The Caretaker’s Cottage in Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, once part of the Mary “May” Bonfils Stanton estate, now features an exhibition and a research room where volunteers help community members and researchers explore local history.
The cottage, one of five original structures in the park that were not moved to the location, 801 S. Yarrow St., was renovated inside and out over the past 10 years and the historical research room was introduced inside the 1,235-square-foot cottage in September, said Katy Lewis, museum curator at Heritage Lakewood.
“The Caretaker’s Cottage will once again serve in its caretaking capacity, this time protecting and preserving the history of Lakewood,” Lewis said. “It’s a historic structure, placing the research room here gives you a sense of local history while you are doing research.”
The research room, staffed by volunteers, is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays (but is closed for the holidays, Dec. 21 and 28). Use of the room and its materials, including document archives and photographs, is free. Appointments can be made; call 303-987-7879 to use the room outside the Tuesday time frame. Online research can be done at lakewood.pastperfectonline.com.
Building upgrades included electrical work, foundation repairs, roofing, siding, exterior paint, interior drywall replacement and landscaping. The cottage has six rooms and a garage.
History Colorado’s State Historical Fund awarded the city of Lakewood a $200,000 grant for the exterior work in 2014 and $200,000 for the interior work in 2017, Lewis said. Lakewood matched those fund amounts as a requirement of the grant. Over 10 years about $1 million has been spent on cottage projects.
At the time of her death in 1962, Bonfils Stanton owned about 750 acres, mostly farm land, south of West Alameda Avenue and east and west of Wadsworth Boulevard. The parcel included a palace-like, 20-room mansion known as Belmar — a truncated combination of Bonfils Stanton’s mother’s first name, Belle, and her name, Mary.
In the 1960s and into the 1970s the property began its journey into the properties we know today — the Lakewood municipal center and surrounding retail, Belmar (previously Villa Italia), and the roughly 100-acre Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park. Bonfils Stanton’s mansion was demolished in 1971, its footprint is now the Irongate Executive Plaza, an office park. The wrought iron and stone gate that marked the entry to the mansion property still stands.
Built in 1910, the cottage was originally owned by a farmer who ordered it through a magazine and built it “piece-by-piece on the property,” according to city historical records. The house became a caretaker’s residence in the 1930s as part of the Belmar estate owned by Bonfils Stanton. Before introducing the research room, the cottage was used as a museum office and storage space since 1976.
“The caretaker cottage, which was among the original buildings on the May Bonfils Stanton Estate, is now among the few left,” said Tom Noel, a Colorado historian. “The Caretakers Cottage is part of the history of Belmar and Lakewood. May Bonfils Stanton would have stepped foot in the cottage at one time or another.”
Noel, like Lewis, sees symmetry in the research room landing in the Caretaker’s Cottage.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Noel said.
Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park is a history park, museum and festival experience that celebrates the local community, according to the city. It’s home to 15 historic buildings, more than 40,000 artifacts, rotating and permanent exhibits, a festival area and an outdoor amphitheater.
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