A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a college friend who lives in Boulder with her husband and their adorable son.  Before I headed back to Denver, I had some time to wander around the city.  Much of the building stock in Boulder dates to the late twentieth century, but there are several interesting historic buildings downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods.

This small sandstone structure was one of the first that caught my eye.  The Kenneth McDonald Building, at 1039 Pearl Street, houses The Kitchen restaurant.


The base of the building is cast iron, but the second floor and cornice are a lovely red-orange sandstone that has delicately carved ornament.  The top of the building has the name Kenneth McDonald carved into a frieze flanked by two wreaths surrounding the numbers 18 and 99.


Although the façade suggests that the building was erected in 1899 by Kenneth McDonald, the Kenneth McDonald Building is actually an earlier structure.  According to the City Planning office, the building appears on the 1883 Sanborn map of Boulder – the city’s earliest detailed map of buildings – and was owned by Anthony Arnett.  It was probably erected in about 1880, or a few years earlier.  Arnett was an early settler of Boulder.  He came west during the California Gold Rush, but settled in Colorado in the late 1850s when he realized he could make money investing in mines and ranching.  Arnett later purchased and developed real estate in the Boulder area.  In the mid-1870s, he built the Arnett Block (which later became the Arnett Hotel) at 1025 Pearl Street just to the west of the Kenneth McDonald Building.  In 1899, the building at 1039 Pearl Street was purchased by Kenneth McDonald.  McDonald was a miner who opened a saloon on the ground floor, and had the existing building refaced with red sandstone.

Over the past 115 years, the sandstone has fallen into disrepair.  Dark carbon deposits have formed on the bottom of the cornice, and erosion is typical at the cornice and parapet levels.  Open joints also allow water to travel deeper into the masonry.


But much of the carving is still as crisp as it was the day it was erected.  The crisp details of the foliage on the impost block, below, looks as though the carver recently put down his tools.  The carved stone behind the foliage is also crisply textured, while the egg-and-dart moldings surrounding the arched windows have had almost no erosion.  The durability of the stone, combined with Boulder’s arid weather, have allowed this building to outlast many of its owners.  Hopefully with a little bit of repair work, the building will outlast the current owners, too.


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