The University of Denver Needs Your Help Piecing Together History
In January 2018, the University of Denver launched the Campus Archaeology Project. Led by Anthropology professors Larry Conyers and Bonnie Clark, the project aims to use prospective construction sites in and around campus as a tool for community-engaged teaching and learning by taking a depper look at the history of the area spanning DU and surrounding neighborhoods.
Over the last month, Conyers has worked with a team of students using ground-penetrating radar to produce images of what remains of two houses below a parking lot west of Sturm Hall. Using historical records, Conyers and graduate research assistant Jasmine Saxon have identified former owners and occupants of the two houses formerly located on South Race Street, including Carl A. Isberg and Edwin R. Leigh and their families. Now, they need help finding more information about these families, or other residents who might have lived there.
The Carl A. Isberg Family, 2003 S. Race Street
At the address of 2003 S. Race Street, Conyers and his team found a structure that may have originally been a carriage house that was later converted to a garage. The house associated with the carriage house was built around 1909 (exact date unknown), but none of that structure remains.
The original owner of the home was a man named Nicholas Duleich, who rented the house to Carl A. and Mabel Isberg in 1926. Carl Isberg’s family was from Sweden and Mabel’s parents were from Indiana and Ohio. The two married when they were 21 years old. Carl worked as a shipping clerk for a storage company and Mabel worked as a clerk for a local telephone company. They lived at 2003 S. Race Street with their children Raymond and Audrey, as well as other family members until 1934.
From 1935 to 1936, the house was rented to a number of tenants, including Jennings Dewey “J.D.” and Mary E. Laughlin, and William F.R. Jr. and Marie L. Mill. In 1936, J.D. and Mary Laughlin rented the home, and within that same year, Nicola W. Turelli purchased the property. According to the 1940 census, Nicola, at age 39, was married but does not list his wife as living in the household. He worked as a carrier for the U.S. Post Office.
The Edwin R. Leigh Family, 2019 S. Race Street
At 2019 S. Race Street, GPR images reveal that the cellar of a house built sometime after 1905 is largely preserved under the parking lot. Though the house was demolished and covered over, one corner of the cellar’s foundational walls is still intact and could be an area where Conyers, Clark and their team of students may find undisturbed artifacts.
In 1920, the property was purchased by Edwin R. and Leone M. Leigh from the original owner Walter C. Jay. Edwin was born in Illinois and Leone in South Dakota. Edwin owned his own business and worked as "drain layer" or plumber. By 1924, Edwin had married his second wife Dorothy who worked as a bookkeeper for his company.
A year later, the house was transferred to Rascoe Leigh, Edwin’s son (presumably by his first wife Leone). Records show that a number of people named Leigh lived at 2019 S. Race Street, and after 1940, other families occupied the home, including Joel S. and Ella Abernathy, N.E. and Ella S. Buchanan, and Philip G. Jr. and Ruth L. Serafini. The Abernathy’s were originally from Iowa and West Virginia; Joel Abernathy is listed as a “farmer” and Ella as a housewife.
The DU Campus Archeology Project is looking for more information about the families who lived at 2003 and 2019 S. Race Street before the mid-1960s. If you have any information about these families, please contact the Campus Archeology Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.