“Hardware is one of the best businesses there is. I like that line, I was brought up in it. Axes and hammers don’t go out of style like so many other things.” This quotation was published in the Rocky Mountain News in April of 1934, when Charles Boettcher’s business enterprises had turned him into a national figure.
Charles was born into the hardware business; his parents, Frederick and Susanna Boettcher, ran a hardware store in Kolleda, Germany. When Charles finished Gymnasium (secondary school) his parents sent him to America to visit his older brother Herman, who was working in a hardware store in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Once in America, Charles admired the western landscapes and was soon working alongside Herman at Hoyer & Company Hardware. As a fringe benefit, he was allowed to sleep under the store counter. Charles figured out early that he was better off saving his money than spending it foolishly in the town saloons.
Charles as his partner, and in the summer of 1871 the brothers acquired another new store, this time in Evans, Colorado, just four miles from Greeley. Less than a year later, Charles moved to the new agricultural colony, Fort Collins. In Fort Collins, Charles met and married Fannie Augusta Cowan.
During their first year of marriage the couple moved south, to Boulder, where Charles opened the first hardware store in his own name. The Boulder store was so prosperous that Charles was able to build a large new building at 12th and Pearl, in the young town’s central commercial district (it’s still there).
By the end of the 1880s Charles Boettcher owned multiple hardware businesses and had his hand in mining, electricity, ranching, and banking.
In 1892, two years after the Boettchers moved to Denver, Henry C. Brown, along with two partners, Maxcy Tabor and William Bush, turned a triangular cow pasture at Seventeenth and Champa into the finest hotel in the West, the Brown Palace. Unfortunately for the partners, only a year after construction was complete the Silver Panic of 1893 hit.
In 1922, Horace Bennett and his associates, including Charles Boettcher, purchased the still-struggling hotel. After the crash of 1929, Bennett was forced to liquidate his interest, and Charles and Claude Boettcher became the hotel’s sole proprietors.
In the 1890s his interests would grow to include a meat packing company, a railroad, and Capitol Life Insurance. He started Colorado’s first sugar beet factory and formed Great Western Sugar.
The second generation of Colorado pioneers came of age in the 1890s. Claude graduated from Harvard and returned to
Denver and dedicated himself to expanding his father’s enterprises.
In 1908, Denver witnessed the completion of its first reinforced concrete building at the corner of Seventeenth and Champa, built by Charles Boettcher to promote the use of cement.
After two decades of progress Ideal Cement had plants all over the West and the cement industry had led Charles and his son Claude into a variety of other industries, most importantly, potash. After Charles’ death, Ideal merged with Potash of America and became Ideal Basic Industries.
As Claude’s only child, Charles Boettcher II grew up with all the advantages wealth brings. After completing his education, Charles too returned to Denver and began participating in the management of the family’s empire.
Charles II became a partner in Boettcher & Company in the 1920s, was involved in the Ideal Cement Company, and eventually inherited most of the offices formerly held by his father and grandfather at many Boettcher enterprises.
Then, one evening in 1933 (occurring the year after the Lindbergh kidnapping), Charles II and his wife, Anna Lou Boettcher, returned home from a dinner party and were accosted in their garage.
Charles II was held at gunpoint while another man passed a ransom note to Mrs. Boettcher. The kidnappers then sped away with
Charles II. Charles II was held for two weeks while Claude tried to make contact with the kidnappers. After Claude paid the $60,000 ransom, Charles was released. (Boettcher Foundation)
Needless to say, it was unsettling for everyone in the family. Apparently Charles and his wife, Mae, then started looking for a place that was far away from and far different than their surroundings in Denver.
So in 1935 they found the property in Hawaii – 4 acres of prime land on Kailua Beach. It was to be their get-away-from-it-all vacation home. (Cheever)
Charles II commissioned Vladimir Ossipoff to build him a house; it was designed by Ossipoff and built by contractor M. Kiuchi. (HHF)
Ossipoff came to Hawaii in late 1932. The Russian-born architect was educated at the University of California at Berkeley and had worked in San Francisco prior to moving to Hawaii.
Ossipoff started his architectural career in the islands as the head of the Home Building Department of Theo H. Davies. He also worked in architect C.W. Dickey’s office prior to starting his own practice in 1936.
Ossipoff’s work is characterized by its mixture of Hawaiian influenced design and more modern trends, such as the ranch style of house for domestic commissions. (National Register)
The one-story house has a distinctive steeply-pitched, cross-hip, “Hawaiian-style” roof, covered with shakes. The building’s U-shaped plan wraps around an in-set lanai supported by coral stone columns. The open side of the U faces the mountains, protecting the lanai from the prevailing onshore winds.
The home’s design combines many elements of indoor/outdoor living associated with the architecture of Hawaii during this period. The bath and dressing rooms open directly to the exterior, and the large lanai has a fireplace. (HHF)
The Boettcher family lived in Colorado and came to Hawaii for their holidays. During World War II, the family opened their home to the US Navy to use as Officers’ Quarters for the Waves. (National Register)
In September 1978 the City and County of Honolulu acquired the property for use as a park. It is now the central structure in the Kalama Beach Park.
Jeannette Vidgen says
Very fascinating story of the American dream.
I live very close to this home and it saddens me to see it fall apart in disrepair from termite infestation. Unsurprisingly, The City is doing nothing to maintain this treasure, and I give it another 10 years before it falls in upon itself from termites. It should have never been deeded to the city by the widow, it should be taken away from the city ASAP by a private organization who is capable of properly caring for of this amazing house.