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The house that Henry built

Chancellor Henry Buchtel's house, pictured circa 1923, now is home to Chancellor Robert Coombe. Photo from: DU Archives

The house two blocks from campus that DU’s third chancellor, Henry Buchtel, built in 1906 had a coal furnace, “tuberculosis” porch, wood-fired kitchen stove, a hutch for chickens and a shed for cows.

When DU’s 17th chancellor, Robert Coombe, moved into the renovated house in August, it had central air-conditioning, state-of-the-art security, wireless Internet and a wine cellar.

What a difference 101 years makes. When Buchtel took over the University, it was so deep in debt that University Hall was 32 days from becoming a glue factory, and faculty members had to keep livestock to make ends meet.

Buchtel pulled the University into solvency, working at an oversize roll-top desk in a 9- by 10-foot study in his home. From that same desk in 1907-08, he ran Colorado as a single-term Republican governor.

“It don’t take a big room to hold a brain,” quipps Kevin Pranger, a worker for Holland Home Improvement, the company that renovated the three-bedroom, two-and a-half-bath Craftsman-style home known as the Buchtel Bungalow (pictured circa 1923).

Today the roll-top desk is gone, but the newly renovated home still affords a DU chancellor the chance to watch over a university with nearly 11,000 students, 600-plus faculty members and a burgeoning international reputation.

DU acquired the 2,792-square-foot house at 2100 S. Columbine St. in 1927 for $10 and the balance of a $6,000 loan. In the years since, the home has been a faculty club, residence hall, meeting place, fraternity and the residence of John Roning, DU’s last football coach. It was last renovated in the 1950s.

The house’s “bungalow” architectural style was inspired by one-story houses with low, sweeping roofs found in Bengal, India. The style was exported from England to California in the late 19th century during the Arts and Crafts movement — an architectural reaction to the stiffness of Victorianism.

Arts and Crafts homes emphasize simplicity, local materials and handcrafted wood, glass and metal work. They are a story or a story and a half, with high ceilings, oversized doors and large windows. They have broad, pitched roofs with dormers and overhanging eaves supported by large wooden brackets.

Their interiors boast wood detailing, fireplaces and front doors that open into the living room. Often, they included beamed ceilings and, in Colorado, a sleeping porch to provide fresh air to TB victims, who for decades flocked to the state for treatment or recovery.

The homes were wildly popular from 1900 to 1930 and are common in older areas of Denver. The Buchtel Bungalow, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has most of these characteristics, plus restored fir floors and a living room plate rail that Buchtel used to display his prized cup and saucer collection.

The renovated home has a new kitchen, revamped electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems and updated baths. A gas forced-air furnace was installed as was a new cedar-shingle roof, two-car garage and insulated, double-pane windows that match the originals and soundproof the home.

Says architectural consultant Jane Loefgren: “What we’re doing here will last for another 100 years.”

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