Born July 18, 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri, Margaret Tobin (Margaret Brown) was an American philanthropist, activist, and socialite that garnered the name “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” for her part to play in the story of the RMS Titanic (more on that below), and the Molly Brown House Museum has become a staple for curious onlookers.
Brown was not born into money; in fact, her parents raised Brown and their other 6 children in a very modest setting. At 18, Margaret moved out to Colorado in 1886 with two of her siblings in hopes of finding success in the mining industry there. She earned money doing sewing work for a local department store until meeting James Joseph Brown, a mining superintendent, whom Margaret fell in love with and married in September of 1886.
The couple would struggle financially until they found gold in 1893 and James was given partnership at the Ibex Mining Company. Despite her new-found wealth, however, Margaret was not the type of woman to just sit and do nothing – she was constantly active in her community assisting miners and their families, improving the local schools, establishing a woman’s club, and even running for a state senate seat in Colorado at the turn of the century, something unheard of at the time. One thing’s for sure, Margaret Brown was a strong woman ahead of her time and a name that should never be forgotten to history.
Molly Brown House Denver
Built in the late 1800s by architect William A. Lang, this Queen Anne style structure is a blend of several popular Victorian styles to make one incredible home. The residence originally belonged to Mary and Isaac Large until they were forced to sell the home after suffering from some financial issues. J.J. Brown purchased the home for $30,000 in 1894.
Since Margaret frequently traveled, she would often rent out the home while she was away, even allowing the governor of Colorado and his family to stay there while their mansion underwent renovations. By 1926, Brown had the home turned into a boarding house and appointed the housekeeper to supervise the building. After Margaret Molly Brown’s death in 1932, the home would go on to be used as a men’s rooming house, a Hull House settlement, and would even later become apartments available to rent.
By the year 1970, the home was in such bad shape from years of deterioration that it was nearly demolished until a group of locals established Historic Denver, Inc. and raised enough funds to restore the home and rescue the historical property from being torn down. Photos taken in 1910 were used to help reconstruct the home and deliver it back to its former glory.
The following photos from 1910 are thanks to a garden party at the home. They are contrasted with photos post-restoration.
Molly Brown House Museum
Margaret Molly Brown’s former home in Denver Colorado is still owned by Historic Denver, Inc. and is now open to the public as The Molly Brown House Museum.
During a guided tour of the home, guests will have the opportunity to explore all three floors of the home as well as 16 rooms. Get an in-depth look at what life was like for Mr. and Mrs. Brown during their days living in this gorgeous home and hear stories about Brown’s accomplishments and contributions to Victorian Denver. In addition to its rich history, the museum is also rumored to be haunted. Visitors have reported seeing apparitions, smelling phantom cigar smoke, and finding curtains opened with no explanation. If you’re a Colorado history buff or a lover of the paranormal, this should definitely be on your to-do list of museums in Denver Colorado to check out!
- Free for members and children under 6 years of age.
- $13 for adults ages 19-64
- $9 for juniors ages 6-18
- $11 seniors ages 65 and above
- $11 for persons in the military, college students with ID, and teachers.
The Molly Brown House Museum is located at 1340 Pennsylvania St, Denver, CO 80203. The Molly Brown House hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm local time.
Unsinkable Molly Brown House
In addition to her famous residence-turned-museum in Denver, below are some of the other locations that Margaret Brown called home.
Molly Brown House Leadville
When Margaret arrived in Leadville at 18, she and her brother, Daniel Tobin, lived in a small cabin together through the spring and summer of that year until Margaret met J.J. Brown.
Margaret and her new husband would go on to move into a modest house in Stumptown, Co, which is a small town just outside of Leadville and closer to the mines where J.J. worked. The couple both agreed these were some of the happiest years of their time together. It was their first home together and the place where they started their family, as Margaret gave birth to both of their children here – Lawrence Palmer Brown (born 1887) and Catherine Ellen Brown (born 1889).
Sadly, there are no photos of either home available to show, as most of the structures from those times no longer exist.
Molly Brown Summer House
The Molly Brown House Lakewood, also known as Avoca Lodge, is a historic building in Lakewood, Colorado, near Bear Creek. It is most famously recognized as the summer retreat for Margaret and her husband James Joseph Brown. The home, completed in 1897, sat on 400 plus acres of land and was considered one of the top farms in Colorado at the time, featuring a 100+ orchard trees that produced everything from peaches and plums to cherries and apples. There was also a large variety of livestock, fowl, and thoroughbred horses on the property.
Though Margaret and James enjoyed staying at Avoca Lodge to escape the noise of the city, they also threw some seriously fabulous parties at the property as well, often using the large dairy barn not far from the main house as a place for dancing and entertaining guests from dusk to dawn. Following the Brown’s separation agreement in 1909 after 23 years of marriage, allegedly due to James’ disapproval of Margaret’s progressive nature and her ever-growing involvement in the feminist movement, the summer home was put up for sale in 1910.
Despite being a gorgeous, peaceful oasis, however, the home went years without a buyer for one simple reason – it was just too expensive. Finally, in 1928, Robert V. Fehlmann and his wife, Rose, took ownership of the property. Five generations later, the descendants of Robert and Rose Fehlmann continue to own and care for this beloved piece of Denver history. The property is often used as a venue to a variety of events, including business events and weddings, as well as group and individual tours that only cost $10 a person.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Though Margaret Brown accomplished many things thought impossible for a woman of her time and spent the entirety of her life giving back to her community and being a symbol for women’s empowerment, she is most often recognized as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Heroine of the Titanic” for her heroic efforts to save as many as she could during the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. In the James Cameron film Titanic (1997) Margaret was played by actress Kathy Bates, but despite Bate’s phenomenal portrayal of Brown, almost everything that made Margaret so heroic in reality was removed from the film.
In truth, Margaret Brown’s decision to board the Titanic was last minute, since she had just heard the news that one of her grandchildren in the states was ill and she took the first ship out of England to reach him. The following is what reportedly took place during Brown’s time on the ship.
Molly Brown Titanic
After striking the iceberg that would lead the ship’s demise, Margaret stayed aboard the doomed vessel and helped others into the lifeboats rather than trying to secure herself a spot on one of the boats first. In fact, it was reported that she actually refused to board a lifeboat and continued to assist her fellow passengers until one of the crewmen lifted her up and actually dropped her into lifeboat 6. Upon realizing that the boat she was in was under capacity, she pleaded with the others on the boat to go back and save more people. Additionally, she also began handing out oars to the woman and encouraged them, despite protests from the men on the lifeboat who were in charge of rowing, to row themselves in order to keep warm.
Brown and the other survivors of lifeboat 6 were rescued by the Carpathia, which turned out to be the only ship that responded to the distress signal. Once safely aboard the ship, Brown continued to assist survivors by helping to distribute blankets, food, and drinks to those around her. Margaret also established a Survivors Committee that is said to have raised an incredible $10,000 for passengers in need just three days after the tragedy of the Titanic.
In the years that followed, Margaret continued to give her time to worthy causes, including historical preservation, education, the feminist movement, and worker’s rights. Brown was even given the French Legion of Honor for her efforts to help not only the survivors of the Titanic but also for her relief efforts in WWI when she established a relief for the soldiers located in France. After dedicating her entire life to helping those that needed it the most, Margaret Brown passed away in New York City in October of 1932 from a brain tumor at the age of 65.
Following her death, a novelist by the name of Caroline Bancroft wrote “The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown” which was a partially fictional, romanticized version of Brown’s life that overtime was treated as a biography. This was also where the term “Unsinkable Molly Brown” originated (Margaret was never actually referred to as “Molly” in life and the title did not arise until after her passing). Only adding insult to injury, a reporter by the name of “Gene Fowler” crafted a story that went along with Bancroft’s fictional depiction of Brown and attempted to sully her image by painting her as a poor, uneducated gold-digger only out for a rich man’s money.
The real Margaret Brown was a powerful, no-nonsense woman who fought for the rights of her gender and those who couldn’t fight for themselves. She donated money, time, and effort into helping those in need and by the end of her life, had forever sealed her place in history as being the Titanic heroine and an all-around incredible woman.