The oldest house in Castle Rock welcomed us with layers of dust covering 140 year old Doug Fir planks. The old boards run nearly 15 feet across the room in a single span–beautiful pieces of hardwood, shrouded, waiting to be uncovered and renewed. In the adjacent rooms, exposed subfloor waited for us to install newly milled, 16 foot Doug Fir planks to match the old. Over time, especially over nearly a century and a half of time, oxygen and light mingle with the surface and character of wood, changing the colors ever so slightly, and forming gaps between the planks. Typically historical polyurethane (an oil based finish) covered the floors and had yellowed over time. And then of course, floors of this age show the activity of years and years of walking, dragging, and everything else that happens in a home. This is one of the beauties of hardwood flooring: it develops character with the house, but when it gets to a point, the wood can be rejuvenated and refreshed. Needless to say, this project, for all its character and story, calls for the care and talent of an experienced craftsman.
The first few days were spent installing the new boards, crafting headers (aka ribbon board) in the doorways to add the right distinction to the floor, and working through the wear and tear of the old floors with a series of progressively finer sanding passes. As the project progressed, I finally met David Braun, the owner of the Dyer House (1875), and through his detail and my many questions, I was able to piece together some highlights of this storied home. What follows is the history of this old house:
When I arrived to the house on Friday morning, the front door was locked, so I went around to the side yard where I found David, the homeowner, sporting a huge smile as he continued work on a mound of dirt and roots piled alongside the driveway. I let him enjoy another scoop or two on his part-segway, mostly-tractor before getting his attention.
David Braun and his wife Brittany are the newest inhabitants of Castle Rock’s oldest home. Samuel Dyer, a pharmacist returning from the civil war built the home in 1875 when the only other building in town was the train depot. The train depot still stands, and, a few times each day, the old house still rumbles as the iron horse bellows a choo-choo to accompany the chugga-chugga of its wheels clanging against the rails. Other things in Castle Rock have changed.
“This was the first house in town,” David shared and pointed just across the street, “then came that house in 1882, and the one next to it is a lot newer, it came in sections on the train back in the ‘20’s.” He’s no stranger to the history of the house, in fact it was just what he and his wife had wanted. “We moved here from only about a mile away, on the other side of the castle. When the listing came up, we just had to have it.”
The house nearly didn’t live to see the 21st century—the third century of its life so far— when in 1983 it was slated for demolition in order to build an apartment complex. The town of Castle Rock swooped in just in time and saved the house, and only a few months later it was sold to a couple who maintained the home for the next thirty years. “They did a nice job of keeping it up, they put electricity and water into the house. Now, we’re working on really bringing it back to life.”
5280 Floors has had the pleasure of restoring the original hardwood floors, and installing a new section of 13 to 16 foot planks of Doug Fir into the adjacent rooms. The oak floors that used to line these adjacent rooms had gotten beyond repair and the shape of the floor resembled a bowl. “If you put a grape in the corner, it would just start rolling away,” David told us, “and now, they’re flat and they match the original rooms.”
“We had no idea you guys would be able to make the new sections match the original rooms so well,” Brittany added, “it looks amazing.”
Working on a home with such skilled DIY go-getters as David and Brittany can be tough on a craftsman. They have a critical eye because they know what they’re doing, and it’s never easy to have to pay for something you could’ve done yourself. Without question, David and Brittany were glad they called us in to restore the hardwood in their home. “We couldn’t have done it nearly as well as you guys have, not to mention we don’t have all the equipment,” David said as he motioned towards our fleet of sanding machines, dustless vacuums, saws, and other tools of the trade, “we’ve already highly recommended you to all of our neighbors.”
“We’re friends with all the neighbors, it really is a great place to live. We’re just a short walk from downtown, which is really kind of modernizing, and we can go get a cup of coffee.” At home, though, David calls this, “Our little half-acre of history,” and we look out over the small orchard that covers the space between the street and the chicken coop, old barn, and a new wooden play structure shaped like a boat for the kids. I joke that the kids might have to fight David for time on the boat, but he laughs, luckily it’s big enough to share.
The ‘little half-acre of history’ is steeped in Colorado past. Sam Dyer’s father, John Dyer, was one of this state’s Founding Fathers, his likeness immortalized in stain glass in the State Capitol Building in Denver. The floors released a sweet remembrance of the past as we got through the decades of life that has walked across them. These planks of wood have been in Castle Rock since the time when Broncos were wild horses, Nuggets were hiding in the hills waiting to be unearthed by gold miners, and Avalanches tore down trees much larger than hockey sticks. Fir has a sweet aroma, crystallized sugars in the pitch that once coursed its veins, little time capsules of the Colorado sun, summer thunderstorms, and Rocky Mountain Air that preceded even John and Sam Dyer to this state we call home.
David and Brittany’s six-year-old son, the oldest of three, found a pile of paper in the crawl space above the dining room. “It was pretty hard to read,” David said, “the way they wrote back then was like art, it’s beautiful, but sometimes hard to understand.” What they could decipher was that this pile of paper was a stack of love letters.
“They were pretty modest in what they wrote,” David chuckled, “one of them even said, ‘burn this after reading it’.” Luckily for those of us that love history, the letters weren’t burned, and the house wasn’t demolished for apartments. A charmingly decorated ‘mouse house’ in the wall of the dining room is complete with a traditional human shaped door and a porch light that adds just a touch of fairy tale to the home’s already enchanting story.
“We try to live in a way that respects the way the house used to be. It was too small to really be a farm, but we’ve turned in back into a little urban farmstead.” The old house has a long story, and for us as Hardwood Flooring craftsmen, it’s an honor to be a part of it.
“Who knows what will happen to it over the years,” David says as we shake hands at the end of the day, “but I hope we’ll be here for a long time.” Castle Rock’s original home is a story of many authors; fortunately, those with the privilege of penning the next chapter, are writing calligraphy with beautiful strokes.
When we walked through the project a few days after our crew had finished, the floors had already become the playground for the Braun’s children and their dolls, toy trucks, and imaginations. The storied house lives on, and 5280 Floors appreciates the opportunity to leave our mark on an emblem of Colorado History.
For more photos, including Before and After Line-ups, please visit our project gallery