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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

S 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

S 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 1-
12, 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

S 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 Bought
Walter C & Eva M Schuman 1906
Frank K & Ella G Emery 1944
Myron R & Mary A Evans 1948
Robert R & Ruth A Nichols 1966
John E & Leesanne Buchanan 1973
Michael David & Felice Kane Blum 1975
Sandy Gail Nyholm & Larry Oscar David 1978
Lof
Sandy Gail Nyholm & David Alan 1996
Kaminsky

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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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

S 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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1882 Fisk map

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1883 Thayer map

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1890 Rollandet map

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1901 Willets map

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1905 Merritt map (with trolley routes)

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1929 Zoning map

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Housing Maps
1905 Baist map

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1907 Haraszthy & Voit “bird’s eye view”

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1930 Sanborn map

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1937 Sanborn map

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History of 400 South Emerson Street

1951 Sanborn map

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1955 Sanborn map

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1960 Sanborn map

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1967 Sanborn map

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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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