Owner of City Park bed and breakfast says it’s time to say goodbye

Jim Peiker says he is thankful for Castle Marne

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On a cold January day in 1988, Jim Peiker and his wife Diane were hunting for a bed and breakfast in City Park West, in the hopes of buying it and starting a new career. Across the street from the bed and breakfast the Peikers were looking at stood an old vacant stone house at East 16th Avenue and Race Street.

As they peeked through the windows, they saw a “Keep out” sign — a rough welcome.

“It was a mess,” Peiker remembers. “It was in such shape that we kept looking and kept looking, and kept coming back and kept coming back.”

But the old house had picked them. And that was the start of the Castle Marne Bed and Breakfast.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Peiker said of his 30 years running the business.

Time to let go

Today, Peiker is a walking encyclopedia on the castle he and Diane bought in the fall of 1988. They spent the next several months trying to persuade banks to lend them money — during a recession — to renovate the building. Through hard work and research at the library, the couple was able to bring the historic mansion at 1572 Race St. back to its former glory.

But Peiker is ready for the next step in his life. Diane died in October, and in February Peiker celebrated his 84th birthday. The bed-and breakfast-industry has changed, Peiker said.

Denver also has what seems like an ever-increasing number of new hotel rooms, he added. Overall through the years, business has been good.

In previous years, Peiker said they would sometimes get overflow business from historic hotels that were fully booked such as the Brown Palace downtown. More recently though, its become harder to market to young people.

Earlier this year, Peiker and his daughter put the bed and breakfast up for sale. It’s time to let it go, Peiker said.

“It seems to be the right time in our lives,” he said. “What am I going to do? I don’t know, we’ll find out.”

Castle Marne, built in the 1880s, sits on property that was part of the Wyman Addition to the city of Denver. A group of developers bought 65 acres of land that became known as the Wyman Addition in the early 1880s. They began to build out new neighborhoods that became City Park and Uptown, Peiker said. Previously, the land was open space. Peiker has pictures from when Castle Marne was first built that show the monstous house sitting on an open plot of land.

The development company asked architect William Lang to design the building as a model home for the new neighborhood, Peiker said. Its walls are made of Castle Rock rhyolite stone and are 22 inches thick.

After finding old photographs of the home at the Denver Public Library, Peiker and his family were able to recreate many of the hand-painted details within the original house.

“We tried to not to copy it because we couldn’t,” he said. “We tried to bring the building back to as much of its original glory as we could.”

Castle Marne was a home for a while, then converted into seven apartments after World War I. The next building owner converted Castle Marne into offices in the 1970s. Around that time the carriage house building on the property was sold. Although the main building was abandoned when the Peikers bought Castle Marne, the carriage house was home to a then-thriving graphic design firm, Peiker said.

Peiker had been in sales and Diane was a teacher who had worked at Denver Public Schools before transitioning to St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood. The couple decided they wanted to run a family-owned business. Peiker began working on renovations full-time, while Diane continued to teach. Two years after opening the business, Diane also started working at Castle Marne full-time. Peiker still thinks of Diane as the “queen” of the castle.

“She was pretty much the driver,” he said.

Rebuilding Caslte Marne

Renovating the castle was a labor of love. After buying the house, Peiker said it took them seven months to raise the money for renovations. Eventually, they found a banker who gave them a small-business loan for $400,000.

“We just had a terrible time trying to find the money,” Peiker said. “I talked to virtually every bank in the city. It just was not the right time and it certainly was not the right product.”

The couple broke ground in February 1989, 100 years after the house was first built. It took them the better part of a year to renovate. They opened in August that year.

All the wood in the house is original, Peiker said. This includes a large, hand-carved fireplace in a living-room area. There are stylized carved dolphins on top of the fireplace and a creature of legend called “the green man” along the sides.

During the renovations and for a few years while they ran Castle Marne, the Peikers lived in several rooms toward the back of the building. Eventually, they bought the carriage house and moved into that building.

Both Peiker and Diane were raised in Denver. Peiker grew up a few blocks away from Washington Park, Diane in the Alamo Placita neighborhood. Now that he’s retiring from the bed-and-breakfast industry, Peiker said he has no desire to pack up and move to Florida. Instead, he hopes to stay in north Denver.

“I’ve always enjoyed this neighborhood,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”

In many ways, Castle Marne has become as much a person in Peiker’s life as his wife and children. Sometimes, the castle gives advice, he noted.

At one point after opening the bed and breakfast, the Peikers needed to repair the large stained glass window. As Peiker was looking at different businesses in the Yellow Pages, a voice popped up in the back of his mind and told him to select a Littleton-based company. At the time, the window was 100 years old.

The business owner “walked in, introduced himself, stood at the bottom of the stairs,” Peiker said. “He looked up and he said, `My great-grandfather Clarence made that window.’ I can tell you the house talks to us. People laugh at us when I say that.”

Running a business for several decades comes with its share of memories.

Interesting guests, such as Kenny Loggins and Tiny Tim, have roamed the halls. Peiker wrote a book on the history of Castle Marne. He plans to add a chapter about Diane’s contributions to the house before its second printing. Peiker’s grandchildren also grew up in the bed and breakfast. Peiker’s daughter lived in the neighborhood with the kids, and he and Diane would frequently babysit.

“The house is kind of special,” he said. “They grew up crawling around under the chairs and under the tables. I thank the Castle Marne every night for raising my three grandchildren.”

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