Antonito town hall moves to Warshauer Mansion

ANTONITO – The Warshauer Mansion has long been a place for Antonito visitors to view and marvel. It will soon be the heartbeat of the town.

In 1912, Fred Warshauer built it as a monument to his success, as well as a home for his family. His mansion is celebrating its 105th year with great promise. Spacious and elegant, it is like any other stately old lady, in need of some tender, loving care. In 1974, the National Register of Historic Places called it “an architectural surprise in the little sheep town of Antonito.”

That “surprise” came to symbolize the wealth that had escaped its neighbors, as well as the hope with which the town grew and progressed. Recently, the town of Antonito purchased the mansion from the Roland and Barbara Robins family. The mansion was recently listed on the market for $1.4 million, but Town Administrator Rossi D. Duran said the town paid $175,000 for the structure and grounds.

Stone lions sit alongside the front steps and an ornate cast iron fence outlines the grounds, where town equipment works to prepare the place for an optimistic future. According to Duran, the town hall, police department, public works department and municipal court will be relocated to the mansion in the early part of 2018.

Antonito workers are working on the exterior of the property and will continue as weather permits, Duran said, and then work will begin on the interior. Murals and unique woodwork inside the mansion will remain.

Born in Posen, Germany, Fred Benjamin Warshauer emigrated to Antonito in 1879 at the age of 20. Speaking very little English, he was employed by a local mercantile, where he not only learned the merchandising business, but English and Spanish, as well. In 1889, he went into business for himself as a real estate and loan agent, rising to prominence socially, politically and economically in the region.

He established himself in banking, lumbering and raising hogs, but it was sheep raising that eventually brought his greatest prominence. His sheep interests eventually monopolized markets in Conejos and surrounding counties and, in 1912 he commissioned George F. Harvey to design his elegant mansion. Built on a huge scale, with the distinctly European design and the exquisite attention to detail work, the structure is an outstanding visual landmark.

Warshauer didn’t live long in the mansion. Susceptible to fits of depression and ill health, he had reached the height of his economic and social prominence, but took his own life in 1913, leaving a sizeable fortune to his survivors and several companies. His widow, Ella Denning Warshauer, lived until 1944.

The house is constructed of pressed brick and stucco with two stories and a full basement. Bell-cast roof gables overlaid with red tile rise steeply and are set off with simply decorated bargeboards, which are exposed board or false rafters running underneath the slopes of the roof. Four tall chimneys are symmetrically placed toward the inside in the front and the outside in the back, with a smaller fifth chimney in the center rear of the house. The front of the house, however, received most of the architect’s attention.

It is trimmed throughout with wood milled in Iowa and shipped to Antonito for installation. A Denver –based artist, Jens Eriksen, who had attended art school for six years in his native Copenhagen, was commissioned to decorate the interior of the residence with the many murals that still remain. Inside, exposed frame ceilings and extensive paneling are decorated in a very appealing economy. Self-educated and self-made, Warshauer also ensured the home would have a large library. It also boasts a built in central vacuum cleaning system and fire control system, along with steam heating and an intercom.

When listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the owners said it was a commercial place. It has been a restaurant and home to several other businesses, but in the end, it was used as a home.