Judith Stalnaker grew tired of listening to unsubstantiated rumors that famous, wealthy people used to live in her condo building fifty years ago. So she decided to see if there was any evidence to back up the claims. Come along as this five-part series reveals the exciting, incredible information she found.
“‘This is the most luxurious apartment house ever built in Denver’,” said developer Saul Davidson in a Denver Post interview published December 1959. The article praises the building for its “innovations in the field of fine living” including a lobby reflecting pool and fountain, a second floor swimming pool, the personally controlled air conditioning for each unit, the two levels of underground parking, and the six penthouse suites of two-story units with the two floors connected by floating stairways.
Built in 1959, 888 Logan Street in Denver was an apartment building until being converted in 1978 to condominiums. Research at the Denver Public Library Western History Department proves that the early renters were important, leading citizens of Denver who were often wealthy. Research also shows that the building was considered an upscale, deluxe place to live.
But what about the people who lived there? The list of early residents of 888 Logan Street reads like a Who’s Who of Denver. These prominent, early residents were involved in banking, industry, retailing, medicine, agriculture, oil and gas, real estate, law, and the arts. Among them are the founder of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club, an airline president, two of the founders of Vail, an oil-and-gas magnate, and a billionaire. At least two invented something that made their companies take off, and many were philanthropists. Some were from families that started Denver businesses in the 1800s. Some were widows of successful, wealthy men.
First, we start with Buffalo Bill and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s relationship to the the building…
Part I: Buffalo Bill and Eisenhower
Can the rumors about the high-rise building at 888 Logan Street in Denver be true? Did Buffalo Bill’s mortician live there at one time? Is it true that President Dwight Eisenhower used to visit a friend at 888 Logan Street? Some current residents of the condominium building say it is so. They also say that the first residents in the 1960s were the crème de la crème of Denver society because it was an elite and opulent place to live. None of these current residents have any proof or know the names of the mortician or Eisenhower’s friend, but research tells a different story…
JOSEPH E. BONA―BUFFALO BILL’S MORTICIAN
Yes, it is true! Research shows Buffalo Bill’s mortician did indeed live at 888 Logan St., and his name was Joseph E. Bona (1887-1978). Bona lived there from 1959 until his death in 1978 at age 90. He embalmed Buffalo Bill in 1917 while working at the Olinger Mortuary (Umatilla Street and 30th Avenue) that is now Linger Restaurant. The first portion of the mortuary building was constructed by the Olinger family in 1909. Bona was only 29 years old when he supervised the blasting out of Buffalo Bill’s crypt on Lookout Mountain and saw that concrete was poured on top of the casket.
For many years Bona was vice president and general manager of Olinger Mortuaries. According to a February, 1978 Rocky Mountain News article, “He also was one of Denver’s most widely known and colorful residents. He had friends around the world and was a friend and companion to a number of celebrities, including Bing Crosby and his family, Fred MacMurray, June Allyson and Dave Chasen, owner of Chasen’s Hollywood restaurant, all of whom visited him in Colorado. …Until his death, he had remained vigorous and still was going to the office two days a week, although retired.”
He was a member of Mount Vernon Country Club, Denver Country Club, Aviation Country Club, Cherry Hills Country Club, and Denver Athletic Club. A person who bought Bona’s unit two years after his death was told that Bona had a white grand piano in his living room and wool carpet throughout the interior as well as on the balcony which had been glassed in. He lived in Apartment 10B.
CARL A. NORGREN―PRESIDENT EISENHOWER’S FRIEND
The person that President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited was Carl A. Norgren (1890-1968). What was Ike’s connection to Norgren? With another man, Norgren owned the Byers Peak Ranch near Fraser known as the “Western White House.” The 446-acre ranch took on that name because, during his presidency, Ike frequently visited the ranch to fish. Norgren was a personal friend of both President Eisenhower and President Hoover. With a mechanical engineering degree, Norgren founded the company that bears his name. In his Denver kitchen in 1927, he invented a device that started the company that makes pneumatic fluid and motion control products. It has grown to be an international company with well over one billion dollars in revenue.
Besides being an industrialist, Norgren was also the President of the Denver Museum of Natural History (now called Denver Museum of Nature and Science) from 1955 to 1963. He served on at least nine boards, including First National Bank of Englewood, Denver Zoological Foundation, and National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was an organizer of Pinehurst Country Club and a member of the Denver Athletic Club and Cherry Hills Country Club. He was an inductee into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. In 1998 his son donated to the Eisenhower presidential library in Kansas personal letters between his father and Ike as well as other items such as inauguration memorabilia from the two Eisenhower inaugurations that Norgren attended. Norgren’s daughter married ski racer Buddy Werner, who died in an avalanche at age 28, after whom Mount Werner at Steamboat, Colorado is named. (Apt. 8GH)
A NOTE ABOUT THE RESEARCH PROCESS: The procedure by which the name and residence of Buffalo Bill’s mortician and Ike’s friend were ferreted out started with a Denver Public Library (DPL) householders’ directory which lists people by address rather than by last name. The first residents moved into 888 Logan Street in 1959, but the householders’ directories from 1959 to 1962 are missing from the DPL.
A list of names of everyone who lived at 888 Logan St. in 1963 was obtained using the 1963–64 householders’ directory. A large portion of the people on the list would have also lived there in 1959 to 1962. Using newspaper articles, books, and online sources, it was possible to uncover the life histories of some of those on the list of 888 Logan residents. More than a quarter of the first renters were Jewish.
— Judith Stalnaker, Ph.D., current resident of 888 Logan Street