The Lost Iron Furnace

Pouring over the historic maps that clutter my desk, I noticed a handwritten reference to a manmade monolithic structure that is supposed to lie 10 miles into what is considered to be one of the most remote areas of Pennsylvania. A place devoid of blacktop and where bear, elk and rattlesnakes abound. It’s hard to imagine civilization touching an area that few would think to venture into today; an area of steep mountains and even steeper ravines where one misstep would mean a fall to one’s death; but there it was in black and white a cryptic reference beckoning a would be explorer. It made me wonder, what could be there?

I was not in search of just any town, but four towns that were built in close proximity that became the center of the local coal and iron mining industries in this area of north central Pennsylvania during the mid 19th century. This prosperous community was built by immigrant miners and a unique personality whose life story left behind a legend of wealth, buried treasure and an English mansion that sat out of place atop the mountain in the wilds of Pennsylvania.

Reavelton lies a very distant ten miles into the remote mountains of north central Pennsylvania. The nearest town, Quigley’s Mills; itself just a speck on the map with Lock Haven twenty miles distant being perhaps the closest better known community. I say a distant ten miles because the last ten miles of my trip into this remote area will take another 45 minutes to travel; doubling the time it takes for me to travel the 50 miles from my home. Almost impassible, the trail that leads into this area is as rough and rugged as any that you’d expect to find in the American southwest. In the winter it is impossible to reach this area. Nobody comes here except an occasional hunter. The story of Reavelton has been left for me alone to piece together; to photograph the site and leave a record where one has yet to exist. I enjoy the challenge and solitude of such a place; one that is unspoiled.

I arrive in Beechcreek, originally named Quigley’s Mills two-hundred years ago. It’s a small country town with the atmosphere of Mayberry. Experience has taught me that the best place to learn history is from the older residents of an area, so I head to the corner diner for breakfast. It’s exactly as I expected, hitching post outside, wooden steps leading through the arched Victorian doorway, boarding house still standing next door. The door opens with a creak hitting the bell mounted atop. Old men in overalls and blue haired ladies pause momentarily from their conversations to look at the two strangers who have just entered. The silence is deafening, moments linger but conversations resume as we strategically take our seats nearest to a table with four old men. Black and white photographs of the old town line the walls; they’ll serve as a good ice breaker when I garner the nerve to speak to the gentlemen sitting across from us.

For the moment my observations are on the structure itself, worn wooden floor, tin ceiling, pickle barrel at the end of the dining counter, brass cash register and floor safe in the corner. Just one middle aged woman acting as hostess, waitress, cook and cashier; she takes our order and retires to the kitchen. One of the locals walks behind the counter, picks up the coffee pot and refills the patrons cups… ours included. You can hear the sizzle of the sausage as the smell of a home cooked country breakfast wafts from the kitchen, a true farmer’s breakfast.

Occasional glances are cast our way; maybe because we are strangers, maybe because of my snakeboots, fedora and sidearm. I wait for one of the older gentlemen to make eye contact, it doesn’t take long and it’s my opportunity to strike up a conversation. “Nice place you have here; Beechcreek.” Our conversation turns from small talk to history after I introduce us; setting them at ease. I find that most folks are happy to talk about themselves and to share what they know of their hometown and their great uncle Charlie who lived up the “holler” and worked the mines on the mountain. Our conversation allowed me to fill in some blank spaces in my notes and the folks were be eager to hear about what we would find.

The scenic beauty in this portion of the country is unparalleled; deciduous forests giving way to open meadows, peat bogs and beaver dams followed by lush and dark forests that block out nearly all light; canopied in heavy hemlocks of four foot diameters. The ravages of a wildfire that raged down the mountain in the 1890’s no longer apparent but skepticism extolled by the locals that anything at all would remain of the old towns and their frame dwellings. No one had seen any in a hundred years.

The mountain extends clear down to Beechcreek from its peak 10 miles away. I reach the point where the blacktop ends and turn onto a gravel road that quickly becomes nothing more than a rutted, dirt trail. A goat path as I like to call it. I drive along the narrow trail to an increasing elevation sometimes with cliffs along one side and sharp rocks protruding out of the ground with oil slicks about them, evidence of a misadventure of those less prepared. My companion, new to these explorations comments on the rugged remoteness that one would think no longer exists in our portion of the country. I’m looking ahead through the trees for tell tale signs of past habitation; 90 degree angles, tree lines, domestic vegetation, stone walls; nothing in sight for miles.

In my preplanning I used what is now referred to as remote sensing with Google Earth that showed me that I should be approaching the peak of the mountain where an open field existed. As we cleared a two foot deep mud bog in the trail we entered upon the clearing. I immediately spotted an enormous apple tree on my right and a line of conifers that were too evenly spaced for natures handiwork; most likely the efforts of the forest service after the fire. I said, “we’re here” to the astonishment of my companion. His less skilled eye had not taken in the same sights and he was amazed that without ever having been here before that I was able to put us on location in our first attempt at discovering the towns; others would have driven right by. I pulled from the trail into an area of golden rod and stepped from the truck. On my left fifteen feet into the woods was a stone wall. I walked in the opposite direction toward a patch of lilies an unmistakable domestic planting that I knew would have been around a home. I could see across the road a hole in the ground, probably a well.

Further into the field, there it was, the partially filled foundation of John Reaville’s English styled mansion. I had read that the General, as Reaville was called by his men, divided his time between the construction of the village and the opening of the coal mines. It was recorded that he erected good dwellings for the miners and a grand mansion for himself. It was of English style, large and handsomely finished; the center hall with a winding staircase and mahogany rail and balusters; the rooms large and warmed by deep fireplaces with big chimneys and carved mantels. A wide porch graced the front and it was positioned on an angle facing down the lane so that the Reaville’s might see approaching company. A hitching post was placed at the head of the walk just off of the porch. Out in the yard a white picket fence fronted by lilies, and ivy. A spring house sat off to the right of the lane where the well water was piped into from across Reavelton road.

The very atmosphere of the place was one of comfort, convenience and luxury; or as luxurious as one could get in 1853 with no interior bathrooms, running water nor electricity. It serves to remind me that we take a lot for granted today. Little wonder that it was a curiosity to dwellers of other valleys and attracted many visitors. It appeared out of place in this wilderness. When the Potters, the Ashfields, the Silvars and their friends from New York or Boston came, the mansion was a place of revelry and banquets, and the specially built wine vault in the cellar, always well stocked with the best English liquors and French wines, was most popular.

As I crossed into the field the apple tree once again caught my eye. Over 30 inches in diameter, I can’t recall ever seeing one larger. It was growing right in the center of a second, small “L” shaped foundation. Old to be sure, I figured it must have begun growing shortly after the forest fire. As I headed to the clearing, ruffled grouse flushed from a thorny bush with bright orange berries generally planted as landscaping and just beyond was a large cellar hole consisting of an earthen berm and collapsed foundation stones. I was certain that I had discovered the foundation of John Reaville’s mansion. Over grown and almost completely hidden from view in the tall ferns, I imagined how it must have appeared 150 years ago; the fence along the road, white columns, black bear posed on the front porch; a prank that the General liked to play on guests; I being the most recent. Stone outcroppings were found behind the house; maybe the location of the cave where John hung his venison; another foundation across the road from the house. I sat on a stump as my companion continued his search for relics that would confirm our discovery.

A bit of respite allowed me to reflect upon my surroundings. Pennsylvania history is full of colorful characters; John Reaville not the least among them but his accomplishments in the coal and iron mining industries are as secluded as the town that bears his name in the mountains above Quigley’s Mills along with three others; Rock Cabin, Peacock and Eagleton; each an outgrowth of Reavelton and John Reaville’s efforts while working for the Ashfield Coal Company.

Written records are scarce in my search for information on these ghost towns. They have become true ghosts; only a footnote in history, only a small notation on an historic map; its name no longer mentioned by those living in the area, it has simply ceased to exist.

It’s an incredible feeling when you discover a new place and to know that perhaps for the first time in over 150 years that someone has taken an interest in and resurrected the name of the town and its people that were all but forgotten. The story of Reavilton is the story of John Reaville a singular hard working individual whose legacy left behind stories of these towns that dot our countryside. The towns are the story of families and their struggle as pioneers on a frontier; of the businesses that they built by the sweat of their brow and of other pioneers who later joined in the prosperity creating and building the town upon their vision of a brighter future.

Reavilton is unique in that it was founded in 1853 and almost completely gone by 1878 along with its sisters Rock Cabin, Peacock and Eagleton. It’s a case study in boom to bust industrialization and the influences that spawned the towns, their industry and those that swept it from the forest. It’s a study in legacy and legend that allowed it to be footnoted and not entirely lost to history as homesteads and smaller hamlets might be. While not as old as the sites that we study in classical archaeology the community of Reavilton is old for Pennsylvania and it nevertheless has a complex story to tell about the people who lived here, how they lived and the legacy that they left behind.

John Reaville immigrated from Nottingham, England to America in about 1843 settling in New York and although a coal miner by occupation purchased with most of his savings a sixty-acre farm near Amagansett, Long Island to try his hand at farming. Tired of this endeavor Reaville traveled westward through Pennsylvania to an area where new coal mines were being opened by the Potter and Ashfield Company. Reaville was a tough, hard-working sort of man. He came to seek his fortune, and fell in with the Potter and Ashfield Company. They had a legal problem with one of their eastern mines that amounted to this: If left unattended, the mine could be claimed by someone else. John Reaville was soon on his way to Schuylkill county into the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania where he was required to take up residence inside of the mine that the Potter & Ashfield company had been working illegally and one which the sheriff was trying to foreclose upon if they ever left it unattended for even a day. Reaville lived in near isolation for approximately 8 months inside the mine after which Potter and Ashfileld owned it by adverse possession thus saving them $1,500,000 a handsome sum at that time. As his reward for his service John Reaville was named Superintendant of Mines in the Tangascootac region above Beechcreek, was given a blank check and told to open the coal fields in the mountains in the in the Spring of 1852 where bituminous coal had recently been discovered.

The mines were well under way by 1854, the openings had been driven in well and coal was being brought out encouragingly. Scores of miners, mostly foreigners of that occupation, many with families, were domiciled in the long rows of houses on the property.

Reavilton covered approximately 3600 acres. If we include its sister towns this expands to about ten square miles. Revelton named his town after himself though originally as Reavilville. Peacock was named for the color of the coal, which had a brightly colored sheen to it. Rock Cabin got its name for obvious reasons, and Eagleton after the Bald Eagle area named for the Seneca Indian Chief. Four towns, hundreds of homes, stores, school, coal and iron mines, railroad, sawmill and a monolithic structure; a tremendous iron furnace were built in just a few years.

It was in Eagleton that the first coal mine strike in Pennsylvania occurred, and John Reaville was the man who handled it. Reaville was known to be a tough boss. In 1856, the operation was at the height of profit, and the men banded together to demand more money and better treatment. They went on strike, carrying weapons and threatening to become violent. John Reaville sent a trusted employee into Lock Haven to bring back Sheriff John W. Smith, who returned with a group of twenty armed men. Smith calmed things down and broke the strike in about three days.

Reavilton provided a centralized work place for the early settlers of this region; coal was in great demand and the mountainous region had plenty of it. Reaville’s workforce consisted mostly of English, Scotch and German immigrants. Additional towns sprang up in adjoining areas of natural resources because it meant steady work; albeit hard and the opportunity to earn wages and support a family. Several drifts were opened and the miners climbed into the earth daily by way of four foot tunnels to extract the black rock that was sought by the railroads, manufacturing and iron industry. It was yet to be used for home heating except by the affluent in the large cities. In the country wood was plentiful and cheap and coal was a commodity.

I walked the ground drawing its features on my sketch pad; first the “L” shaped foundation of the mansion, the spring house, well, privy and stables. Then down the trail to the powder house, mine office, miners homes and the mines themselves that are visible today as collapsed audits where you can stand and sight along the ground following large sink holes of the collapsed coal mines themselves. I cautioned my companion not to walk upon the ground between the sink holes that might give way at any moment.

Numerous shafts had been dug all heading in a north-south orientation. I paused to imagine the men with blackened faces digging under the ground, setting powder charges, clearing the mine before the explosion blew loose a few tons of coal and then reentering the shaft, shoring its roof with wooden timbers and shoveling the coal into carts that were then drawn out of the earth by horses up the hillside to narrow gauge rail cars where it would be hauled down the mountain to Lock Haven and loaded onto barges waiting in the recently completed Pennsylvania Canal to be shipped to points further east. I wondered of the dangers; of the mine collapses and of the families that lived here.

Child labor laws were nonexistent at this time; I imagined eight, nine and ten year old boys dripping wet from mine seepage with blackened skin that wouldn’t come clean and sullen eyes peering from the mines; forced labor whose lives didn’t matter while John Reaville was sitting in his English mansion eating oysters and sipping fine wine; the extremes of life.

This I know of Reaville for in the corner of the stone foundation that once supported his extravagant home we found the glass shards of wine and bitters bottles, flow blue china, oyster shells and ceramic pipes. Though nothing is left of the framing, it was two story affair with expansive front porch. We see expensive brick and cut stone littering the ground. There I discovered shards of pottery, the unmistakable green glass of fine French wine bottles and more oyster shells; apparently he was fond of them; an expensive delicacy so far from the ocean.

Speaking with the gentlemen at the diner, I learned that the house was known to have a wine cellar and cave at the rear of the property where meat was hung for aging to produce the best flavor. The Reaville’s had the finest of everything and once entertained a Princess of Spain. While two-hundred feet away the miners lived in small 3-4 room houses built upon pilings, eking out a meager living; dying at a young age. Life was hard for these folks and work was dangerous. As we talked I learned that John enjoyed alcohol and tobacco. When he came to town, drinks were on him at the tavern and he was the life of the party. This was confirmed through the amounts of amber glass marked as bitters procured from the backyard privy along with beautiful shards of expensive pottery and other glassware and more clay tobacco tavern pipes.

Privy excavations are at the top of my list in use to determine the lifestyle of the past occupants of a home; the Reavilton mansion would be no different. A privy usually lies to the rear of a home and downwind. This one displayed evidence of prior digging as the dirt was mounded around its sides mixed with broken glass leaving nothing in context. Fortunately we already knew the age. As I sifted through the dirt it became apparent that bottle hunters had been there some time before as evidenced by the 1970′s Pepsi can recovered at approximately 4 feet deep. Nevertheless they were remiss in their search for only bottles that remained intact after 125 years while I was interested in all else that remained. Glass was scattered across the ground. More broken pottery and glass soon began to emerge and was roughly classified according to the type of glass and color or decoration as we removed it from the hole in the ground. Several iron relics also came to light. Our recoveries allowed us to reconstruct entire pieces of china; two flow blue meat platters with matching dinner plate, white glazed serving dish, tea pot, bitters bottles, delft creamer, earthenware jug, chamber pot, oil lamp globes, clay pipes that were smoked by John himself. It was a veritable bonanza of broken pottery that would provide satisfaction well into the Winter as we cleaned, conserved and reconstructed the life and social atmosphere that existed in Reavilton a hundred years before I was even born. Ever so slowly we coaxed life back into the Reaville’s. They were once again the center of attention; the life of the party.

Back in town industry was expanding, an iron mine was opened on a hillside just above the Tangascootac creek. A furnace was built in the forest along with a water powered sawmill, houses and a school. I was convinced that the monolithic structure referenced on my map had to be an iron furnace so we set in search of it through the forest. Our trail became impassible; 3 foot deep ruts filled with water caused us to abandon our vehicle and proceed on foot. My 1872 map of the area identified a stream as “furnace run”. One thing that I’ve learned is that place names generally coincide with history; so we headed in that direction hiking through the brush and dense undergrowth until coming upon a well worn trail. The hemlock canopy hung heavily overhead causing the forest to appear as if it were dusk. I had no idea of how far the furnace might be or even if it yet existed; often the stones from structures are repurposed in later years. We followed under the canopy of massive hemlocks for a distance to where the valley deepened and the trees nearly blocked out all light. I edged toward a steep incline and standing upon the precipice in order to view the valley I looked up to behold a massive stone structure some 45 feet in height and 30 feet square on the opposite hillside; like an ancient pyramid standing in a rift valley with sunlight streaming down upon it as if heaven sent. The illusion created a remarkable experience as if I alone was meant to find the structure. I prompted my companion to the edge of the cliff but in all its glory he could not see the furnace as it lies camouflaged among the hemlocks, itself having turned green in color. In a few moments he came to understand what my excitement was about.

The furnace stands over 45 feet tall and nearly an equal measure in length and breadth of fitted stone construction held together with iron crossties and wood supports. Four arches, one on each side lead into areas where the molten iron flowed into molds for ingots and hollow wares. A pipe work for air from the bellows is evident. It is a traditional top mount furnace.

We scrambled down the steep hillside and crossing the stream were dwarfed by the huge stone structure as the sunlight broke through the foliage shining down upon the furnace; a sight to behold. Several other foundations lay scattered among the woodlands in support of the smelting operation.

Iron ore, of a good quality exists in the Tangascootac region and in 1857 the Tangascootac Coal Company; the true name of the operation at Reavilton erected a furnace and manufactured iron, but a suspension of operations ensued soon after, as was the case with coal mining, yet sufficient was done to demonstrate the fact that an abundance of ore existed, from which could be made a good quality of iron. I was able to locate remnants of a stockpile of coke and also of limestone adjacent the furnace that were used to produce sufficient heat to smelt the iron. Iron melts at about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit therefore the furnace had to remain in blast 24 hours a day lest it cool down and 2-3 tons of coke would be required to restore it back to temperature. By the middle of the nineteenth century the trend was to use coke instead of charcoal, hot blast instead of cold, steam for power instead of waterwheels and steel shell, fire brick lined stacks instead of stone.

This furnace allows us to see a transition in the technology of the day. Coke was being used however a waterwheel driving a mechanical bellows was yet in operation. Firebrick was used in part but yet with a stone stack surrounded with a sandy clay between the stack and the stone furnace itself. In the early years, the blast was powered by water turning a wheel which in turn either worked a bellows (early furnaces) or pushed pistons in and out of tubes to create the blast of air. I believe that the Reavilton furnace used tube pistons because of the long flat foundations to the right of the furnace just above furnace run. When the use of bellows was discontinued around 1820, two pairs of wooden tubes were used. Each pair consisted of one tube inside another with suitable leather gaskets. As the inner tube of one pair was descending and sucking in air, the inner tube of the other pair was ascending and compressing the air. By means of leather valves the flow of air to a storage tank was regulated. The combination of air being blown into the coke embers created the extreme temperatures necessary to melt the iron ore.

Although actual operations at a blast furnace probably required fifteen to twenty men around the clock, other jobs connected with the furnace, such as cutting wood, hauling the coke and limestone, raising food for the employees and the horses, hauling ore and pig iron, increased the number of workers to between sixty and eighty.

Hard liquor was in great demand by the workmen. It was almost as necessary as food or so it seems. Because most furnaces were built far from towns, adjacent to raw materials and water power, there was little or no opportunity for recreation; and as a result men resorted to drinking as a way to pass their leisure time.

The furnace was built beside a hill having a flat area at the same elevation as the top of the furnace. Materials were taken to this bench for charging into the furnace. A bridge between the top of the stack and the “bench” was used for this purpose. My instinct told me to look under where the bridge would have been to locate samples of the fuel that was being used to fire the furnace. Sure enough, I found the coke and limestone that I was looking for. My companion located a cow bell on the ground nearby although I speculate that it was actually used on a horse or mule that hauled the raw resources.

Just above the furnace we located the ruins of three buildings; most probably bunk houses for the shift workers required to work the furnace ’round the clock. Down a trail toward Tangascootac Creek the audit of the iron mine is located atop the hill with its collapsed shaft running downhill toward the trail. Further downstream were the remains of a water powered sawmill. The area is strewn with iron, slag and cinders. Round pieces of iron reminiscent of meteorites can be found in the area.

Across the valley from whence we came and upon the hill we discovered the foundation of the Iron Masters House. A much larger home than those of the workers yet smaller than General Reaville’s. It was comprised most likely of 6-7 rooms with front and rear doors, glass paned windows and a springhouse to the rear of the home. The iron master was in complete control of the furnace and second only to John Reaville himself. While I have yet to discover the specifics of this individual he no doubt arrived from Europe with expertise in furnace operation.

John Reaville and his wife lived happily and alone in their mansion until he died of heart disease, manifested in a gouty and dropsical condition, on the twenty-second day of August, 1876, at the age of seventy-one and was buried with Masonic Rites.

One year later, less seven days, his wife, Elishaba, aged sixty-seven and a half years, died in the state hospital at Danville, never the same woman after the death of her husband. A white marble shaft, eight and a half feet high, stands by their graves in Highland cemetery at Lock Haven.

After their deaths, the rumor began that Reaville had buried bags of money in the basement of his mansion, under the dirt floor.

Some time afterward a man appeared at the Reaville mansion. It was speculated that he was a hospital employee to whom Mrs. Reaville had divulged her husband’s secret. He stayed in the house alone for days and curious woodsmen passing were chased from the premises. A sullen reply repelled their salutations. Then the man was never seen again. Visitors to the place later found the cellar floor dug up, the wine vault demolished and the foundation stones in many places removed. That the old general had gold hidden when he died his wife naturally enough knew.

The railroad was torn up and the hundreds of buildings left to fall into ruin and decay. Forest fires later consumed all traces of them and today nothing but a few foundation stones and green areas mark where the village once stood and even they are few.

The abandoned furnace which John Reaville built and for which he burned a thousand tons of charcoal needlessly is the only structure of the hundreds erected standing today in the valley which is fast being reclaimed to its original wildness. The moss covered, stone walls on the bank of Furnace run, look not unlike the tower and ruins of an old English castle, now collapsing itself.

Abuse of Denver Historic Landmark Certification

As a landscape architect, Saco Rienk DeBoer’s (SR DeBoer) work can be experienced in a number of city parks and many private gardens throughout the city and the West. As a city planner, he co-authored Denver’s first zoning code, devised many of its roadways, and led in the development of mountain parks. The residents of the City of Denver are fortunate enough to have the ability to visit many parks (including the Botanic Gardens) where they can experience SR DeBoer’s work. Those parks include, but are not limited to, the Denver Botanical Gardens, Red Rocks Amphitheater, City Park, Washington Park and Sunken Gardens.

Therefore, the family feels that this should be enough for the residents of Denver, and that the family’s private property should not be up for grabs through the attempted abuse of historical landmark designation simply because SR DeBoer owned it at one time. For this fact alone, the family wonders why the City of Denver would want to assist “neighbors” in essentially a “taking” of the last remaining inheritance SR DeBoer left his family? Are the many parks SR DeBoer helped design to beautify the city not enough?

It has been 33 years since his passing. During that time the “neighbors” of the property have never discussed their supposed feelings with SR DeBoer ‘s family. In fact, SR DeBoer ‘s own daughter was overwhelmed by the property’s heavy amount of upkeep and over the years sold pieces off to the people now trying to “take” the rest of the property from the family. It was not until his daughter’s (Elizabeth Wright) passing in July of 2005 and the advancement towards selling the property by her remaining children, that the “neighbors” ever sought to designate this property historic. Therefore, the fact that they are acting as supposed “heroes” for his legacy over his own family is clearly an obvious attempt to use his memory and minimize his own family’s history on the property (86 years) for obviously selfish gains.

The LaFons and the neighbors who signed the petition for the historical designation do not have the first-hand experience with SR DeBoer as the DeBoer family does. The SR DeBoer family personally experienced what happened on the property and know his ultimate wishes for the property. SR DeBoer passed away in 1974 and none of the members of the neighborhood ever personally knew him.

Currently, the Historical Society of Denver and neighbors of the property on East Iliff Avenue in Denver are trying to designate an historical district, which includes several surrounding properties. Leigh and Mark LaFon entered the application for historical designation without the consent or knowledge of the SR DeBoer family and obtained signatures of members of the neighborhood.

Leigh Lafon specifically wrote a letter to the Landmark Commission asking for the process to be “fast-tracked” and that her request needs be kept a secret from the family of SR DeBoer. The City of Denver employees granted her request based on her alleged concern over imminent demolition of buildings on the property. There have never been demolition permits on any of the 3 buildings on SR DeBoer’s property and the family of SR DeBoer was never notified of the initial hearings with the Landmark Commission. The employees of the Landmark Preservation Commission could have easily found out that there were no demolition permits obtained, but chose not to. There is no doubt that the false accusation of demolition fueled the contrived sense of alarm the Lafons were raising within the neighborhood.

The first (out of 4 total attempts due to corrections made based on SR DeBoer’s family’s rebuttals) application was a 45-page document that contained numerous misrepresentations and historical errors. Leigh and Mark LaFon have had numerous opportunities to appear before the historical commission and other city organizations to argue their points while the SR DeBoer family have had virtually no opportunity to do so.

Ana Novas, who lives in the farmhouse adjacent to the SR DeBoer property and SR DeBoer’s actual home during his lifetime, was initially interested in selling her property along with the SR DeBoer family and even provided a developer’s name. However, she then signed the petition with the neighbors later on. The neighbors of the SR DeBoer property, including the LaFons, refer to this property as “their forest”,”forested enclave” and “their sanctuary” and have long enjoyed the efforts of SR DeBoer’s family to maintain this heavily-treed property. Due to financial issues and the passing of Elizabeth Wright (SR DeBoer’s daughter) her children were forced to put the property up for sale. Without direct knowledge and fearing development, the neighbors chose not to address the issue with the family, but to underhandedly seek historical designation so the family could do nothing with the property.

Supposedly, the main issue lies with the possible demolition of what is termed “the office” of SR DeBoer and other dwellings on the 1+ acre site. No demolition permits have ever been obtained for SR DeBoer’s former office or any other building on the family’s property. In the application (s), Leigh and Mark LaFon (in addition to The Cultural Landscape Foundation) claim that the property located at 515 East Iliff Avenue was once his house and is of a rare architectural design. In fact, “the office” was never his home. They also claim that the property is a display for different architectural designs throughout the years and insinuate that it should, essentially, be frozen in time.

The application for the historical district contains Leigh and Mark LaFon’s house (which they claim a heavy connection to artist John E Thompson and SR DeBoer), the entire property of the Elizabeth Wright Trust (which ends up being 60% (or more) of the proposed historical district), the farmhouse where Ana Novas currently resides, and the home of Elizabeth Wright located at 575 East Iliff Avenue that was built in the 1950s. Also, there is a small dwelling on the property referred to as the “cottage” that the LaFon’s claim to have a strong connection to John E Thompson, a local painter in Denver, CO.

While John E Thompson did rent the cottage for 2 years using what is now the LaFon home as a studio, the heavy connection to SR DeBoer they are claiming simply did not exist beyond just being friends. John E. Thompson never lived in the present day home of the LaFons. The LaFon’s have termed the entire SR DeBoer property as being a past and present artists colony. This fact has never been substantiated and though the family has done extensive research in defense of this designation they have never found any evidence of an artist colony, nor is there a present day colony.

The grandchildren of SR DeBoer have testified on several occasions in Landmark hearings that they grew up on the property (all are in their 60’s or nearly 60) and that there was never an artist’s colony or formal gathering of artists, nor did SR DeBoer “host” artists for the means of furthering the artistic community, as the Lafons claim. Yet, the City of Denver continues to aid the Lafons with their plight to rob SR DeBoer’s family of their property rights.

The application(s) submitted by Leigh and Mark LaFon grossly overstate the historical importance of these properties. Examining each:

· Leigh and Mark LaFon’s House; 2260 South Pinon Court (formerly 519 East Iliff Avenue)
Leigh and Mark LaFon’s house has received major renovations and additions over the years since the home was originally built. Leigh and Mark LaFon have added over 1500sq ft and a detached garage on this property. Their addition(s) are not “sensitive” additions as they claim. In fact, the differences between the original building and the addition(s) have been documented and the Landmark Commission did not recommend their home as historic.

· Farmhouse residence of Ana Novas; 501 East Iliff Avenue
Ms. Novas’ house has also received major renovations and additions over the years since its original construction. The farmhouse that Ana lives in is a mere shadow of its former self, yet the LaFon’s claim it’s the oldest house in South Denver, even thought the majority of the original construction has been overwrought by newer construction. In addition to the Lafon’s home, Ana Novas’ home was also not included in a recommendation for historic status by the Landmark Commission.

· Elizabeth Wright residence; 575 East Iliff Avenue.
This residence was constructed in the 1950s by TW Wright and not by SR DeBoer like the application claims. This building was not influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, as the Lafons claim. This is at best, a total stretch and an outright fib.

· Elizabeth Wright Trust/ The Office; 515 East Iliff Avenue
The “office” was constructed around 1931 to act as SR DeBoer’s office. This location never acted as a home for SR DeBoer and has not been substantiated in the application. The architect for the “office” was not SR DeBoer as also claimed. The “office” is claimed buy the Lafons to have beams that were hand painted by John E. Thompson. This claim is, as well, false and has never been substantiated. The Lafons did include a supposed interview in their latest application where SR DeBoer is claimed to have been interviewed and mentioned the beams. The family of SR DeBoer has never seen this interview and the interview was not referenced by the Lafons appropriately in their application so this claim, also, can not be substantiated.

· Elizabeth Wright Trust/ Cottage; 517 East Iliff Avenue
The “cottage” is claimed in the application to have acted as a haven for starving artists and is also included in the historic designation. Simply put, the “cottage” has never acted as a haven for starving artists. The “cottage” was used as a rental over the years and the majority of the time it was rented out to people not considered to be artists. In fact, the historical address listings, found in the Denver Public Library, confirm that the “cottage” was occupied by people who considered themselves artists for a very short amount of time. Therefore, the claim that this property was a haven for starving artists, is again, false. It was used as a home for one of the sons (not an artist) of Elizabeth Wright for 30+ years and was merely a uninsulated building until 2004. This dwelling has received substantial renovation and began life as a glorified shed. Approximately 3 years ago, the inside was gutted and half of the stucco on the outside was removed. The largest part of the remodel has been finished, but there is still a great deal left undone due to financial issues. The claim of the “cottage” being an integral part of the artists colony has never been substantiated and is not true.

While Leigh and Mark LaFon have billed themselves as saviors of historically-valuable property, they did not seem interested in historical values when it meant constructing an addition to their residence or adding a garage(that are not sensitive to the design of the original building), both of which would have been denied to them had their residence been deemed a historical landmark PRIOR to the construction. How convenient for the LaFons that now that their additions are added, that they are NOW seeking historical classification and using the supposed preservation of the SR DeBoer legacy as a convenient excuse to halt advancement or sale of the SR DeBoer property.

Additionally, the LaFons are now maliciously trying to block the family of SR DeBoer from taking actions (selling) with the property that are allowed by any property owner – primarily because the LaFons do not want to lose the privacy they feel the SR DeBoer property affords them. The Lafons have seen fit to slander members of SR DeBoer’s family publicly and now have included friends of the family in order to get their way. It is obvious that when the truth is not on ones side, playing dirty is the only way one will get what one wants. The City of Denver has aided them in their efforts through enormous corruption of city employees and organizations.

The LaFons are welcome to purchase the property located at 575, 515, and 517 E. Iliff Avenue from the SR DeBoer family, as is anyone interested in the property, for fair market value. Thus, the LaFons can then ensure that the trees (of which most are so old, they are end-of-life and considered dangerous by professionals) on the SR DeBoer property remain intact. As with the so-called “historical” areas while also allowing the SR DeBoer family to relieve themselves of the ongoing financial burden imposed by maintaining this property. But by no means is the property of historical value claimed by the Lafons and the SR DeBoer family should be allowed to sell their property as planned. It simply isn’t possible that people, who never met SR DeBoer, have more invested in his memory than his own family.

SR DeBoer’s family feels that SR DeBoer is more than honored in various ways throughout the City of Denver, including a park named in his honor. Not long after his death in 1974, his daughter, Elizabeth Wright, donated some of his personal items to the Denver Public library for public enjoyment. For this reason, the family feels it is their right to move on with their lives and do what was instructed both in SR DeBoer’s will when he left his property to his daughter (Elizabeth Wright) and then upon her passing in July 2005, equal division between her remaining children. This should be able to occur without the ongoing harassment from “neighbors” of the SR DeBoer property and the City of Denver.

As of late, the Lafons have now managed to get two more hearings, without the family of SR DeBoer’s knowledge, with the Denver Planning Board. The most recent Landmark hearing attended by all parties was on November 21st, 2006 (the first was in June) with the next scheduled hearing with Blueprint Denver on January 10th. The family (nor their lawyers) did not receive notification that their property was scheduled on the Denver Planning Board’s December 6th agenda.

The next hearing is scheduled for January 3rd (immediately following the New Year’s holiday) and the family only found out about it on December 26th, 2006 by chance. The family of SR DeBoer has learned that the information contained in the latest application submitted by the Lafons was forwarded to the members of the Planning Board in their meeting packets without the rebuttal document or any additional information submitted by the SR DeBoer family. This is yet another blatant attempt to conveniently leave out the family’s views and rebuttals to outright falsifications contained within the application(s) Leigh and Mark Lafon submitted.

These hearings, coincidentally, are happening during the holiday season and no doubt were an attempt to capitialize on the fact that the family was unaware and busy with holiday schedules. During the entire ordeal, which has been nearly all of 2006, the family has found out about the underhanded manuevers of the Lafons and the City of Denver employees they happen to know, by sheer happenstance.

The corruption that SR DeBoer complained about during his employment at the city apparently continues to this day. One would think that property owners would be the first persons contacted for issues pertaining to their own property. Apparently not, because it’s the neighbors who seem to have the control over adjoining properties. Of course, those who have connections within the city, that is.

Legacy to Cloud, What You Can Learn From Netflix, Intuit And Adobe

There’s been a lot of talk about cloud computing. Everyone’s saying it: why aren’t you using the cloud yet? You know that it won’t be long until you decide to make the switch. But you delay doing it for a variety of reasons. For one, migrating to the cloud is a tough business decision. It’s a big game-changer that could significantly benefit your company in terms of savings, recurring revenue, scalability and agility. All of these have been proven time and again but you know that there are considerable challenges involved. Some of the biggest challenges are cost, time and all the anxiety of dealing with change. And you end up asking yourself “Is it worth moving to cloud?”

And that’s why you think your company should wait until you’re ready.

The truth is, you will never be ready if you keep on waiting. Many companies already took the risk and found themselves in a better position to grow. They moved their legacy software to the cloud and are now running killer businesses. Here are some of the success stories of moving to cloud. Not just building apps on cloud at the inception but moving from legacy to cloud.

Netflix: from DVDs to Video Streaming

Netflix is in the headlines this week. The global streaming video service reached 40 million paid subscribers-way ahead of HBO’s 28.7 million new subscribers. The company’s earnings quadrupled, its shares rose.

In the first quarter of 2013 alone, Netflix streamed 4 billion years, a figure which nearly equals the viewership of the most-watched cable network, the Disney Channel.

So how did they do it? The company’s remarkable turnaround is not a secret. The giants in the cloud industry all knew about its great potential to succeed. Netflix made two very strategic business decisions to remain a market leader in video streaming.

First, it strategically transitioned from DVD to streaming. The critics, or rather cynics, thought that Netflix quickly and harshly killed its own DVD rental business when it began pushing cloud-based services. They even predicted the end of Netflix. But the company knew better, of course. While Netflix recognized early on the potential of a cloud-based streaming entertainment business, they carefully made the transition. In 2011, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings milked his outdated DVD business and used the cash to pay for his streaming business.

Second, Netflix aggressively promotes its cloud-based service. It’s expanding internationally, eager to dominate the streaming entertainment business worldwide. The move isn’t only aggressive but also creative. It’s starting to broadcast Netflix-only original TV shows. An original drama series, House of Cards won three Emmys this year.

If there’s one lesson to learn from the company’s success, it’s this. Pay close attention to the transition. And make the transition now. Your “core” product today will become obsolete sooner. Delay it and you’ll likely miss the market transition.

TurboTax: Bringing Tax Preparation from the Box to the Web

A long time ago, Americans used to march to Target, Best Buy or Costco to buy the latest TurboTax version. Like any other legacy apps, Intuit’s TurboTax comes in a box. It’s also cheap and very easy to use. Obviously, people need it and will definitely buy one every year.

If the boxed product worked and fetched profit, then why did Intuit shift to the cloud? And it’s not just TurboTax. Intuit does “simplify the business of life” by offering a host of cloud-based software: QuickBooks, Demandforce and Payroll Services for small businesses; Quicken Personal Finance, Mint Budgeting, Go Payment and many other products for everyone.

Now back to the question. Like Netflix, Intuit carefully planned its transition. It did psychological experiments and succeeded in encouraging people to try the cloud-based TurboTax.

First, people no longer pay up front to use the software. They just log online and pay after they file their taxes.

Second, Intuit made it easier for users to try preparing their taxes online. They can even get help from their tax professionals for free. Users can ask an unlimited number of questions by chatting or making a call.

Here is an interview with Intuit CEO, Brad Smith. When asked what makes cloud computing disruptive, Smith gave away three anchor points. Make sure to read that part carefully. He sums them up nicely in a sentence: “Cloud is changing business models, reaching broader array of customers and enabling them to participate in the process.”

Adobe’s Set of Tools: from Creative Suite to Creative Cloud

Adobe is known for its series of software suites used by creative professionals worldwide. It’s called Creative Suite and you’ve probably used a few of Adobe’s popular products: Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Dreamweaver, Flash Player and InDesign.

But on May 6, 2013, Adobe announced that it has fully embraced the cloud. Adobe Creative Suite 6 will be the last version and it will be replaced by Adobe Creative Cloud, a subscription-only service.

A month later, the company reported having a total of 700,000 paid Creative Cloud customers. Two months later, it surpassed one million subscriptions.

Critics may continue to hate Adobe’s shift to cloud-based, subscription-only software. But from a technological perspective, Adobe’s move makes a lot of sense. Here’s a quote from David Wadhwani of Adobe’s Digital Media Business Unit:

“Embracing the cloud has given us the ability to think differently about our role in the creative world, and gives us a much broader canvas for innovation. New technologies such as cloud, social, and mobile have changed the creative landscape dramatically, and we are fully embracing the opportunity this gives us all.”

The software giant knows that going cloud isn’t easy. But Adobe skates to where the puck is going to be. CEO Shantanu Narayen, in an in-depth interview with Mashable, anticipates the eventual shift to its cloud-based products: “A few years from now, people will say, ‘How could I even imagine a Photoshop that was not connected to the cloud?”

And the same goes for other boxed software. Just think of it as an inevitable and necessary process of creative destruction. A lot of things need to be destroyed first if you want to build something valuable and, of course, profitable. Whether you are a Business owner or the CIO/CTO of a large Enterprise or a Software Architect who deals with legacy software reading this article, think hard, what is going to be your next move?