John T. Mason
The eighth name on the Colonnade of Civic Benefactors at the Greek Theater in Civic Center is John Thomas Mason. John T. Mason (2/7/1853-12/6/1938) was born in Lincolnshire, England. He was interested in entomology and was an amateur lepidopterist. This means he collected butterflies and months. He was collecting by age 12 and had a fine collection by age 15. When some of his classmates went to Australia he asked if they could send specimens from down under. He added these to his collection.
In 1872 he came to the U.S. by way of New York, Mississippi and then Texas. In Galveston he met and married his first wife, Francis Schaffter. He went into the department store business from 1880 to 1892. He came to Denver in 1895. Francis suffered from tuberculosis. In the same year he was sent to Mexico by the US Government to collect butterfly specimens. He also purchased the house at 1572 Race, a William Lang designed house, we now call Castle Marne.
John T. Mason’s entomology collection, Edwin Carter’s Colorado fauna collection and John F. Champion’s mineral specimens were the basis of Denver’s Museum of Natural History, now named the Museum of Nature and Science. He was the museums first curator. John T. Mason used the third floor ballroom of the house at 1572 Race to display his collection of butterflies and months. He eventually donated his collection of 20,000 specimens to the Natural History Museum.
Francis died in 1911. A year later John T. Mason married the daughter of another of the museum’s founders, Henry M. Porter. Dora Porter Mason was 22 years younger than John T. Mason. Henry M. Porter established Porter Hospital in Denver.
As a wedding gift John T. Mason gave Dora the Isabella Jewels. The jewels previously were purchased by Horace Tabor for Baby Doe Tabor. John T. Mason bought the 9 carrot white Isabella diamond with five other jewels at auction for $8,007 in 1907. It was valued at three to six times that amount.
In 1918 John T. Mason sold the house at 1472 Race. He moved to California and died there in 1928. Dora Porter Mason moved back to Colorado after his death and continued the support of the museum and Colorado Women’s College. Dora died in 1940.
The Castle Marne Bed & Breakfast, 1572 Race Street, now owned by Jim Peiker
Historic Colorado Mansions & Castles, Linda Wommack, 2014
Mansions of Denver: The Vintage Years 1870-1938, James Bretz, 2005