Golda’s Denver House May Finally Have a Savior

Intermountain Jewish News

After more than a year of legal battles to save Golda Meir’s dilapidated former home from demolition here, a philanthropic foundation has indicated its willingness to move, repair and utilize the structure.

By a unanimous vote Oct. 1, the foundation of the Auraria Higher Education Center declared support for placing the duplex permanently on the grounds of the center and committed itself to raising the funds necessary for the building’s renovation or restoration.

The foundation is the fundraising arm of the center, the central campus authority for the large downtown site which includes Metropolitan State College, the University of Colorado at Denver and Community College of Denver.

Foundation chairman Larry Hamilton also directed a letter to Denver Mayor Federico Pena urging the city to refrain from demolishing the late Israeli Premier’s house, currently situated in a city park, in order to allow Auraria staff time to plan for the house’s siting, funding and use.

In addition, GMMA filed suit on Oct. 2 in Denver District Court seeking an injunction to prevent the demolition. Under a previous court stipulation, the city was legally free to destroy the building by midnight October 3. Mel Cohen of GMMA said the suit was primarily a precaution since city officials had stated their desire to hold off the demolition.

The Auraria plan still depends on a vote by the center’s board of directors, headed by former mayoral candidate Don Bain. Such a decision will probably be made within the next few weeks, according to center development director Larry Ambrose.

OPTIONS WILL BE EXAMINED

Meantime, Auraria staffers will examine options relating to a permanent site, funding and suggested uses for the building. Those uses could include “anything from campus offices to a museum to classrooms to the idea of a living memorial,” Ambrose said. “It would be nice if it had some relationship to higher education and the values that Golda Meir exemplified.”

A consideration may be to use the structure in a “revenue producing” capacity, he added.

In order to comply with the wishes of the city, Ambrose noted, it may also be necessary for the center to remove the building from park property, place it at its permanent site on the campus and board it up until funds are raised to restore the house to a usable state.

THE HOUSE THAT WON’T GIVE UP

The building has been unoccupied since 1981, when it was narrowly saved from bulldozers at its original location in west Denver. Since then, the small brick structure has been moved to two city parks, was partially burned by arsonists, defaced with anti-Semitic symbols and has been the subject of numerous and varied disputes over how it should be utilized and where it should be located.

Initial support from the city waned as restoration funds proved difficult to obtain; the organized Jewish community has not made a financial commitment to the project.

GMMA, headed by Mel and Esther Cohen, has been the only advocate of preserving the house for several years, although it has been able more than once to attract national press attention to the project.

The house was occupied by Meir in 1913 and 1914. Then Golda Mabovitch, she was a student at North High School and lived with her sister and brother-in-law, who ran a dry-cleaning business and were Zionist activists. In her memoirs, Meir wrote that her interest in Zionism and Israel was sparked during her Denver stay.

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