Castles, Moats and Charm Catch Your Spirit on This Urban Hike Through Montclair
Sitting quietly and unassumingly just east of central Denver is a wonderfully walkable neighborhood with castles, moats, and memories. Montclair, sitting below Colfax between Holly and Quebec and north of 6th, hides off by itself. But it has a lot to say.
The Red Baron’s Uncle
Let’s start with its start. Montclair is named after its founder’s home town of Montclair, NJ. Its other more famous resident, Baron Walter von Richtofen, put it on the map. This baron, not the other less famous scoundrel who founded Park Hill, was uncle to the original Red Baron.
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Walter, and immigrant from Silesia, left his noble family and famous fighters to seek out the wealth and promise of the wild west in the late 1800s. He founded the Denver Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Real Estate Company. Making and losing his money in real state and cattle, he dabbled in many frontier adventures.
Ultimately, when tuberculosis hit the west, he decided to cash in on a cure. Swiss theories convinced him that people needed sunshine, milk, and the smell of cow manure to combat TB. He built what became known as the Molkery, which is now the Montclair Civic Building, where sick patients sat above manure, drank raw milk, and basked in Denver’s 300 days of sunshine. About the same time, a true TB cure appeared, and the Molkery dried up.
He and his wife left Denver. He returned without her, remarried, sold his castle, returned to Denver, repurchased the castle, left again, returned again, and ultimately selling books from the back of his truck in order to make ends meet. Too old to join the infantry of the Spanish-American war in 1898, he handed out bouquets to each departing soldier. Sadly afterward, he died. Appendicitis got him.
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Double the Size
Before he died, he convinced 88 others to build homes in Montclair that doubled the size of typical Denver homes. With 3-story mansions of brick and stone gracing what is now Montclair’s historic district, he topped them all with his mansion. 15,000 square feet of opulence sits at Montclair’s high point. Surviving renovation after renovation, the current owners, the Jepersons, host Halloween parties that highlight the beautiful architecture of Montclair’s famous mansion. Inside the Richthofen Castle, you’ll find 35 rooms of sprawling beauty originally designed by Alexander Cazin in 1887.
The rest of the neighborhood has its treats, too. From other majestic homes to WWII housing built for single soldiers starting out fresh, you can find various parks strewn throughout the ‘hood.
Be sure to enjoy Kittredge Park Named after the Kittredge family who built a castle on Oneida that was later turned into the Dean Peck School for Girls, this little neighborhood park sits unassumingly in the middle of Montclair. Charles Kittredge, an engineer, built the McMann and Kittredge Bank on the corner of 16th St and Glenarm, and later founded the town of Kittredge on the banks of the Clear Creek. His banking abilities catapulted him to become Superintendent at the Denver Mint.
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As an interesting note, when Denver tried to annex Montclair, it resisted. So strongly did it resist that the Supreme Court had to rule, eventually, in Denver’s favor. Rumor has it that Mayor Speer felt badly about the City’s strong-arm tactics and threw the newly-annexed town some favor by creating a couple of extra parks just for them.
With Colfax to its north, you can always find something fun in Montclair. When walking through this neighborhood, be sure to throw in a couple of blocks on Colfax. From its northern border to its tony southern edge, enjoy this nice 3.5-mile walk through Montclair.
The Route (click for interactive map):
Start at 7298 Richthofen Place. Take a right on Pontiac. Enjoy the east side of the Richthofen Mansion. Take a left on 12th and enjoy the front.
At Oneida, check out the restored home that is now Montclair Civic Center. It was once a tuberculosis home, and can now be rented from Denver Park and Rec for events. Head north on Oneida to Colfax.
Turn left on Colfax. At Monaco Parkway, cross then head south on 14th and take a right.
Take a left on Locust, a right on 13th, a left on Leyden, right on 12th, then a left on Jasmine.
Take a left on 9th and then a right on Kearny. Take a left on 8th and a right on Krameria. Take a left on Leyden then a right on 6th Ave Parkway.
Go west on 6th, enjoying the large homes along the Parkway. Cross Monaco, take a left on Monaco and then a right on 7th Ave.
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Take a left on Niagara St, a right on E Severn Place. Take a left on Oneida, enjoying Montclair’s historic district. Continue past Kittridge Park, take a right on 9th.
Take a left on Olive and then a right on 10th. Take a left on Pontiac and then a right on Richthofen, returning you back to your start.
Charming Montclair and Supporting Denver By Foot
If you’ve enjoyed this information, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family.
Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!
See you on the trail!