Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Big Red Castle in Westminster

Todd and I went motorcycling around the metro area this afternoon. The temperatures climbed into the sixties today. The forecast didn't call for high winds but we sure ran into a few strong gusts. My face got wind and sunburned. We rode as far north as Boulder, and made several stops along the way.

One place we stopped was outside the Westminster Castle. I didn't even know it existed. The building was built in 1893 to house the Westminster University. The university didn't open until 1908 and only lasted ten years; it closed in 1918. The property was sold to the Pillar of Fire Church in 1920. The building is listed as a National Historical Landmark. This picture was taken with my cell phone from the rear of the building on the east side. We should have gone around to the south side, because the building is much more impressive from the front.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Mysterious White House on 7th Avenue

I have long been intrigued by the big white house on the north west corner of 7th Avenue & Ogden Street. For the longest time I thought it was an old tuberculosis sanitarium, later I errantly concluded it must be the Germain Consulate. This week I learned the true identity and history behind that mysterious big white house.

Twenty Six year old Alfred Cass married Mary Ashton in 1876. They spent time in Nebraska before relocating to Denver in 1888. Alfred quickly rose to prominence in the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. The widow Mary Cass built the large Colonial Revival house in 1908, five years after her husband died. She died shortly after the house was completed.

It may not be fair to label the second owner of the house, oil tycoon Henry Blackmer, a miscreant. It was never proven he was smuggling bootleg liquor, but Blackmer didn't always conduct business on the up-and-up either. He fled the country in 1924 leaving his son Myron in charge of the house.

The Teapot Dome oil field in wyoming is a mere 60 miles from my home town. Teapot Dome and several other oil fields formed the U.S. Navy's oil reserves. In 1921 President Warren Harding transfered control of some of the reserves, including the Teapot Dome field, to the Department of Interior under Secretary Albert Fall. Secretary Albert B. Fall truly was a miscreant. He had ties to vote fixing, cattle rustling, and murder for hire. In 1922 Fall quietly gave drilling rights for parts of the reserve to Mammoth Oil Corporation and the Pan-American Petroleum & Transport Company. This shady transaction would bloom into the Teapot Dome scandal and ultimately resulted in Fall's imprisonment in 1929.

Henry Blackmer held an interest in the Continental Trading Company which was to receive large sums of money from the oilmen involved in the Teapot Dome scandal. He fled to France when he was subpoenaed to testify and didn't return for 25 years. At the age of 80 and in poor health, he was fined $20,000 in 1949 for contempt of court.

Sometime between 1925 & 1949 the house was converted into apartments, but for the past 62 years the big white house has belonged to the Saint Germain Foundation. Many consider the St. Germain Foundation to be a cult. As symbolic of their "I AM" activity the cult painted the red brick building all white.

Thus ends the mystery of the the big white house on 7th Avenue.

Ferril, Will C., ed. Sketches of Colorado. Vol. 1. Denver: The Western Press Bureau Company, 1911.
Keezer, Dexter M. "Blackmer Will Dodge Oil Trial." Pittsburgh Press, 12 Oct. 1927, Two.
Leonard, Stephen J. and Thomas J. Noel. Denver Mining Camp To Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990.
"Teapot Dome Figure Fined." Milwaukee Journal, 2 Nov. 1949, M2.
Widmann, Nancy L. The East 7th Avenue Historic District. Denver: Historic Denver Inc., 1997.
Wikipedia contributors, "Albert B. Fall," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 22, 2012).
Wikipedia contributors, "Saint Germain Foundation," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 22, 2012).
Wikipedia contributors, "Teapot Dome scandal," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 22, 2012).


Monday, February 13, 2012

Playing with water

I was playing in the water this evening. I can't wait for summer when I can try this on a waterfall. The picture on the top was taken using: ISO-3200, 1/200 sec, f 5.0 freezing the motion of the water (or nearly so). The picture on the bottom was taken using: ISO-100, 1/2 sec, f8.0 blurring the motion of the water.

The bottom picture is how I've seen the world lately. The lenses in my glasses got scratched real bad, and I've been wearing my old glasses. I had an eye exam this morning and ordered new glasses. The new glasses will have larger lenses, photo-grey (progressive), anti-glare, scratch resistent, and have a two year warranty. Soon I'll be able to see the world more like the top picture. I assume that will be a good thing.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Old School

I'm reading Denver Inside and Out (the Colorado Historical Society, 2011). The book is a compilation of short essays, each written by a different researcher, on a different topic of Denver's history. The third essay, by Shawn Snow, details the establishment of the first schools in Denver.

A factoid I will try to remember is: Owen J. Goldrick started the first school in Denver on October 3, 1859. Goldrick's school was a private school located in a cabin along the west banks of Cherry Creek in an area now called Auraria. I wonder if it is coincidental that Auraria now hosts two universities and a community college. The first free public school in Denver opened in December of 1862.

A lot of these interesting little factoids can be found on the internet If you have the interest and know what to look for. I like having information collected, fact checked, collated, and presented in an interesting, organized, and consistant manner the way books do.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A broken record

I stayed in Friday and let it snow while the apartment manager busied himself shoveling sidewalks. It snowed all day Friday; it didn't stop snowing until 8 o'clock Saturday morning. The city of Denver recorded 15.9 inches of snow breaking the February 1912 record of 22.1 inches. It never got very cold. After the sun came out Saturday it warmed enough to melt some of the snow.

I went for a walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon. The neighborhood looked to be in good shape. Most people had shoveled their sidewalks, but the streets were still a mess. Walking was easy except when crossing the streets where the gutters had filled with snow and slush. I didn't see any broken tree limbs; the strong wind we had a few weeks ago already took care of that. Some parts of the city lost electricity for a short while, but the apartment never lost power.

I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of mountain chickadees up close while on my tour. They didn't stop to pose for pictures, but you can see one of the birds perched in the bush in this picture.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Suck It In

My doctor offeres evening classes that promote healthy living and discuss health care options. I attended his last class about core strengthening. He invited a Physical Therapist to describe and demonstrate some simple exercises that anyone can do at home, without any equipment, to strengthen their core muscles.

The therapist described core muscles, in layman terms, as those muscles between the chest and thighs including: the abdominals, back, pelvic floor, hips, and transverse abdominis. Many core muscles aren't obvious because they are hidden underneath other muscles. The transverse abdominis is hidden by the rectus abdominis (six-packs). It fits around the hips like a corset and keeps us upright and stabile so we don't wobble around.

All of the demonstrations the therapist gave help strengthen the transverse abdominis along with other muscles. The simplest exercise that can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere is simply to "suck it in". Don't suck it in all the way - just half way, and do not hold your breath! I have to concentrate on breathing in and out while holding my tummy in. This simple exercise can be done in bed, while standing in line, while driving, while on a walk, or while doing other strength exercises. The exercise not only strengthens the transverse abdominis muscle but also trains the muscle to act on its own voluntarily.

I've gotten very lax with my daily exercises. Days may go by without doing my exercises; it's simple laziness. I still go for walks frequently, but not every day and not far or long enough. I need to come up with strategies to motivate myself to exercise and walk daily, and I need to loose those 20 pounds I gained over the winter.

Did you know the average life span of a black-tailed prairie dog is 7 to 8 years?