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Colonnade of Civic Benefactors, #7, G. W. Clayton

George Washington Clayton

G.W. Clayton has had more notoriety from his real estate holdings after his passing than when he was alive. Take heed, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk!  G. W. Clayton’s wealth at the time of his death, in 1899, was between $2 million and $5 million dollars.  In today’s money, to give you and idea of his social status, that would be between $50-$150 million dollars.  Far less than the mega rich mentioned, but a fortune non-the less.  Most of us dream of giving away a fortune, but it is not as easy as we imagine.  Those left behind have a hard time spreading it around, and still stay within the deceased’s wishes.

G.W. Clayton was born in 1833 in Philadelphia. He stayed there until 1855.  He then moved west.  In Leavenworth, Kansas he had a men’s clothing store.  He then co-partnered with Percival G. Lowe and Jerry Kershaw to open a store in the gold fields.  Kershaw provided the money, Lowe provided the teams and wagons to move the goods.  Clayton came to Denver in 1860.  That spring Kershaw sold out to Clayton.  G.W. Clayton got married and had a son.  The son was born in early 1861.  The baby died in October of that year.  Clayton’s wife died in March of 1862.  George never remarried.  George’s brother, William M., joined him in Denver April 2, 1860.  In late 1860 or early 1861 Jerry Kershaw sold his part of the partnership to William.  The Claytons had store on the corner of Larimer and F street (15th street).  The building on Larimer was at first wood frame, then rebuilt as a two story brick building.

1866-cdv-second-clayton-store_1_a669eafbe78da1dd195804430d3adcd3 (2)

In 1882, two years after the Tabor Block was built, at 16th and  Larimer, the Clayton brothers built a similarly beautiful building, the Clayton Building at 15th and Larimer.  It still stands, it is also known as the Granite Building.  M. J. McNamara leased the building with L.H Flanders in 1885 to open the McNamara Department store.  McNamara moved the store to 16th and California.  When he lost it in the Silver Crash of 1893, the Denver Department Store occupied the space.

Clayton 2

The Clayton Block, 15th and Larimer street.

George W. Clayton lived on California street between 14th and 15th in 1864.  The Sisters who established St. Mary’s Academy bought the then “largest dwelling in the territory at the time” from George W. Clayton for $4,000.  It was converted to a nunnery.  In 1885 Clayton’s offices were located at 58 Cheesman Block.  His residence was near millionaires row, at the north east corner of Tremont and 13th.  There was speculation that he or Isaac N. Large was responsible for the Molly Brown house.  Construction of the future Brown home started in 1887.  The Browns bought in 1890 and completed construction in 1892.

The frontier town of Denver tested G. W. Clayton’s moral compass.  Lacking a Presbyterian Church in the gold fields he help organize a church with General Larimer, R. E. Whitsitt, D.C. Collier and three others.  When Clayton was on city counsel he resigned because of a vote on gambling.  A vote came up to legalize “three card monte”.  Clayton quit because the ordinance was “a variance with the laws of good order and morality.”  During the “Indian Wars” when supplies were hard to get, he extended credit so Denver citizens could weather the times.

DSCF3237 (2)

George W. Clayton “lamented the number of lots he had been compelled to take in to settle accounts run by customers”.  Many of these lots he held for years, becoming part of his will.  He, with others like T. S. Hayden, Chas E. Dickenson, H. B. Chamberlin, W. S. Cheesman Geo Tritch and Chas B. Kountze became the towns largest property owners.  Clayton was also on the Board of Directors of the Denver Union Water Company.

George W. Clayton died August 15, 1899 at his desk.  In his will he left instructions to follow the example of the Quaker Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, and leave money to construct a college for boys.  His gift is still being contested in real estate circles.

George W. Clayton owned about 270 acres north east of the center of Denver.  Being in a boom cycle, what is left, about 155 acres in the form of Park Hill Golf Course, is a tasty target for developers.  The land was first the Clayton Farm, then the golf course.  The Clayton College, now the Clayton Early Learning Center sits on about 20, landmarked acres to the south-west of the golf course.

The executors of his will were his brother, William M. Clayton and Mosses Hallett, a Federal District Judge.  William died before George, leaving Hallett to settle the estate.

W.C. Kingsley was Mosses Hallett’s attorney. The Clayton will was contested.  Kingsley connected with Mary Lathrop to work on settling the estate and begin the school for boys Clayton’s money was to finance building.  Lathrop was the third women admitted to the Colorado Bar, graduating DU Law School in 1896 and the first to have a law office, in 1897.  The will, through Lathrop’s work, was upheld in June, 1902.  When she asked Hallet for compensation, she was denied.  With out a clear cut agreement if she was working pro-bono or by the hour she sued.  The case dragged on for five years.  She lost.  Lathrup was the first person to argue a case before the Colorado Supreme Court and in 1917 gained the right to argue cases in front of the U. S. Supreme Court.  She died in 1951.

The George W. Clayton Trust was formed to protect the interests of the school and foundation.  The orphanage opened in 1911 and stayed open until 1957.  At that time the Child League of America declared the school operated in a way typical of the 1890’s and closed.  It transformed into the Clayton Early Childhood Resource Institute.

The Early Learning Center estimates it needs to generate $1,000,000 a year to operate.  They received $700,000 a year from the operation of Park Hill Golf Course.  The revenue of the Learning Center trust is $14,621,389 per year.  Expenses include the campus and six employees of the trust.  To balance the books they hoped to sell part of the golf course property to West Side Investments for development.  West Side was to purchase 155 acres for $24 million.  This agreement is now being reviewed by the City and interested parties.

This is not the first time part of the trust’s land was sold off.  About seven acres was sold to RTD for the light rail line to the north of the golf course.  George W. Clayton left more than just money and property.  His legacy was a jumble of legal problems and contested transactions.  He thought that he was leaving a way to help others, not a way for others to help themselves.

The George W. Clayton Trust was formed to protect the interests of the school and foundation.  The orphanage opened in 1911 and stayed open until 1957.  At that time the Child League of America declared the school operated in a way typical of the 1890’s and closed.  It transformed into the Clayton Early Childhood Resource Institute. 

 

The Early Learning Center estimates it needs to generate $1,000,000 a year to operate.  They received $700,000 a year from the operation of Park Hill Golf Course.  The revenue of the Learning Center trust is $14,621,389 per year.  Expenses include the campus and six employees of the trust.  To balance the books they hoped to sell part of the golf course property to West Side Investments for development.  West Side was to purchase 155 acres for $24 million.  This agreement is now being reviewed by the City and interested parties.

This is not the first time part of the trust’s land was sold off.  About seven acres was sold to RTD for the light rail line to the north of the golf course.  George W. Clayton left more than just money and property.  His legacy was a jumble of legal problems and contested transactions.  He thought that he was leaving a way to help others, not a way for others to help themselves.

Clayton 4

A tell tale sign at the Early Learning Center

Clayton 5

 

References:

Claytonearlylearning:org/about-clayton/our-history.html

George W. Clayton, written for the Denver Post by Tom Noel, published 12/19/2014 at 10:27am, updated April 25, 2016 11:32

HistoryColorado.org/location/George-w-clayton-trust-college

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 5DV.310

Westword.com/new/history-of-clayton-campus-and-why-it-is-selling-park-hill-golf-club-11394892, by Sara Fleming, July 1, 2019 5:04am

Buzzfile.com/business/George-w.-clwayton-trust-303-355-4411

Cobizmag.com/companies/former-park-hill-golf-course-property-sells-for-24-million/

Formersaintdenver.com/our-story/

Historycolo.org-heritagemagizine sept-oct 2014

WIKI, St. Mary’s Academy History

History of Denver, with outlines of the Earlier History of the Rocky Mountain Country, Edited for the Denver Times, Jerome C. Smiley, pg 961

History of the City of Denver from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Times, Junius E. Wharton, pg 89

Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1884-5, Vol 1, R.L.Polk & Co. and A.C. Danser

City Directory, 1908, pg 316

The City of Denver, Vol1 No 15,  5/17/1913, pg 2

History of Congress Park Neighborhood, congressparkneighbor.org/history-of-congress-park-neighborhood/

Kansas Collection: Kansas Historical Quarterlies, Gold Fever in Kansas Territory: Migration to the Pike’s Peak Gold Fields, 1858-1860 by Calvin W. Grower Spring, 1973 (Vol 39, No.1) pg 58-74 transcribed by Christopher H. Wynkoop

1885 City Directory,

East Corridor Final Environmental impact statement, RTD.-fasttracks.com

Real Pioneers of Colorado by Maria Davies McGrath, Vol1, 1934

National Register of Historic Places Program, Molly Brown House, Denver Co, nps.gov/nr/feather/highlight/mollybrown.html

City of Denver and State of Colorado, Andrew Morrison, 1890

History of Denver, with Outlines of the Earlier History of Rocky Mountain Country, Jerome C. Smiley, pg 51, 761

 

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2019 by in Larimer Street.
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