New Victorian rises on Pikes Peak Ave.
The passing car slowed to about 5 mph, cruised slowly past 1708 W. Pikes Peak Ave., then picked up speed and moved on.
Richard Mee grinned and shook his head. “That happens all day long,” he said. “Sometimes I'm out there working, and they ignore me completely to look at the house. But that's all right. I'm used to it.”
The interest may have something to do with the house itself. Or rather, houses. Seven years ago, the career architect became a local celebrity, in a way, for purchasing one of the Westside's best-known Victorians - a two-story, 102-year-old Queen Anne at 1710 Pikes Peak Ave. that's also famous as Walter Matthau's house in the 1989 movie, “The Incident.” Then, two years ago, Mee and his brother Ron started work on 1708 W. Pikes Peak (the vacant lot just east of 1710), hand-building an historic-style home with even grander dimensions. It has about 4,200 square feet (including a finished basement), compared to the 1710 house, which has 2,131 square feet.
In recent months, the final appearance of 1708 has been taking shape. The exterior is brick with various ornamental touches, and there's a wraparound front porch with six columns, sandstone rock effects and a below-ground-level front patio. Mee said the design evolved to some extent based on items he found in his travels, such as the twisted columns used in the patio.
The interior is highlighted by customized woodwork and other eclectic, historic items Mee ran across (including an elegant door that inspired the trimwork design, stained-glass windows and several chandeliers), all intended to contribute to a Victorian look and feel.
Interviewed this week, Mee said he is still finishing the front yard landscaping - including a pond in front of 1708 and another in front of the neighboring rental cottage. He also owns that residence, which is at the corner of 17th and Pikes Peak, and gave its exterior a touch-up as part of the overall project. Plus, he said, a few “minor, minor” touches are still needed inside the new place. Nonetheless, the work on 1708 is so close to completion that Mee and his partner, Allan Kerr, have already moved in.
As an oh-by-the-way, that means the “Incident” house - originally built from a Sears Catalog design in 1908 - has gone on the market. Mee and Kerr have not had to do much to the residence, except freshen up the interior with paint, Mee said. The list price is $435,000.
Asked about the philosophy of adding a large new Victorian to the Westside, Mee said he was seeking architectural compatibility with 1710 as well as others on the Westside and also to maximize the 7,500-square-foot lot. Only two people may live there now, but a large house will enhance the resale value someday, he said.
Interestingly, he and Kerr had been looking for a vacant lot to build on seven years ago, never intending to buy 1710. “I never really liked Victorians,” the architect said. “I thought they were a lot of foo-foo.” But the seller back then would only part with the lot as a package deal with the existing house. Over time, the experience of living in a Victorian made him start appreciating the historic design, Mee said, which led him to start thinking about creating a Queen Anne on the 1708 lot.
As an architect, he has designed a number of houses. This was the first he was a contractor on. He and his brother Ron, a Denver resident, did all the framing and electrical and subcontracted out most of the remaining work. Several of the tradespeople on the construction - Mee particularly noted custom interior woodworkers Adam Magruder and Tom Hume - “live within a mile of here,” he said.
He declined to say how much everything cost, but noted it was “less than what you'd think because we did it ourselves.”
Not everyone passing by to gawk at the house ignores the owner. A lady came up to Mee recently, just to tell him, “You've made me proud to be a Westsider.” Mee wasn't sure what to make of that, but he said he'd be happy if the project “inspires others” to fix up their properties as well.
Westside Pioneer article