From the National Register of Historic Places to the computer screens of bridesmaids looking for the perfect place for a bachelorette party, the latest chapter of Denver’s historic Curry-Chucovich House is playing out on Airbnb.
Two stories of brick and ornately carved red stone rising from a sea of asphalt, the Curry-Chucovich row home has stood at 1439 Court Place since 1888. It’s housed Denver dignitaries, gamblers, lawyers and, since January, dozens of visitors looking for great accommodations in the middle of downtown Denver. Just how many are drawn in by the fact that it’s a designated city landmark is unclear.
The 130-year-old building has five bedrooms — with seven beds — and one-and-a-half bathrooms, and can accommodate 12 people, according to its listing on the popular Airbnb short-term rental website. It rents for $358 a night plus fees and taxes.
For proprietor Tom Schirmer, morphing the historic house from legal and professional offices to an Airbnb rental last January was a means to generate more income. But more than that, he said, it’s an opportunity to share vacation-length pieces of a local history that he’s gotten to know well over the last few years.
“It never really made any money as an office,” said Schirmer, an electrical engineer who kept his own desk on the ground floor until late last year. “We wanted to turn it into something else so people could enjoy it like we have.”
James Curry, a wealthy Denver resident who ran rock quarries in Douglas County, commissioned the home’s construction in 1887, according to research outlined in the historic registry nomination form filed in 1978. Stone from Curry’s quarries was used in the house, as well as in other Denver landmarks, including Trinity United Methodist Church and the Kittredge Building on the 16th Street Mall.
After Curry died, his wife lost the house through debt. It ended up in the hands of Vasco Chucovich, a Yugoslavian immigrant and gambler of some repute. Legend has it Chucovich ran illegal gambling and drinking establishments and skirted the law by donating to local politicians like Denver Mayor Robert Speer.
“Chucovich never lived here. I think it was a safe house. He kept his girlfriend here,” Schrimer said. “We always tell the kids she haunts the upstairs.”
After Chucovich died in 1933, the history gets a bit hazy. Schirmer theorized the gambler didn’t leave a will and the home was tied up in probate court for an extended period. He believes that may have been what spared the house from the wrecking ball when so many other structures around it came down in the 1950s and ’60s.
Whatever the case, the house ended up as the law offices of William Myrich and Norton Fichey, who got it placed on the national registry.
Later, attorney Walter Gerash took over the space. He was the owner that got the house designated a protected city landmark in 1982, said Annie Levinsky, executive director of Historic Denver. Gerash, who successfully defended James King, a suspect in the notorious Father’s Day Massacre bank robbery in 1991, retired in 2010 and sold the building to the trust that owns it today for $750,000.
Schirmer holds a long-term lease on the property, and he and his property manager, Sam Blumenthal, keep proceeds from the rentals. Aside from putting in the home’s first shower and adding TVs in the five bedrooms, he said he didn’t do much to get it Airbnb-ready. It’s got many original features, including a whale-oil chandelier that has been converted to electricity.
“It been busier than we thought. It’s been booked every weekend,” Schirmer said. “It’s such a unique thing that it was protected. It’s something really exciting for people to be able to come and do.”
Airbnb to take over Denver lodging tax collections from hosts starting April 1
James King, key figure in mystery of Denver Father’s Day Massacre, dies
Larimer Square “two towers” redevelopment proposal on hold as group meets to discuss historic block’s future
Schirmer has hung a sign out front calling it Denver’s oldest residence. But that’s not accurate, according to Levinsky. That honor belongs to the Four Mile House near Cherry Creek. But the Curry-Chucovich House is the oldest in downtown Denver, Levinsky said. It is older than the Historic Denver-owned Molly Brown House, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, by a year.
“I think it’s an important part of our city’s fabric,” Levinsky said. “It is one of the true townhouses we have in Denver. A lot of those weren’t built, or a lot of them that were, were demolished.”
Levinsky said this isn’t the only 19th century home she’s heard of being used as a short-term rental. Many old homes have apartments built in or carriage houses the have appeared on Airbnb and other rental websites.
“It’s great when historic homes are used as intended, but we just want to see them used,” she said. “It’s when they’re not in use that they fall into disrepair.”