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Wash Park house and the unique collection inside is hitting the auction block

Home has been in the same family since 1934
Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-29 19:41:15-04

DENVER — A house that quite literally keeps watch over Wash Park is hitting the auction block in August.

If you live in Denver, you probably noticed the home while walking around the park or it caught your eye while you were sitting in traffic on Downing, but the inside is something to see.

"No, you'll never see a house like this. I promise you, you will never see a house like this," said Sherri Stegeman as she talked about the home that has been in her family since the Great Depression.

Her father, Gary L. Johnson, lived in the home until his death a few months ago. He left the house to his three children, and they ultimately made the difficult decision to sell.

"Lots of good memories," said Stegeman. "To us, it's just where we grew up. It's going to be sad to let it go."

Over the years, Johnson acquired quite the collection of items including a wide variety of memorabilia from Colorado casinos. His family ultimately decided that an auction would be the best way to sell the home and nearly everything inside.

GALLERY | Inside the Wash Park Rainbow House

In some spots, every inch of the floor and ceiling is covered with Johnson's collection. The living room ceiling has an intricate pattern of playing cards, dice are displayed in a case, and glass panels from slot machines can be found in the stairwell.

"The thing that everybody asks me no matter what is, 'what's in that room upstairs?'" said Stegeman.

The second story circular room covered in multicolored stained glass is a showstopper, and she said some of the windows are original to the home. She remembers playing in that room as a little girl, opening the windows and climbing out on the roof with her brothers - just don't tell their mom.

"This house was built by a riverboat captain back in 1911, and if you look at it from the front, you can see that it is meant to resemble a riverboat," said Stegeman. "We've always called it the 'wheelhouse,' because it's a wheelhouse of a riverboat, and that's what he meant it to look like."

Somewhere along the way, it earned the nickname "Rainbow House." Maybe it's the colorful stained glass or a multicolored room in the basement that was used for meditation.

One day he decided to give the house a personality of its own by putting a pair of eyes and the cutout of a smile on the second story.

"It was just him wanting to make people smile," she said. "I think it will make them smile, and it definitely does. People point, and they smile. And the little kids are pointing, and they smile. I don't think he knew it would have quite that impact."

A few secrets are hiding behind that smile, too. Johnson hid notes and items throughout the house — inside walls and odd places. His children recently found a note that read: "Ha! You have found yet another one of the mini-treasures I have hidden. This one is to just wet your whistle and is probably the easiest to find." A box of marbles was found along with the note that said it was hidden in 1988.

"If somebody keeps this house, which I hope they do, I have no doubt they'll probably find a dozen little hidden treasures," said Stegeman. "And he's got a note about everything, and he signs them. It's just cool."

The future of the house will be decided on the front porch where a live auction is set to take place on August 10. The collection is still in the process of being cataloged and will be auctioned off online.

"My hope would be that somebody would keep the footprint of the house, that we'd all be able to enjoy the rainbow room forever," she said. "That's my ultimate hope. Is that reality? I don't know, time will tell. But more than anything, I hope that whoever does end up with this house can enjoy this view as much as we did. It's absolutely worth living here for that."