J H P VOORHIES
The Voorhies Memorial brackets the north side of Denver’s Civic Center. John Hart Pemberton Voorhies is the fifth name on the Colonnade of Civic Benefactors on the wall of the Greek Theater, the southern match to the Voorhies Memorial. More commonly he is listed as J H P or John. The initials are for family names. His last name is a corruption of the largest family of Dutch ancestry in the United States, Von Voorhees.
John Voorhies came from Lexington, Kentucky. In a reference to the Van Voorhies it is noted that William and Charles Voorhies had three brothers, Gordon, Alfred and JHP. I find this slightly confusing, suspecting they may have been half brothers. Gordon F. Voorhies was a Confederate Army soldier and was killed at the Battle of Bull’s Gap, November 13, 1864. He was 20 years old. Alfred Shelby died in infancy. J H P went on to become a mining engineer.
J H P Voorhies came to Colorado in the 1870’s. He is listed as owning the Democrat Mine, under the British Consuls Silver Mining Company in 1876. The Democrat was located four miles from Silverton, Colorado. It produced galena, the primary ore mineral for lead, gray copper, a mineral that contains about 52% copper, and silver at a rate of 200 ounces per ton. 200 ounces of silver per ton is a very high number. In 1875 an ounce of silver was valued at about $1.25, today an ounce is $16.95. The profit depended on how easy it was to remove a ton of ore from the ground and how easy it was to remove the mineral from the ore. He also had mining concerns in Leadville.
Like many successful miners, Voorhies moved to Denver. He was appointed Collector of the Port by President Grover Cleveland in 1885, the year he came to the city. Cleveland was the only U.S. President that served two non-consecutive terms, 1885-1889 and 1893-1897. Cleveland was the President during the 1893 silver crash.
A Collector of the Port was basically a tax collection position. Cleveland was a reform President and was instrumental in changing the position from commission based to salaried based. The Collector of the Port position was known as the “pride plum of Federal patronage”. When future President Chester A. Arthur was the Collector of the Port for New York he made the equivalent of $1 million in today’s dollars, receiving a percentage of imports and recovered fees. Voorhies was on a salary of $1,500 per year.
J H P Voorhies was an incorporator of the Denver County Club when it was still playing at the Overland Course. His fellow founder, Anthony Sweeney, was the agent for numerous fire insurance companies in Denver. Sweeney’s wife, Georgie (Hammond) was rumored to be having an affair with Voorhies. When Sweeney died in 1894 Georgie’s social position dropped a few notches when she wed J H P in 1896. Georgie died in April of 1903. There were no children listed for Georgie under either husband.
In this 1889 garden party, JHP is on the far right, looking at Georgie. Anthony Sweeney, third from left, is looking away from the affair. (photos from the book, History of Denver County Club, Charles C. Bonniwell, 2006)
The Voorhies lived at 1425 Cleveland Place, a stone’s throw from where the Voorhies Memorial will be built after both of their deaths. Cleveland Place was first named Parkinson Street after an early surveyor. The name was changed in 1889 to honor President Grover Cleveland. The streets in this area were rearranged. The triangle shaped block at the intersection of Colfax and Cleveland Place was the Bates Triangle. Bates was a named for Joseph E. Bates. He was born in New York in 1937 and came to Denver via Muskegon River, Michigan in 1860. He was the mayor in 1872-1873. His son, William, born in Black Hawk in 1863, married in 1885 and moved to a new home on the Bates Triangle. This was later the location of the Colburn Automobile Company. The buildings were removed in 1914 and the Bates Triangle was changed into the land used for the Voorhies Memorial. Colfax Avenue was then curved in this area.
Today, Cleveland Place would be the sidewalk in front of the City and County Building, Annex #1. The Annex still has the address of Cleveland Place although it actually located on the curved part of Colfax.
J H P was listed as living at 1751 Glenarm Place in 1894. This house later was later occupied by George Estabrook. It is noted in the 1899 directory he was boarding at the Brown Palace Hotel. At this time he would have still been married to Georgie. In 1900, 1415 Cleveland Place, was listed as his address. According to the 1908 city directory, Voorhies later lived at the Denver Club.
J H P Voorhies belonged to the Denver Country Club and was instrumental in its organization. He was also a Director of the International Trust Company along with names like Governor Alva Adams and John Evans. He was also a sportsman, he was mentioned in an 1887 meeting of the Colorado Game and Fish Protective Association.
The most recognizable legacy of the Voorhies is the Colonnade in Civic Center. J H P Voorhies left his fortune of $115,00-$125,000 to the city to build the memorial. The will was contested by one of his brother, but upheld. The memorial was built. The gateway was designed by the firm of William E. and Arthur A. Fisher. There are Allen True Murals on the Colonnade. The oval pool has sculptures by Robert Garrison, that spray water.
The History of the Denver Country Club, Charles C. Bonniwell, David Fidtjof Halass, 2006
Denver Streets, Phil Goodstein, 1995
Mansions of Denver, James Bretz, 2005
Find a Grave, findagrave.come/memorial/24717590/john-h_p-voorhies
City Directories, DPL, 1908, 1882, 1899, 1904
National Register of Historic Places Inventory nomination form, Civic Center
The proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Colorado Bankers Association, 1915, Colorado Springs
Statistical Abstract of Denver, Charles O. Brantigan, Editor, Nathan Zeschin Associate Editor, 2002
Colorado Director of Mines, by Thomas B. Corbelt, 1879
Whos Who in America Vol8 pg 1415
Denver Landmarks & Historic Districts, by Tom Noel, Nicholas S Wharton
Wiki for Grover Cleveland, Silver values