Constructed by an Aspen pioneer, the Henry Webber House is the only extant example of Second Empire architecture in the city and one of the few in Colorado.
Henry Webber arrived in Aspen in 1880, a year after the city’s founding. At the time, it was a minuscule tent mining camp. Trained as a bootmaker, Webber established a boot and clothing store named “Webber and Company,” and he soon thrived. He became the city’s treasurer in 1883 and mayor in 1888, and he eventually sold his company in 1889. Webber built his home in 1883, which stood out then as the only brick dwelling in the city, demonstrating his wealth and social status after only three years, primarily because of his investments in local mining operations.
The Henry Webber House is a curious example of western Second Empire style architecture because of its orthodox character, as most period buildings in the American West were prone to blend styles. The Webber follows a traditional rectangular plan topped with a mansard roof, evenly slanting down the house’s corners, further complimented by the tall, triangular-topped windows lining the roof. The mansard roof is present for more than aesthetic purposes, as it allows better space and light in the second story of a building, unlike sloped roofs, which create small triangular spaces. Brackets, located under the roof-line, while ornamented, also provide structural support, keeping the roof from sagging. The house also includes two front sections containing three windows in each, regularly found in Second Empire structures because of the emphasis on vertical symmetry, as windows make a structure appear taller. It appears Webber originally built a small tower above the center of the entryway, along with ornamental cast-iron fencing, called cresting, which lined the roof, removed at an unknown date.
The home’s interior speaks to the fortune Webber amassed, as it contains high amounts of black walnut, a rare and expensive wood typically used in furniture-making. The doors and their frames are entirely black walnut, including the staircase and doors in the upstairs rooms. Historically, visitors did not enter second-story rooms, allowing lower-quality building materials for their construction, the cost of which did not concern Webber, it seems. Henry Webber lived the remainder of his life in this house, where he died in 1911, passing it to his descendants.
In 1945, the house became the property of Walter P. Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America. Soon after his purchase, the Paepckes steadily transformed Aspen into the multi-million-dollar winter and summer resort town it remains today, also adding a couple additions onto their new home. In the late 1940s, the Paepcke’s added a large two-story kitchen towards the house’s rear and a summer house on the northeastern corner. In the 1960s, Harold Pabst (unrelated to the Pabst family), the new owner, built a swimming pool located beside the house, and added a garage towards the back, facing the alleyway.
The property also includes a carriage house, original to the property, where Albert Schweitzer, the noted Alsatian intellectual, stayed in 1949 when he made the keynote speech at the Paepcke-sponsored Goethe Bicentennial Convocation. The Convocation celebrated the 200th birthday of the German author and scientist Johann von Goethe, who was a major literary topic of Schweitzer’s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, the Henry Webber House remains private property and is not open to the public.