On the corner of East 11th Avenue and Pennsylvania Street looms the huge Croke-Patterson Mansion. It is one of the most storied homes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, including prominent Denver politicians, deaths and ghosts. In the early days of Denver’s history, mansions of this kind that looked like castles were not uncommon, earning the area the nickname “millionaires’ row.”
Although many of those mansions have been lost to time and the growth of the city, a few still exist, including the Croke-Patterson. For the last several years, Chris Chiari has lived in one of these mansions in the Swallow Hill neighborhood.
“I love these old homes,” he said. “With mine that I already live in, I took on this role of caretaker years ago and I’m very, very comfortable with that.”
Rewinding the clock to nearly nine years ago, Chiari had his sights on the Croke-Patterson Mansion, although it would be several years before he came to own it.
The home was built in 1893 by Thomas B. Croke, a business owner. Croke only lived in the house for six months before selling it to Thomas Patterson, who would eventually become a U.S. senator. The Pattersons owned the mansion for many years, but it was eventually sold, going through a number of iterations including apartments and office space. The house was saved from demolition and was made a historic landmark in 1973.
It wasn’t until 2011, that the house, at 420 E. 11th Ave., was bought by architect Brian Higgins to be restored and converted into a bed and breakfast. The Patterson Inn opened in 2013.
Although Higgins beat Chiari to the mansion at that time, he went on to buy the Patterson Inn from him in June last year. Chiari said that he was glad he didn’t get the mansion until after the experience of renovating his own home in Swallow Hill. Now, he can handle any projects or renovations in the house, although a historic mansion can be overwhelming at times, he said.
“I love history. I love Denver’s history,” Chiari said. “Capitol Hill with these old homes, the tragedy is how many we’ve lost.”
Part of the history of the Patterson Inn involves ghost stories and rumors about the haunted mansion. Chiari doesn’t mind the company, joking about the likes and dislikes of particular spirits that allegedly reside in the house, including Thomas Patterson and his wife, Kate.
Although Chiari said that he himself has no hospitality experience, he has brought in a team to help him run the inn. Bringing the house back to its former splendor and using it for people’s enjoyment has put the ghosts at ease, he said. “I think they’re enjoying having the party here again.”
Chiari is also active in the community. He’s currently vice president of the Swallow Hill Neighborhood Association. He also is the chair of the Democratic Party for District 2 and at ran for city council in Denver twice.
In addition to the hotel, Chiari also has part ownership in a marijuana dispensary in the Highlands, and works as a producer and director in the film industry.
For now, the inn is only open to guests. But Chiari is hoping to add an accessible ramp to the building, as well as an accessible bathroom in the basement. Then, he could use the carriage house space of the mansion for political fundraisers, or get a social marijuana license for the building. There’s also the potential for opening up the building for special ticketed whiskey or wine tasting events in the basement bar.
Chiari is a marijuana advocate. In the two years between first attempting to buy The Patterson Inn and finally settling in Denver in 2013, he drove 115,000 miles around the country advocating for legalization. He said it was one of the “greatest misadventures of my life.”
The trip also helped to inspire his brand, the King of Quality. Later, he would learn that the Patterson mansion was considered the king of haunted houses in the Quality Hill area.
The trip brought him into contact with people on both sides of marijuana legalization, he said.
“I do not dismiss people’s life experience and what they consider to be true,” Chiari said. “I kind of learned to accept divergent opinions on a topic that I was passionate about.”
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