In 1869, when the Rocky Mountain region was still a distant empire to the people back in the states, Charles Boettcher, a new arrival from his native Germany, made his way to the frontier village of Cheyenne.
Opening a small hardware store, he sold nails and bolts over a counter to frontier ranchers long before the railroad came to the West. After three years in Cheyenne, Boettcher moved his business down to Greeley, Fort Collins and finally to Boulder, before engaging in the mining, banking and mercantile business at Leadville in 1879, when the town was in its silver heyday.
As Denver began its unprecedented growth, and Leadville became Colorado's second city, young Boettcher again moved...to Denver.
Before entering the sugar industry, Charles had his fling at the cattle industry and Denver real estate. He invested large amounts in local property and in ranch properties in North Park. He wondered why he had to ship his cattle to distant points and determined that Denver should be a packing center. The large packing plant he built at the stockyards became the property of Swift & Co.
In 1900, he took a pleasure trip to Germany. He made it a point to meet experts in the raising of sugar beets, listened carefully to what they had to say and then visited their factories, familiarizing himself with machinery and methods of manufacturing.
If Germany could raise sugar beets and produce cement, another industry he was thinking of, why not Colorado? He carried back with him a large quantity of seed. This was planted in Northern Colorado and produced beets of high sugar content. He allied with him leading business talent of the West and erected Colorado's first sugar mill at Loveland. Other mills soon followed and the Great Western Sugar Company was organized, with him as president.
While the Loveland factory was under construction, Boettcher noticed that the cement being used was produced in Germany. So the first cement factory in the West opened near Canon City, The Ideal Cement Company, founded in 1899, was the first establishment between the Mississippi and the Pacific of its kind. From a plant capacity of 600 barrels a day, it grew to 30,000 barrels a day. Since the first little plant began operating, two other cement factories have been built, two in Montana, two in Oklahoma and one each in Nebraska and Utah, all controlled by the Ideal Cement Company.
The Ideal cement product has been used in all Boettcher's projects, construction and buildings from here to Los Angeles. It was depended upon for the construction of the world's highest bridge and many other famous projects.
Vast though his enterprises may be, this man of exceptional executive ability and the power to make dreams come true, was very human, very approachable, genial and a bit wistful, as well as very likeable. Asked what he liked most to do, Boettcher replied simply that he likes to sell hardware.
"Hardware is one of the best businesses there is," he said. "I like that line. I was brought up in it. Axes and hammers don't go out of style like so many other things."
At his desk early in the morning and all afternoon, attending to many details, clear in decisions and happy in his work, he told people, "I like to work. I've worked all my life and I suppose I'll keep on working as long as I can raise a hand."
The courage of this great constructionist and benefactor is felt in his works as he says: "Colorado has the best outlook of any state I know. She is rich in resources and when conditions improve, as they are beginning to, Colorado will be among the country's leaders. I have every confidence in the future of Colorado."
Besides the enterprises mentioned above, Boettcher was the president of many of Denver's leading enterprises and a member of all the city's important civic organizations and progressive clubs.
Charles Boettcher, product of the frontier West, is truly one of Denver's great pioneers, a man who will be remembered in history and traditions of the western empire.
Biographical Sketch of Charles Boettcher's Life
1852 Born in Kolleda, Germany.
1862 Begins education at "Gymnasium" (Lower University).
1869 Travels to visit brother in Cheyenne, Wyo.
1871 Becomes partner in brother's hardware business in Greeley and Fort Collins.
1874 Marries Fannie Augusta Cowan of Kansas, moves to Boulder, expands business, beginning of C. Boettcher and Company.
1875 First house built in Boulder for $1,500, birth of son Claude.
1878 Business expanded to Leadville.
1880 Acquires mining properties in Leadville, growth of Leadville investments.
1890 Builds Mansion at 1201 Grant Street, Denver for $26,000, birth of daughter Ruth Augusta.
1900 Retires but this lasts only six months.
1901 Organizes Great Western Sugar Company and Portland Cement Company (later named Ideal Cement).
1915 Becomes President of Denver and Salt Lake Railroad.
1917 Builds summer home and hunting lodge on Lookout Mountain.
1920 Separates from Fannie, moves to Brown Palace Hotel.
1922 Becomes joint owner of Brown Palace Hotel.
1929 Charline Humphries born, granddaughter to Charles.
1933 Charles' grandson, Charles Boettcher II, kidnaped, $50,000 paid for ransom.
1937 Boettcher Foundation established for charitable activities.
1940 Boettcher School for Crippled Children opened.
1948 Charles dies at age 96.
Charline Humphreys Breeden 1929-1972
The citizens of Jefferson County are in debt to this generous woman, who donated the Boettcher Mansion and 110 acres in 1970 for the public to enjoy.
The granddaughter of Charles Boettcher, Charline, was born in Denver on March 26, 1929, the daughter of A.E. Humphreys and Ruth Boettcher. She grew up at 1022 Humboldt St., attending Graland Country Day, Kent School and later Ogonitz in Philadelphia.
In 1955, Charline married Vic Breeden of San Francisco. Their three children are Holly, Vic III and Spicer. The family lived in this mansion from 1958 to 1971. Charline passed away August 10,1972.