Looking back: Make-believe and castles

Castle Marne in Denver
Castle Marne in Denver

This summer on a trip to Denver with my daughter, I had the chance to recall a magical make-believe time from my childhood.

Most of the children of the 1930s Great Depression era didn’t have much in the way of entertainment. This was a time long before television. Although, a few families had radios, many did not. As a small child, I found pleasure in a simple way. With only a box of Crayola’s, a pencil, paper and scissors, I would sit at the kitchen table in the evenings designing clothes for my paper dolls. Some of those clothes were fit for royalty and so in my play world, my paper people often lived in castles.

I suppose you could say our family was poor, but then we were deep in a world depression, and just about everyone around us was cash poor. On a 10-acre chicken farm on old Manor Way in pre-Lynnwood’s Alderwood Manor we had no close neighbors, thus most of the time my brothers and I did find our own entertainment. Mine was imagining, and often my imagination featured a world of elegant castles — far different from our rustic country home amid the stumps and snags left by the logging companies a few years before.

You will find that this article is sort of a “what I did during my summer vacation” story. In Denver, Colorado, for two days this summer, I had the opportunity to actually live in a castle. It may have been a bed and breakfast hostelry, but to me Castle Marne was perfectly named.

Castle Marne corner
Castle Marne corner

Far different from the everyday hotels or motels where my daughter Marilyn and I usually stay during our travels, Castle Marne was a welcome novelty. Once we entered the door at Castle Marne, we stepped into a Victorian world. There was no elevator, and no television. Soon noticeable was one of the outstanding beauties of the castle; a seven-foot diameter stained glass window at the landing of the staircase between the first and second floors. Called “the Peacock Window,” it is true artistry and by far the most outstanding of the castle’s several stained glass windows.

Each of the nine rooms for guests is designed with a different décor. Mine was one with a bed so high; steps had to be climbed.

Castle Marne was built in 1889 on Denver’s Capitol Hill, once home to the early-day barons of industry. The mansion has seen many changes since then; even once used as a processing center for parolees. Eventually the building succumbed to neglect, became empty and vandalized.

In 1989, Jim and Diane Peiker bought the stone building and with a lot of hard work restored it to its original glory. The Peiker family named the mansion, Castle Marne, and they have operated it as a bed and breakfast inn for 23 years.

Castle Marne Bed and Breakfast is a family enterprise; everyone takes part in welcoming guests. We had the opportunity to meet the entire family. However, the main inn keeper is Melissa, the daughter of Jim and Diane. Friendly and warm, she pampers the guests with tea and treats in the afternoon and at bedtime, a freshly baked cookie and a cup of sleepy-time tea.

Castle Marne breakfast
Castle Marne breakfast

As you can imagine, in this elegant storybook setting, you are served a gourmet breakfast. Once the guests are seated and the food individually served, you will find it looks like a work of art — and it tastes as good as it looks.

Yes, I can definitely recommend Castle Marne as a place to stay if you are in Denver. Elegance, friendly people, good food and a peaceful night’s sleep in a Victorian castle; what more can you want. Castle Marne, considered Denver’s most recognized stone castle, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

For me, after 80 years, a little girl’s make-believe world of sleeping in a castle became a reality.

– By Betty Lou Gaeng

A long-time resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum. Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.

Castle Marne breakfast setting
Castle Marne breakfast setting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Excellent article, Betty. Your elegant writing style coupled with descriptive details and photos bring Castle Marne alive! This sounds like a gem waiting to be discovered. I am sure everyone will add Castle Marne to their list of amazing places to visit!

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