by Michael Thornton
This is a statement submitted in an application for a house in the Baker neighborhood to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. As a result of this successful application a new term for the architecture was coined: “Hobo Craftsman”.
Narrative Statement of Significance
Three houses on South Fox Street at Ellsworth Avenue, in the Baker neighborhood, were hand-built by Henry Roth in the Bungalow or Craftsman style of architecture. He made ingenious use of cobblestones from the South Platte River, metal barrel-lids from canisters of railroad spikes, and other found and recycled materials. He built the houses from 1927 to 1941, during the time of the Great Depression with its transient populace. Located only a few blocks from the railroad line, many people looking for work wandered the neighborhood. Mrs. Roth handed out sandwiches at her back door. This was also the time when tourist camps and motor courts spread throughout America. These cobblestone houses not only reflect the Craftsman style of building, but their orientation in conjunction with the sheds on the property represent the typical grouping of cabins in a motor court. Henry Roth’s occupation as a cooper aided him in making use of salvaged metal barrel-lids to construct the sheds, which served as sleeping quarters during the 1930s. The landscaping is reminiscent of tourist camps located near rivers, where fast growing trees like elms and honey locusts are prevalent. Common lilacs provided a sense of hospitality. The buildings and grounds have been preserved, and represent a historical period in America when people were struggling to make ends meet. Henry Roth built the houses for his family, and built the sheds for income. He used materials that other people overlooked or dumped. These houses stand in marked contrast to the neighboring Baker Historic District in Denver, where Victorian houses built at the turn of the twentieth century are the norm.
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