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Cody Home hitting market

By Melissa Olson

Special to InsideRealEstateNews.com

Highlights:

  • The home where Buffalo Bill Cody died is on the market for the first time in 31 years.
  • The listing price is expected to be $575,000.
  • Read the article to discover the incredible effort the owners put into restoring the Cody Home. 

Gary Ice and Helen Jewel saved the historic Cody Home in Denver from the wrecking ball more than 30 years ago.

Melissa Ollson

Melissa Ollson

After lovingly restoring the home where William “Buffalo Bill” Cody died almost a century ago, they are putting the house at 2932 Lafayette St. on the market.

A portrait of the man himself in the Cody Home.

A portrait of the man himself in the Cody Home.

The 2,492-square-foot house is expected to be listed for $575,000. Sue Perrault of LIVE Urban Real Estate will list it.

The Cody House was constructed 1892 and was home to May Cody Branford Decker, sister of Buffalo Bill.

“And now the last of the Great Scouts has crossed the Great Divide,” Zane Grey, author of popular Westerns as Riders of the Purple Sage, wrote after Buffalo Bill died.

In addition to passing away in his sister’s home, Buffalo Bill had a long history in Denver.

Grey noted that the last performance of Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West” show took place in Denver about 1913.  Following that show, Buffalo Bill lost much of his considerable fortune and was loaded with debt.

He moved to a ranch in Cody, Wyoming.

“Nearly seventy years old, ill and broken, and almost penniless, he faced a new and strange trail. All his personal property had gone in the break-up of his “Wild West” show,” Grey wrote.

In 1917, Buffalo Bill returned to Denver, with plans of launching another Wild West show.

This home where Buffalo Bill died 96 years ago will be on Saturday's race course.

This home where Buffalo Bill died 96 years ago will be on Saturday’s race course.

It was not to be.

“But there he broke down and went to the home of his youngest sister, Mrs. Mary Cody Decker,” according to Grey. “After a few weeks of slowly failing strength he died on January 10, 1917. It is the opinion of his close friends that his failing health and death were due to a broken heart.”

Helen and Gary lovingly restored the Cody Home and are now selling it.

Helen Jewel and Gary Ice lovingly restored the Cody Home and are now selling it.

Even 97 years after his death, and burial on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Buffalo Bill’s name has attracted visitors to the Cody House from around the globe.

A quick look through Gary and Helen’s guest book reveals decades of friends and curiosity seekers who have toured their home, attended one of the many parties they’ve hosted, or stayed as guests.

Museum curators, documentary film crews, and journalists researching the life and times of Buffalo Bill have come calling.

Cody House Details

A lot of work went into re-creating the moldings in the Cody Home.

Gary and Helen purchased the Cody House in 1982 with Robert Stefanski and his wife, Rebecca.  Gary and Helen later bought out their friend’s interst in the home.

The home is in Whittier, Denver’s second oldest neighborhood. It is recognized by Historic Denver Inc. as a landmark.

Before Gary and Helen stepped in, the condition of the house was a disgrace. It had been vacant for years.  It was on the verge of being condemned and razed by the city when they bought it.

“We didn’t choose the house, it chose us,” Gary said. “This restoration has been a real labor of love.”

Most of the Victorians in Whittier and other neighborhoods had been turned into rental units after World War II.

Fireplace in the Cody Home.

Fireplace in the Cody Home.

The homes became run down, most of the original woodwork was either removed or had been painted multiple times and prior years of renovations had erased the Victorian interior details.

Recent grads when they moved to Denver, Gary and Helen took on this project with the Stefanskis with no prior restoration experience.  Gary and Helen are federal workers, who plan to retire, spending their time traveling and volunteering. They both are ski instructors at Winter Park, for example.

“After buying the house, we developed a small group of like-minded friends who were revitalizing homes in other areas of the city,” said Helen.  “This was a fairly new movement for Denver in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. We’d meet for breakfast and compare notes on our projects.  It was a new community for us in many ways.”

An example of the care that went into the renovation of the Cody Home.

An example of the care that went into the renovation of the Cody Home.

Using some of the original woodwork from the third story, they were able to re-create the hand grained finishes throughout the home.

“We must have striped about 16 layers of paint from some of the pieces we found from a third floor closet,” Helen recalled.

Many of the interior design features of the home simply could not be found locally.

When reclaimed items were not available, Gary and Helen used their resourcefulness to create molds for the ceiling medallions and cornices. They even opened their own mill shop to produce moldings authentic to the period

“We were learning along the way,” Helen said.  “We found period and reclaimed pieces from historic buildings like the Brown Palace and salvage yards.  We wanted to stay true to the era and to the spirit of our home.”

Wall coverings were imported from England for wainscoting in the foyer and along the stairway at the front of the home as well as a hand-painted frieze in the dining room.

“We were able find the same companies who produced these materials in the 1800’s.  They were still in business when we were completing our restorations over a hundred years later,” recalled Gary.

When asked about the next owners for the Cody House, Gary and Helen agree that this property will attract buyers who will appreciate the history and originality of this home.

There’s a beauty here you can’t find in today’s mass produced, high volume neighborhoods,” Gary said.  “This is a rare find.”  And, as with any historic building, there will always be things to do.”

The Cody House will be one of the main attractions during the “Race to Your Next Place” event produced by LIVE Urban Real Estate on Saturday, May 18.  Participants will be able to tour this home as well as earn points that will be accrued towards winning the $10,000 grand prize. Perrault, the listing broker, will be on site during the event to answer questions about this home.

For a snapshot of the Whittier neighborhood, please visit this 8z Real Estate link.

Melissa Olson has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and public relations, spanning a number of industries.  As the marketing director for the largest multiple listing service (MLS) in Colorado, she produced monthly housing reports and analyses for metro Denver over the past eight years. She can be reached at olsonmelissa@comcast.net or 303-819-6153

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at  JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.