The Molly Brown House Museum stands as an enduring symbol of the Victorian era and the city of Denver. In the 1880s the lucky few who made millions in the mountains, the railroads, or trade moved to the prestigious Capitol Hill neighborhood. Margaret and J.J.’s house at 1340 Pennsylvania Avenue was built in 1889 for Isaac and Mary Large, who made their fortune in silver mining. They commissioned the well-known architect William Lang to design the home. Lang combined the styles of Classic Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, and refined neoclassical to create a unique and eclectic home. Lang used rhyolite stone on the exterior to create a rugged façade; he then complimented this ruggedness with smooth red sandstone. Lang also incorporated stained glass windows, ornamental wood panels and curved brackets to create a lavish appearance. The house contained all the modern technology of the day including electricity, indoor plumbing, steam heat and telephone lines.
Shortly after the completion of the house, the Sherman Silver Act was repealed and the Larges became victims of the silver crash that followed. On April 3, 1894 the Larges sold their home to James Joseph “J.J.” Brown. The Browns made changes to the house by adding a retaining wall to the front porch and enclosing the back porch.
In 1898, J.J. transferred the titled of the house into Margaret’s name. Margaret owned the house until her death in 1932. When Margaret was traveling about she would often rent the house to various wealthy families. In 1902, while the Browns were on a world trip, the home became the Governor’s mansion for Governor James Orman and his family. Margaret continued to rent the house until the declining neighborhood and the Great Depression forced her to turn the home into a boarding house under the supervision of her housekeeper, Ella Grable. Upon Margaret's death in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, the house was sold. Subsequent owners altered the house dramatically, creating twelve separate spaces for roomers.
In 1958, Art Leisenring purchased the house and ran a gentlemen's boarding house. In 1960 Leisenring leased the house to the city, and it was utilized as a home for wayward girls. Leisenring knew of Margaret "Molly" Brown as she was being immortalized on stage and screen in the "Unsinkable Molly Brown."
During the 1960s, Denver was in the process of undergoing "urban renewal," and bulldozers demolished many of the finest buildings to make room for high-rise apartments and parking lots. Concerned about what he was seeing happen in the neighborhood, Art Leisenring and a group of other concerned citizens appealed to the then-governor's wife, Ann Love, for help. On December 11, 1970, the group incorporated to form Historic Denver, Inc. and made a grass roots effort to save the Molly Brown House from demolition. Through massive media appeals and other fund raising efforts, Historic Denver, Inc.
was able to purchase the house and begin restoration. Through microscopic paint analysis, architectural research, and studying original house photographs from 1910 the house was finally restored to its original splendor.