Hannah Connell Barker

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Hannah Connell Barker (1844–1918) was an early resident of Boulder, Colorado. Barker was a teacher, civic leader, businesswoman and land developer in an era when industrious women were not commonly recognized for their contributions. Among other things, Barker served as a teacher; as director of the Boulder Bank; and was instrumental in platting and developing significant parts of the City of Boulder. She also owned the land that was used for the construction of Barker Meadow Reservoir, Boulder’s primary source of water.

Early life[edit]

Hannah Barker

Born as Hannah Connell, Barker and her family emigrated from Ireland to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1852. After spending time in Massachusetts and Iowa, she crossed the Great Plains with two other early immigrants to Boulder County, Colorado: her lifelong friend, Mary Davidson, and Davidson’s husband, William. Barker settled in Ward, Colorado, not far from the City of Boulder. There, beginning in the mid-1860s, she taught school, providing a civilizing influence on the children of local miners.[1] In 1869, Barker moved to Boulder, where she became one of the first female teachers in the local school district.

In 1877, she married Ezra Barker, a local businessman with extensive real estate holdings. Ezra Barker owned a number of mining and ranching interests, including a ranch in Boulder Canyon near the town of Nederland, Colorado. In the early years of the 20th Century, the Central Colorado Power Company wanted to buy the ranch to build a hydroelectric dam, which would have flooded the property and created a sizable reservoir. The City of Boulder's account of the construction of the dam and the creation of the reservoir [2] indicates that Barker refused to sell the land and was eventually forced to part with the land after the city commenced condemnation proceedings—a legal action similar to the present-day legal procedure of eminent domain. Thus, in 1907, after commencement of the condemnation proceeding, Barker sold the land adjacent to Nederland for the construction of the Barker Meadow Reservoir.

Hannah and Ezra had no children, and just six years after their marriage, Mr. Barker died, leaving Hannah to manage on her own. At the time of Mr. Barker’s death, Hannah had already established herself as an accomplished business woman.

Businesswoman and Civic Leader[edit]

In the 1880s, Barker set to work on a number of significant business endeavors. By 1884, Barker had purchased real estate adjacent to the young City of Boulder and began platting the town of Highland Lawn. The plat included 19 sites, all with rights to the adjacent Anderson Ditch, and owners were encouraged to plant trees and improve their lots with attractive fencing. The town was annexed to the City of Boulder in 1891.

In association with several other local women, Hannah Barker formed the Boulder Creamery in 1887. Beginning in 1898, Hannah Barker was appointed to the board of directors of Boulder Bank, where she would serve until her death. In addition to her business endeavors, Barker was involved in numerous civic causes. Barker founded the Boulder Women’s Club and was active in the Ladies’ Literary Society and the Boulder Fortnightly Club. She was also active in supporting Boulder’s Congregational Church and Columbia Cemetery and was a member of Boulder's Colorado Chautauqua Association. In 1911, Barker donated land to the City of Boulder at the corner of 15th and Spruce Streets for use as Barker Park. Barker was also active in a number of temperance movement causes.

Hannah Barker died in Boulder in 1918 of influenza during the Spanish Flu Pandemic

Hannah Barker House[edit]

Hannah Barker House ca. 1885

Barker lived a great part of her life in a stately home on a large lot in the Highland Lawn subdivision she developed. The original house, located at 800 Arapahoe Avenue (originally 743 Valley Road), was likely built in the late 1870s. Subsequent additions to the house were built by Ezra Barker in Italianate style, with a small front porch and distinctive cupola. The grounds featured an attractive iron fence, still in evidence on the property today. Barker made significant additions to the house in the 1890s, adding a prominent wrap-around porch and side addition and modifying the structure’s window openings.

Hannah Barker House ca. 1900

On her death, Barker willed the house to her longtime friend, Mary Davidson, who had lived with Barker in the house for many years. Davidson resided in the house until her death in 1923. During the 20th Century the house had been used as a single family residence and an apartment building with as many as six units. At one time, plans were made to use the Hannah Barker House as a bed and breakfast.

On December 30, 2010, the previous owners donated the Hannah Barker House to Historic Boulder, Boulder's first permanent non-profit dedicated to Historic Preservation. The gift was the culmination of several years of collaboration between Historic Boulder, the previous owners, and the City of Boulder. Boulder's City Council unanimously designated the Hannah Barker House as an individual landmark on March 17, 2009. Historic Boulder plans a major project to restore the Hannah Barker House spearheaded by a talented all-volunteer committee.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Phyllis. Daily Camera, “Sketches of the Past” Wednesday, June 28, 1978.
  2. ^ http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4971&Itemid=2104

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