Saturday, October 13, 2012

Denver's Haunted Platt Park - The Fleming Mansion

October is here. Time to start thinking about all things spooky in Denver. 

Indeed, you should keep an eye out. There are ghosts roaming the halls, rooms, lobbies, restaurants, basements and parks throughout the DU/Platt Park neighborhoods. This year we delve a bit deeper into the local disembodied spirits, with a trip to South Denver's Deckers Library and the adjacent Fleming mansion. Home, town hall, library and jail, the house and surrounding property have generated numerous reports of paranormal activity, primarily of lights on the adjacent grounds.

It all started in 1886, when the Town of South Denver stretched from South Alameda to Yale, from Colorado Boulevard to Pecos. A major investor in the the Platt Park neighborhood was James A. Fleming (1849–1917) who in 1880 purchased 70 acres from South Broadway to South Clarkson Street between Florida and Mexico avenues.

Fleming built a stone mansion at the southeast corner of  South Grant Street and Florida Avenue, landscaping the surrounding land (today’s Platt Park) and dubbing it Fleming’s Grove. Unfortunately, his family booted him out of  the house when, in December 1884, at age 35, he married 19-year-old Nellie J. Paddock. True enough, soon after the marriage, Nellie dumped Fleming and headed for the bright lights of San Francisco.

Fleming bounced back and became the first mayor of  the independent Town of  South Denver from 1886 to 1890. When he left office, he sold the house to the community for use as its city hall and jail.  Legend has it that one of the very large trees on the grounds of the home saw more than a few hangings. When Denver annexed the Town of  South Denver in 1894, it used the residence as the Platt Park caretaker’s residence before leasing it to the South Denver Woman’s Club. After the club exited the building  in the 1950s, the mansion became part of the  Platt Park Recreation Center, adjacent to Deckers Library..

That's the property's history in a nutshell. Less documented, but equally interesting, is the property's paranormal reputation in Denver. Still known as the Fleming house, it is allegedly haunted by the pounding of the walls and groans of prisoners from the days when it housed the South Denver jail. The adjacent Platt Park is a shining star during the day, but has a melancholy feeling after dark. Mysterious lights have been reported from the house after dark, as well as floating amid the nearby trees.

Some insist that the spirit of  James Fleming still knocks around the building. Others have reported strange groaning and knocking in the basement, where prisoners were housed. Despite a no-smoking policy, the odor of  tobacco wafts through the mansion.

The Fleming house has been underutilized in recent years. A few pool tables sit in the main room, and another room on the main floor was at one time converted to a wood working shop that is rarely used and is something of a hazard. The upstairs is mostly used for storage and is only accessed by an existing servants' stair. The interior is in desperate need of repair and refurbishment, something that will not happen given the budget constraints on the Parks and Recreation Department.
Currently, The Park People non-profit group is working to rehabilitate the Fleming House. The first floor will be upgraded into a beautiful community space, available for a variety of meetings, events, and special gatherings. A reconstructed central staircase to the second floor will be installed where the original existed years ago; a bearing wall that was removed circa 1914 will be relocated to its original location. The second floor will be renovated for use by The Park People for their headquarters. Offices, work spaces, a break room, and a bathroom will all be updated using the existing layout of the top floor. Throughout the house, the floors and windows will be replaced and refurbished, along with updated electrical and plumbing to allow for the building’s expanded use. Where ever possible, fixtures and finishes will reflect the idea of a modern use for a historic structure. This project will breathe new life into this building, creating a public amenity for the Platt Park neighborhood and giving The Park People a larger home for its growing list of activities. The renovation will preserve this important historical structure going into the future, and The Park People’s presence will ensure that the Fleming House will receive the tender loving care that it deserves.

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