Daniels Park Wellhouse gets a new roof
By Celeste McNeil; courtesy photos
Throughout the month of October, HistoriCorps, a nonprofit that preserves historic structures on public lands has been working to reroof the Daniels Park Wellhouse, in addition to repairing the structure’s siding and rehabilitating its windows. Daniels Park is a Denver Mountain Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is rich with local history.
Florence Martin, a prominent Denver socialite and cultural influencer, donated a portion of her summer ranch for Daniels Park in honor of her lifelong friends, Major William Cooke Daniels (the heir to the Daniels & Fisher Department Store in Denver) and his wife Cicely Banner Daniels.
Martin, born to wealthy and influential parents in Sydney, Australia on Christmas Day 1867, met American, Major William Cooke Daniels and his English fiancée Cicely Banner on their southern travels in 1905. Banner lived with Martin for 16 months while Daniels explored New Guinea. Martin then lived and traveled with the Daniels after their 1907 marriage until the outbreak of World War I.
After the 1918 unexpected death of Daniels following his service in the Spanish American War and Mrs. Daniels passing from pneumonia later that year, Martin became the beneficiary of three-quarters of the Daniels’ estate, including some ownership in the Daniels & Fisher Department Store.
In 1919, Martin returned to Denver and purchased a ranch located on Riley Hill and Wildcat Point, the site of current-day Daniels Park. On the 2,400-acre property she built a summer home – Valnino which included an octagonal gazebo and many ranch buildings including several barns, a silo, workshop, outhouse, chicken coops, bunkhouse, residential structures and water storage facilities. In 1920, she donated nearly 38 acres to the Denver Mountain Parks.
Denver Mountain Parks is a unique park system, consisting of two dozen developed parks and another two dozen additional undeveloped open space and wildlife habitat lands, all outside of the city and county of Denver. The Colorado Historical Society stated, the creation of these unified parks “required a U.S. Senate bill, state resolution and a city charter amendment.” Beginning in 1912, Denver Mountain Parks “established the concept of regional open space planning in Colorado, expanded the normal vision of urban park and parkways, and provided easy access to scenic and recreational mountain resources for the entire Denver population.”
After the land donation, Martin continued to split her time between Martin Ranch and her homes in Denver and London. One year, she housed a one-room schoolhouse in the basement of Valnino for the children of her servants and ranch workers and for other families in the area.
After Valnino was destroyed by fire in 1936, Martin donated more than 900 acres in 1937. Her total donations equaled 1,000 acres, with a stipulation that the park be named after her lifelong friends, Major William Cooke and Cicely Daniels. In 1995, Daniels Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The second donation included the remaining ranch buildings. The silo, barn and wellhouse are still standing today.
HistoriCorps is a local nonprofit with projects across the U.S. Started in Denver in 2009 as a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Preservation Inc., the mission is to save historic structures on public lands. The wellhouse project is the first in Daniels Park for HistoriCorps. For more information, visit historicorps.org