Henry Roth House, Postscript

– by M. Thornton

We met Dianne Roth and her father Milton last year, when they stopped by our house at 5 South Fox Street, the bungalow and compound that Henry Roth had built. Dianne, Henry’s granddaughter, sent this news article that was published soon after the house was built. (Denver wanted to tax Henry Roth more than he had paid in materials for the house.)

She included some family photographs:
• Rusty, her dad’s dog, in front of the house, in the early 1930s
• A wedding picture of Henry and Mary Roth
• Henry Roth the granddad
• Mary Roth and Henry’s sister Mabel
• Henry and his granddaughter Dianne
• Three generations of Roths: Henry, Dianne, and Milton
• Milton Roth in the bathroom, which doesn’t look that much different from today.

It’s nice to get to know the builder and paterfamilias, through his family. We expect to see more of the family this summer or next, for a planned reunion.

The Roth Family in the 1930's

Henry and Mary Roth, 1908
Henry and Mary Roth Wedding Photo, 1908
Henry Roth in the Denver Post during the 1930's

B50 note: Henry Roth built the bungalow style houses in the Baker Neighborhood by hand in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The house is on the national historic register. M Thornton added this as a postscript to his original post, The Henry Roth Houses on Fox Street.

Denver Post, 1926

We patched a portion of oak floor laid nearly a century ago, and found these scraps of news tucked beneath the boards. The house that Henry Roth built is on the National Register, and continues to amaze us with its recycling ventures made into practical construction. Maybe the newspapers underneath our floorboards don’t suggest a sustainable index, but they record history and practice in one fell sweep. Here’s my take on these:

Amy Semple McPherson, the great evangelist of the 1920s, comes to Denver, coincidentally with the Greatest Stock Show ever; the French harp, or harmonica, makes a comeback; the hanging tree at Sixth and Walnut meets its doom; the stock pages and society columns mix for the Livestock show; the Vanderbilts and distance swimmers were hot news a few years before the collapse; putting a man on the moon was a foolish dream indeed – read all the details; on same page that one of Custer’s troops is mourned, a Klan Cyclops runs for Congress; Clayton College, located at what is now Colorado Boulevard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, helps half-orphans become useful citizens; America’s auto industry is growing, and car camping takes off for the hills on July 4, 1926; the Jazz Age has already become history; girls paint designs on their legs for the sake of allure; what we know as the Hagia Sophia was rumored to become a disco; Mutt and Jeff and The Katzenjammer Kids, with their German accents, ruled funny papers, the only part news in color, Sundays only; Classified Ads still brought in buck; trout-fishing resort on “4 acres, a nice hotel, 5-room cottage, 9 cabins” to sacrificed for $6,500; and finally, cut out between “‘Billy’ Adams” and “Her Worst Worry”?

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M Thornton

Denver Post 1926
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The Henry Roth Houses on Fox Street

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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