Perched on a rocky ledge in a canyon near Lyons, this tiny cottage was once the original Hoverhome before the Hover family built their mansion in Longmont.

By Lisa Marshall

Photos by WEINRAUCHPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

On a rocky, tree-laden hill-side above the tumbling waters of the North St. Vrain River, a deeply private artist is inconspicuously preserving one of Boulder County’s little-known historic treasures.

The original Hoverhome was built in 1902 to accommodate the Hover family until the Longmont mansion was built. Photo courtesy of St. Vrain Historical Society.
The original Hoverhome was built in 1902 to accommodate the Hover family until the Longmont mansion was built. Photo courtesy of St. Vrain Historical Society.
“I was just driving around looking for someplace to live and there it was—sitting empty, and unlocked,” she recalls of the day in 1972 when she first set eyes on the original home of famed Longmont philanthropists and civic leaders Charles, Katherine and Beatrice Hover. “Even completely empty it had an intrinsic beauty about it. I immediately felt like I was where I belonged.”The artist, who asked to remain anonymous, bought the house, and the more she learned about its original owners the more she began to suspect her discovery was more than just chance. She is from Wisconsin; so was Charles. She is deeply interested in the arts; so was Katherine. She is a passionate advocate for the blind and elderly; so was “Bea.” And she, like all the Hovers, is an avid gardener and arborist.

The current homeowner loves to garden—something she has in common with the Hovers—and designed several garden nooks on the property.
The current homeowner loves to garden—something she has in common with the Hovers—and designed several garden nooks on the property.

Forty years later, as she leads a visitor through the century-old cottage that seems to resonate with both her aesthetic and that of the kindred spirits who came before her, she still can’t help but marvel at the coincidences: “Is there anything in the design of a house that connects people?” she wonders aloud.

The 1,200-square-foot Hover cottage was built in 1902, roughly 12 miles east of where it now sits, when Denver pharmacist Charles Lewis Hover opted to leave city life for a 160-acre farmstead west of Longmont. He constructed the elegant bungalow to serve as a temporary home while he built his 6,000-square-foot Tudor mansion.

But it would be more than a decade before water and power lines would be extended to his farmland and the state-of-the-art “Hoverhome” could be completed. In 1907, Charles and wife Katherine adopted 9-year-old Beatrice. Soon afterward, the tight space and lack of water, electricity and heat inside the cottage began to wear on the family.

“They spent one winter in the cottage and Mrs. Hover said ‘I can’t do it anymore,’” explains Luella Lindquist, events coordinator for the St. Vrain Historical Society, which now owns the Historic Hoverhome in Longmont and hosts events there.

For the next seven years the family would spend winters in a rented home in downtown Longmont, and return to the bucolic Hover cottage in summer. On chilly summer nights they’d build a fire in the white brick fireplace, and light the living room with a kerosene lamp that hung from ceiling chains. On sunny days, Katherine would tinker in the vast flower gardens or sit on the broad wraparound porch surrounded by the maples and catalpas that Charles had planted.

Once Hoverhome was completed in 1914, the Hovers planned to tear the cottage down. But when a farm worker named Charlie Spencer asked if he could have it, the Hovers obliged, deeding the cottage to Spencer for free as long as he removed it from the property. With the help of some relatives, Spencer disassembled it, loaded it onto a log platform and, miraculously, hauled it up the rocky dirt road paralleling the North St. Vrain River via mule train to its final resting place.

Just why he chose such a treacherous, steep perch for the Hover cottage remains a mystery. And no one is quite sure if Spencer or anyone else lived in the home between the time it left Longmont and the time the young artist on a scenic drive discovered it.

The backyard deck is a quiet, shady retreat to eat a meal or soak in the outdoor tub on a hot day. The bridge beyond overlooks a seasonal stream.
The backyard deck is a quiet, shady retreat to eat a meal or soak in the outdoor tub on a hot day. The bridge beyond overlooks a seasonal stream.

Something Old, Something New

Today, thanks to shared taste and a bit of fate, the cottage is a glorious mix of the artist-owner’s eclectic taste and the Hovers’ affinity for quality craftsmanship and landscaping.

The 21 steep steps leading to the green front door are surrounded by 40-foot catalpa and maple trees that the owner, coincidentally, got as seedlings and planted herself decades ago.

The terraced rock gardens staggering the steep, 1.5-acre property overflow with tangled vines of purple vinca, violet iris, and red and blue plumbago (which also happen to still grow on the original Hover property). Indoors, the original windows, kitchen cabinets, ornate woodwork, brick fireplace and stout ceiling beams remain, complete with the hooks where the Hovers’ kerosene lamp once hung.
What was once part of the Hovers’ front porch is now an enclosed master bedroom shrouded in a jungle of ferns, pothos and rubber plants. The room’s large windows look east over the roaring river. “I like to sit and watch the moon move across the sky at night,” the owner says.While reverently keeping many things the same, the owner has stamped her artistic mark on the cottage, adorning the ceilings with stars and painting the walls with deep rose shades and vibrant greens.

The homeowner loves passionate colors, and decorated her cottage with vivid hues and quirky touches inside and out.
The homeowner loves passionate colors, and decorated her cottage with vivid hues and quirky touches inside and out.

The last of the Hovers, Beatrice, died in 1991 after a lifetime of translating books into Braille for the blind, working the farmstead and fulfilling her mother’s dream of creating a retirement community on the property. But not before the woman who now resides in her childhood home got to meet her.While the front room has an open, tree-house-like feel,the back portion feels a bit like Alice’s rabbit hole, with towering granite cliffs butting up against the windows, keeping out the light, and red-and-green checkered flooring offering a whimsical Wonderland feel. Vintage floral wallpaper lines not only the walls, but also the ceilings in the kitchen and bathrooms, making it feel as if—as the owner puts it—you’re “standing inside a gift-wrapped present.”

It’s a conversation she won’t forget, she says.

The guest-room porch is filled with castles, crystals and colorful decorations on every surface. The owner equates the adornment to “standing inside a gift-wrapped present.”
The guest-room porch is filled with castles, crystals and colorful decorations on every surface. The owner equates the adornment to “standing inside a gift-wrapped present.”

“She invited me to the Hoverhome and showed me around, and then showed me pictures of my home with their furniture in it,” she recalls. “There was this strange, multi-faceted connection between us that seemed to connect us over time.”

To this day, it still does.