THE UNSINKABLE’S IMPACT ON THE CITY OF DENVER
Contrary to popular belief, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” was never actually called Molly while she was alive. Margaret Tobin Brown is best known for surviving the catastrophic and devastating Titanic sinking, but she was prolific within the Denver city limits long before then. At the Molly Brown House in Capitol Hill, tours of Mrs. Tobin’s own home—along with numerous other events—after an enticing look into one of the many great personalities of Denver. The Molly Brown House hosts free days for Colorado residents every year, guaranteeing a flock of natives (and travelers) to visit the “Unsinkable’s” home.
Brown lived in an enthralling Victorian home nestled a few blocks from the Capitol building. Large stone lions greet each visitor with a frozen roar as they patiently wait on the sprawling front deck among the 19th century grandeur.
Brown was born to John and Johanna Tobin, Irish immigrants from Hannibal, Missouri in 1867. Brown grew up in an Irish-Catholic home and community but cherished and supported freedom and equality. The Tobin family was quite progressive for the time period. They valued providing education to their sons and daughters alike; albeit, that education ended around the age of 13, which was the height of the working-class schooling if one was lucky.
Brown found herself in Leadville, Colorado, after following her brother to the small mountain town in hopes of finding some affluence in the mining industry. Shortly after her arrival, she met her husband J.J. Brown, a mining engineer who was also privy to the misfortunes of the working class but held a promising career in mining town. Margaret and Brown would come into their fortune when Brown discovered gold in the Little Johnny Mine. With the resulting fortune, the Browns purchased a home on Pennsylvania Avenue, that they would live in for most of their days.
During the 1960s, numerous historic homes and properties were being demolished all across Denver. Historic Denver, Inc.—which at that point was just a small group of like-minded individuals—banded together to prevent the demolition of Brown’s home. The committee also led an arduous but rewarding restoration of the home to its former splendor, with nearly every single component of the home either left as it was originally built or restored with strikingly similar fixtures of the same time period.
What many people don’t know about Margaret Brown is her activity in philanthropy, education, activism, and other cultural and societal developments in and around Denver. Margaret Brown was highly active in the suffragette movement, advocating for equal rights nationally and locally. Colorado became the first state that allowed women to vote, which could be related to the actions of Mrs. Molly Brown. Among many improvements she left behind in her wake, Margaret Brown is responsible for the creation and funding of Denver’s St. Joseph’s Hospital, Denver Dumb Friends League, and the Cathedral Basilica on Colfax, where she would sit in pew number six every Sunday.
The Molly Brown house is a fixture in the Denver community. By delving into the history of the home and Margaret Brown herself and her connection and impact on the present, the Denver community has and can continue to become more inspired by what has been left behind. The annual free days that the Molly Brown House offers opens a doorway for locals to learn and engage with their city’s history.