith began planning for growth in the area. On the last day of February 1882, the 63 year old submitted the below plat to the city of Denver to incorporate this land into the city grid. She called it “Lake View,” for its prominent spot above Smith Lake.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

It was no coincidence that it was called Smith Lake, because Elizabeth’s husband was John W. Smith, the Pennsylvania engineer who had solved one of the Denver’s most significant issues in the 1860s by creating Smith’s Ditch. The ditch, which the city bought for $60,000 in 1882 (the same year this plat was founded), carried water 25 miles from Waterton Canyon up to City Park, serving Capitol and the entire city. On its journey, much of the water collected here in an old buffalo wallow which later served as the eponym for Lake View subdivision and centerpiece for Washington Park. Thus, the fact that the City Ditch (Smith’s Ditch) ran through the eastern section of this plat is both significant for the founding of Lake View and terribly intertwined with the founding of the neighborhood – and indeed, the whole city. Soon after selling the Ditch, Elizabeth and John Smith moved out to California. They sold the land to Donald Fletcher, C H Gallup, Amon J Foote, and M E Roberts. Slightly revising the layout of the area’s westernmost blocks, it was this partnership which submitted the “First Resubdivision of Lake View” in the plat below.

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The partnership of this quartet seems strange on the face of it. Fletcher was an experienced real estate man, having worked in the business since at least 1887 and owning his own company by 1893. But his partner C R [sic] Gallup was a florist who worked at the corner of Broadway and Alameda; A J Foote was a butcher downtown; and Mrs M E Roberts was likely a widow (as she was listed without a husband) living at the Hotel L'Imperiale. Mr Foote’s connection may be more apparent due to his 1887 listing as a bookkeeper for Donald Fletcher (bookkeeper and butcher?), it is hard to account for the motley character of this crew. It is certain, however, that the group was hoping to capitalize on a new development in the area. The Town of South Denver had been formally incorporated just a few months earlier on August 14, 1886, and residents saw their themselves as establishing a community of high morals. Separating themselves from “the West’s most sinful city” was hoped to entice settlement from the incoming flood of residents, fifty thousand of which essentially doubled Denver’s population in just five years between 1885 and 1890. Perhaps the founding of South Denver helps to explain the participation of our florist, C H Gallup, because one of the founders of South Denver

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

was a man named Avery Gallup, and Zuni Street to the west was once called Gallup Avenue. By the time the 1898 street survey was completed, little had changed in the layout of the area, but the empty blocks 6, 10, and 11 (where the City Ditch ran) are certainly interesting to note.

Street History
Although the street denoting 900 east is now known as Emerson Street, it wasn’t always so. In 1887, it was Venice Street. But Venice was only the street’s name south of Colfax. Northwards it was known as Hotchkiss Avenue until 20th Avenue, when it became Jay Street, Emerson Street, Anne Street, Lionne Street, and finally Altos Street. Southwards, it was known as Sheynin Avenue and Highland Street. And just to make things really complex, for a time in the area just south of Cherry Creek, the street took the name of its easterly associate, Ogden Street. The multiplicity of street names surely made it difficult for contemporary residents to find each other, so in 1897 Howard C. Maloney, a 32 year old bookkeeper for the Denver Union Water Company, rationalized the system. Ordinance 16 initiated order in the

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

city streets, including alphabetical groups representing Indian tribes, colleges, states, or the like. Emerson Street was named for famed poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had died 15 years earlier. He was also honored by Denver in 1880 with the Robert Roschlaub-designed Emerson School at 14th and Ogden.
Emerson School

The lot layouts of his eponymous street probably would not have concerned Emerson. As he wrote in 1860, "We say the cows laid out Boston. Well, there are worse surveyors."
Emerson Street & 17th Avenue, c1900

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

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ection 2:

Home Sweet Home

Property Record
City records indicates that the existing structure was built in 1900, but city dates are often wrong. Though they generally approximate the date of construction, they do not confirm it. This imprecision is especially the case with “round” numbers like 1900. City records show 321 homes built in 1889 as compared to 2320 in 1890; 169 homes built in 1899 and 1635 in 1900; and 874 from 1909 versus 2259 from 1910. The fact that the trend vanishes by 1915 indicates that someone in the early twentieth century was simply fabricating or guessing the construction date of many early Denver homes. To augment city records, we look to the original Assessor’s Lot indexes for early indications of property ownership. This handwritten index to land purchases reveals some of the earliest owners in the subdivision, and gives an indication of when the properties were broken into the single-lot holdings more appropriate for homeowners than landowners. The image on the next page indicates that the initial purchase of this property was made by Forto [?] Invest Company, which bought lots 112, 21-24, 21, and 35-48 on March 11, 1901. Three years later, they sold lots 1-6 to Irish-born, 47-year-old Ellen Ash (grantee #11). Although she sold off the properties quickly in 1905 and 1906, she apparently didn’t become terribly wealthy as a result: the 1910 census shows her living at 433 South Logan with three sons, two daughters, and three other unrelated renters.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

You may wish to magnify this image in PDF format to view more details.

On August 21, 1906, Walter W Olmsted bought the property. A salesman for Thompson-Olmsted Investment Company, Olmsted lived just down the street at 1070 South Emerson; the company’s secretary, Victor R Olmsted, lived even closer at 608 South Pearl. Clearly this was a business transaction, because Olmstead immediately transferred the property into the hands of Walter C Schuman, who appears to have become the first actual resident of the home at 400 South Emerson.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Building Permit
Building permits show that the home at 400 South Emerson was not built in 1900 as listed in city records, but in 1905 – on June 16th of that year, to be precise. The record below indicates that a two-story, 24’x30’ brick residence was constructed on this site between Dakota and Virginia for $2000. The only strange part is that the owner is listed as John Francis [see image on CD].

Tap Record
The fact that John Francis was listed as owning this home in the building permit but not in the Assessor’s records causes some consternation as to the true state of affairs at the time. Fortunately, we have a tap record which provides greater clarity. The tap record indicates that the home was indeed constructed in 1905 – by August 11, to be precise. Furthermore, Ash is twice named here as the home’s owner. It would appear that the developer, Ellen Ash, built this home (and probably its near neighbors) in the summer of 1905. The home at 400 South Emerson didn’t find a buyer for a year, but in August 1906, Walter Schuman became the home’s first owner-occupant.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

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ection 3:

If These Walls Could

Talk…
Owners and Residents
The deed to 400 South Emerson has changed hands relatively few times in the past hundred years. The shortest tenure was approximately three years, by Frank and Ella Emery, while the longest was enjoyed by the home’s original owners, Walter and Eva Schuman: 38 years.
Owner Walter C & Eva M Schuman Frank K & Ella G Emery Myron R & Mary A Evans Robert R & Ruth A Nichols John E & Leesanne Buchanan Michael David & Felice Kane Blum Sandy Gail Nyholm & Larry Oscar David Lof Sandy Gail Nyholm & David Alan Kaminsky Bought 1906 1944 1948 1966 1973 1975 1978 1996

No renters were ever listed for this home. Though relatively unusual in the city of Denver, this solid history of ownership suggests not only the home’s ongoing use as a single-family residence but also its unbroken chain of personal care by owner-occupants.

Life in the Home
Whose live have transpired in this place, and what experiences may be found here? Below are some key figures in the life of the home, revealing changing characters and new uses over time. Walter C & Eva M Schuman (1906-c1944) Walter and Eva were 45 and 44 years old, respectively, when they bought the home at 400 South Emerson. Walter was from Indiana; Eva

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

was from Illinois. But they also had three children living with them, all of whom had been born in Colorado: William, age unknown; Edward, age 19; Walter, age 11; and Rose, age 4. Walter seems to have worked for all of Denver newspapers. From 1905 to 1910, he worked at the Denver Post, first as a printer and then in the ad room. Thereafter, he worked at the Denver Times as foreman in the ad room… until 1931, when he is again listed as working at the Post. An obituary in the Rocky Mountain News indicates that Walter had been an employee there as well, completing the trifecta of Denver’s largest broadsheets. Despite Walter’s relatively esteemed position within the laboring class, his household remained multi-generational throughout his life. The family’s children lived at 400 South Emerson for many years: William up to 1909, Rose up to 1933, Walter until 1934, and Edward at least through 1939. Walter also handed down his occupational skills to his offspring. William worked virtually his entire working life at the Colorado News Company, except a period in the 1940s when he works as a clerk at W H Kistler’s Stationery. Rose got a job there too, working in 1929 as a stenographer for the Colorado News Company. Walter started working at Kraus Light Company, but by 1933 was working as a printer. Only Edward, who seems to have lived with his father virtually the entire period, remained outside the profession, employed more or less continuously as a painter. Given their long tenure in the home, it is unsurprising to find a significant number of building permits pulled by the Schumans. We know, for instance, when they installed porches in the front and rear of the home (1926).

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

The roof was reshingled in 1927:

And a coal furnace was added in 1931:

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Despite their long stay in the home at 400 South Emerson, this was not their final home. The family had moved out by December 4, 1944 when Walter died; Eva would pass away less than three months later (March 2, 1945), a resident of Colorado Springs.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Frank K & Ella G Emery (1944-1948) Of the next owners, who would have the shortest hold on the home, little is known. They were not listed as residents of Denver in either 1940 or 1942, and the next directory in 1945 shows Frank as a salesman for Bauer-Black. Unfortunately, the company is not listed in the directory, so we have little idea what he was selling. In 1947, Frank remained a salesman (company unlisted), after which they disappeared from any city directories. We do know that Ella hired Holland Furnace (who had brought the furnace thirteen years earlier) to install a stoker in 1944, as per the below building permit, but little else about the family was discovered.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Myron R & Mary A Evans (1948-1966) In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a doctor lived here. Dr Myron Evans was a chiropractor, who left his wife Mary a widow by 1953. Mrs Mary A Evans seems to have lived in the house alone for many years. But at least by 1964, Robert N & Julia N Evans had moved in. Meanwhile, it appears that Mrs Mary A Evans moved out: listed for the first time with a job – accounting clerk at Denver Tire Clay – her residence was 7 miles away at 1283 Tamarac Street. Robert Evans didn’t quite take to the medical field, as had his father. Instead, he worked for Salt Creek Freight Lines, first as a storageman and then a lockman. By 1969, he was still with the same company, yet now he had removed himself living 8 miles in the other direction: 4342 Wolff Street.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Robert R & Ruth A Nichols (1966-1973) By October 1966, another Robert was ready to move into the home, along with his wife Ruth. Fortunately, they already knew the neighborhood well: since at least 1964, they had lived just a few streets over at 300 South Corona. Aside from staying in the neighborhood, the Nichols homestead seems to have been rather unsettled in this period. Robert was a salesman with Kohn Stamm Co in 1966, but by 1967 had become a bookkeeper for Heimbecker Services. In 1968, Robert was working for Denver Laundry (occupation unknown), and by 1969, he was gone. The quitclaim deed that Ruth received on the home in November 1968 was not investigated as part of this report, but probably was from Robert, indicating his death. So Ruth went to work as a secretary. In 1971, she was an office secretary for the State Tax Commission, and 1972, she was an office secretary for the University of Colorado, after which she disappears from the directories. John E & Leesanne Buchanan (1973-1975) The fact that John and Leesanne Buchanan received an “Administrator’s Deed in Joint Tenancy” upon taking over the house in February 1973 may well indicate that Ruth too had passed away by this time (her obituary was, however, not listed in any directory). Like some of their predecessors, the Buchanans were not found in directories prior to moving into 400 South Emerson, suggesting they may have just moved into the area. In any event, John would quickly immerse himself into the community as a public school teacher. In 1977, after having moved out of the home, the couple is listed at 716 Steele Street, with John serving as a teacher for Cherry Creek public schools. Today, John and Leesanne reside several hours away in Garfield County: 601 21st Street #20-B, Glenwood Springs CO 81601, phone 947-0505. Both are active politicos as well, as both were alternate delegates at the county’s 2004 Democratic caucus. But they certainly didn’t hold the same views: John supported John Salazar for US Senator and John Kerry for President, while Leesanne preferred more liberal candidates Mike Miles for Senator and Dennis Kucinich for President.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Below is a photo taken at the caucuses on April 14, 2004 which reveals the back (and at least one of the principles) of John E Buchanan.

Michael David & Felice Kane Blum (1975-1978) Like the Buchanans, the folks who moved into 400 South Emerson in May 1975 appeared out of nowhere. Neither Michael David Blum nor Felice Kane Blum were listed in previous directories. Perhaps they came to Denver for Michael’s job. Working for the Educational Commission of the States (which still exists at 700 Broadway, Suite 1200), Michael was engaged in a mission inspired by James Bryant Conant, the renowned president of Harvard University from 1933 to 1953. Conant’s 1964 book, Shaping Education, called for a state-based approach to education, enabling cooperation across the country without sacrificing state independence to national standards. The Educational Commission of the States was the embodiment of this movement, and Michael David Blum was a computer programmer for the Denver office. Sandy Gail Nyholm (1978-present) Ms Nyholm gained possession of 400 South Emerson Street nearly 27 years ago, and maintains the home to the present. Her tenure is only

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

behind that of the original owners (the Schumans) in terms of longevity. Nyholm was an attorney for the law firm of Isaacson, Rosenbaum, Spiegleman & Friedman, located at 2300 First Denver Plaza building. The occupation of her partner, Larry Oscar David Lof, was not indicated in city directories, but a recent Web search indicates that he was president of Lof Energy Systems, providing consulting on items such as an “energy saving indoor swimming pool.” Whatever the case, the dual tenancy seems to have dissolved fifteen years later, with both partners moving in different directions. By 1993, Mr Lof had relocated to 2089 South Logan, and by 1994, David Alan “Duke” Kaminsky was residing at 400 South Emerson. Their marriages were similarly consonant: Lof married Kathy Marie Lindgren on May 22, 1996; less than three weeks later, Nyholm and Kaminsky wed at Temple Sinai. Previously married, Mr Kaminsky had lived with wife Diane at 3430 East Kentucky Avenue as the owner of Food Products Company, a wholesale food distributor. But by 1994, he had taken on "an undivided 1% interest in the home at 400 South Emerson. By April 1995, that interest had formally grown to 50% interest, as indicated in a second special warranty deed. And of course in 1996, their lives were even more formally conjoined. Sandy Nyholm and David Kaminsky now reside together in the home, enjoying tandem bikes, gorgeous artwork, and major home renovations – including extensive additions to the home’s eastern and southern flanks. Except, of course, when one of the walls unintentionally crumbles due to an overeager backhoe operator, leaving their bedroom in view of all their southern neighbors!

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

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ection 3:

A Map to the Past

Area Maps
Few historical resources are more treasured than maps, because they provide visual reference for hundreds of unspoken changes in use, priority, relationships, and basic configuration. Below is a series of maps to help reveal these changes over time. 1874 Thayer map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1882 Fisk map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1883 Thayer map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1890 Rollandet map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1901 Willets map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1905 Merritt map (with trolley routes)

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1929 Zoning map

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Housing Maps
1905 Baist map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1907 Haraszthy & Voit “bird’s eye view”

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1930 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1937 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1951 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1955 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1960 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1967 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1974 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

2004 Aerial map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

A

ppendix:

Discovering More

The Home’s Identity
400 South Emerson Street has been known by many names. Being aware of these alternative identifiers will help to locate your property among records and facilitate more extensive research of its history. Original settlers identified land based on federal standards. The nation’s Northwest Ordinance provided township/range coordinates in order to minimize land grant confusion. As public land, this property was recorded as being in Township 4S, Range 68W, Section 14.

City historians might well focus on the founding of lots, with the subdivision record providing a central point of contact. Since the land promised fine views of Smith Lake, the second issuance of the plat for this area was known as the “First Resubdivision of Lake View.” Modern city planners have updated these understandings. In1972, in order to minimize confusion about where neighborhoods began and ended, the City and County of Denver designated 80 official neighborhoods. Using this parlance, the neighborhood surrounding 400

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

South Emerson is known as Platt Park. Nearby neighborhoods include Washington Park, Washington Park West, Baker, Ruby Hill, Overland, College View, Rosedale, and University.

This too, is historical artifice, however. Below is a 1921 map of the area from Colliers atlas. Notice the different names for areas in this version, including Overland Park, Stebbins Heights, and Electric Heights.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

For a more universal standard, cartographers might reference global coordinates. Such data is useful for geographic information systems, aerial photographs, and early explorer’s records. This home is at latitude 39.70924" and longitude --104.97689". Lawyers also prefer to carry formal property descriptions across space and time. As the surest means of tracking properties across the decades, this legal definition provides a key reference point, identifying the land in perpetuity as “Lots 1-2 and North 1/2 of Lot 3, Block 15, First Resubdivision of Lake View.” Finally, more numerically-oriented city assessors created a parcel ID. Quite useful for research from 1950 onward, the parcel ID for 400 South Emerson is 05142-11-001-000. From a combination of these identifiers, you can continue research into the history of this property for years to come.

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

Further Study
As noted, more can be discovered about your home, such as: Personal interviews: The past is still alive in numerous homeowners, neighbors, friends, and relatives with stories to tell of what it was like to live here, work here, and adapt to the building as it changed over time. Neighbors: Whether famous or related, rich or poor, their lives changed the experience of the area and can tell much of the story of 400 South Emerson as well. Deeds: A review of this home’s deeds of sale can show the signatures, names, conditions, and prices, giving a fuller picture of its residents. Bronze plaque: An official, physical marker to the home’s historic character, professionally attested by Historical Insights. In all of this, there is an implicit value. As pledged in the Historical Insights mission statement: We look not simply to reveal facts about the past, but to illuminate real people and life-events both great and small. As homes are a tangible record of culture, we hope that these studies will connect people to the past, and in so doing, strengthen ties to the homes, communities, and historical record to which we all belong. With this phase of the research complete, we leave the building with a more certain place in our community and thoughts than it otherwise would have enjoyed. Its history deserved to be told, and we all are rewarded as a result.

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