Anderson House 2329 Eliot Street Historical & Architectural Summary

The Anderson House at 2329 Eliot Street sits on the crest of the hill in Jefferson Park, and was described by Ruth Wiberg, author of Rediscovering Northwest Denver, as “a tall house on a tall hill.” The Queen Anne-style home is remarkably intact, and its prominence is further accentuated by its long-time location on a popular street-car line. It is among the most architecturally significant and intact homes in Jefferson Park, which was once a great example of late 19th century middle-class city life, but which has seen a dramatic loss of historic fabric in recent decades.

The 1880s home was the long-time residence of William W. Anderson, a prominent lawyer in Denver. In 1900 Anderson stepped into a story that began with Alfred Packer, but ended with three trials; a Colorado Supreme Court case; grand jury indictments and the conviction of a Denver Post publisher, a judge, and court officials in a case that helped usher in a new era of law and order for Denver. The story starts with Anderson’s association with infamous cannibal Alfred (or Alferd) Packer and most importantly a subsequent, and much publicized, altercation with Denver Post owners and editors, H.H. Tammen and F.G. Bonfils on January 12,1900.

As was well known at time, convicted cannibal Alfred Packer was serving a 40-year sentence in Canon City for events that transpired in 1873 when he led five prospectors into the mountains and was the only one to return. At the time, this was the longest custodial sentence ever handed down in the State of Colorado. Anderson became involved with Packer as part of a scheme to free Packer on a legal technicality. While it is unclear where the idea to free Packer originated, the effort involved Denver Post publishers, F.G. Bonfils and H.H. Tammen, who were also interested in Packer’s case and the media attention a release effort would garner for their paper. Accounts vary on the details of the Anderson, Packer, Tammen, Bonfils relationship in terms of whom approached whom, but all accounts indicate that Anderson visited with Packer in Canon City about an appeal, and that a heated disagreement ensued between Anderson, Tammen and Bonfils. On January 12, 1900, Anderson went to the Denver Post offices to discuss the matter, a debate turned to fisticuffs with Bonfils throwing the first punch, and Anderson shot Bonfils and Tammen in their Denver Post office in front of the columnist known as Polly Pry. Both Bonfils and Tammen survived their wounds, and Anderson was tried three times, but was acquitted on reason of self-defense. During Anderson’s second trial, Bonfils and Tammen colluded with court officials to bribe the jury and were subsequently convicted of jury tampering after a Grand Jury hearing was demanded by the Bar Association and residents.Their highly publicized conviction brought to a close an era in which corruption of Denver’s legal system was rampant, and helped the city transition from rough and rowdy frontier town to a city of laws.

Anderson’s association with the home at 2329 Eliot Street is strong. He lived in the home during the events described above as a renter from 1897 to about 1904, and then purchased the home in 1915 and lived there until his death in 1930. When detailing the shooting and the trial, the Denver Post even published his address with a note that he lived at 2329 Eliot Street with his wife and their three children.

The two story house is an excellent example of Queen Anne style architecture popular in Denver from the 1870s to the 1890s. The predominantly brick home rises from a rusticated stone foundation with a prominent front gable that accentuates an asymmetrical façade with a projecting front porch and decorative details that are picked out in different colors. The front window is arched and surrounded by a decorative hood mold which extends the width of the front façade. This detailing extends beyond the primary façade—the southern facade also features decorative elements on the dormer, bay window, and side entrance. The Queen Anne style was popular when the area was platted in 1871, but due to development pressure, there are few homes characteristic of the style left in this neighborhood.