This 1877 house is Boulder's most iconic structure, so much so its image is used for many things related to Boulder's city government, historical organizations and many others. This home was the first to have central heating, running cold and hot water, and an indoor restroom. It's original owner, Willamette Arnett, an eccentric local entrepreneur, had the home built as a showplace, not necessarily as residence. When he died in Alaska in 1900, penniless, as he tried seeking the "mother lode" during the Klondike Gold Rush, the home was transferred to the widow, Mrs. Eliza Fullen, thus giving it the name, "Arnett-Fullen House." Later becoming a place for businesses, it has been restored for public sight seeing and as a residence. This was the first home in Boulder to be considered a local historic landmark.
Backstory and Context
The idea of a show house fit Willamett, since his eccentric style was often in display with great coats that had $10 gold pieces as buttons. To build the house, that would cost up to $4000, Willamett spent just about all his father's money. To pay off debts and regain wealth, Willamett went north to the Canadian portion of the Klondike Gold Rush. He died in 1900, penniless.
His show house is an an excellent example of the Mixed Style, incorporating elements of the Gothic Revival, Carpenter Gothic, Second Empire, and Italianate styles. While taking details from various styles is not unusual, the use of elements from four distinct styles is atypical. The Gothic Revival style is representted by steeply pitched roofs, cross gables, and brick walls. The “gingerbread” bargeboards and elaborate scrolled and carved woodwork on the porches and gables are characteristic of Carpenter Gothic. The mansard tower, the dominant feature of the house, and the iron roof cresting are indicative of the Second Empire style. As was typical of the Second-Empire style, the house centers around this ornamental tower. Decorative brackets, narrow segmental arch windows and doors, and the canted bay window point to the Italianate influence. Taken all together, it is a masterful execution of Late Victorian architectural exuberance. The house was one of the early works of George E. King, a prominent architect in the late 1800s, well known in Boulder and Leadville. At the time it was built, the house was considered the most architecturally beautiful house in the town of Boulder, and today retains a high level of architectural integrity.
The Arnett-Fullen House stands out as an example of how east-coast architectural styles influenced western settlers as they established communities in Colorado, melding local building materials with a whimsical design. The house reflects the economic aspirations of its owner, the growing economy of the area, and the Victorian middle-class ideals in the rough-and-tumble mining-supply town of thenrural Boulder. Today the small house continues to represent these traits, standing as a rare mix of Victorian aspirations, artistic precision, and entrepreneurial spirit, masterfully achieved within the limitations of the local resources of the young gold-rush town and its ambitious owner. Even the small size of the house reminds us that it was built early in the settlement of the West, when life was hard and resources were scarce.
Following Willamett's death in 1900, the home changed ownership a few times. The most prominent off the latter ownerships helped give this home its name. The widow Eliza Fullen, bought the house in 1914 using her husband's (their divorce was pending at the time) rich estate that he obtained from the various mines he owned in Colorado. The widow Fullen and her children owned the home until 1992. Thus the home became the "Arnett-Fullen House." The home was sold to Historic Boulder, Inc., who used the home as office space until they sold it to its current owners in 2005.
This home with central heating, running hot and cold water and and indoor bathroom, alongside its small and unique architecture, helped create the home to be Boulder's iconic landmark.