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The story of the house on the hill

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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Up in Five Trees, on the hill east of Aspen Highlands, is a house unlike anything around it – unlike anything, in all likelihood, anywhere. It’s an antique-lover’s dream and the brainchild of Frank and Cynthia Goldsmith. To all appearances, the house was built, as the cornerstone reads, in “A.D. 1897.” In reality, it was finished in 2004, the product of five years the Goldsmith’s spent designing, buying antiques and building.Built in the Aspen fashion of the mega-mansions that surround it – flat-screen televisions, subzero refrigerator, radiant floor heating, speakers in every room, 11,000 square feet – the house is created nearly completely out of old materials.The floor of the entrance is made of 14- and 16-inch boards from Maine. One-third of the house was created from two 150-year-old cabins trucked here from Missouri. The drawers in the kitchen are apothecary drawers. The flat-screen in the living room rises at the push of a button from an old chest. And the subzero refrigerator is encased in an old armoire. “We traveled all over the country,” Frank said. “That was part of the fun of it, traveling and collecting things.”Every light fixture in the house is old. Every sink and every floor board was taken from somewhere else to create the old feeling. In some ways, it is truly like walking into an old house. Everything is put together seamlessly. The Goldsmiths, evidently, pay attention to details.

The house, though, is brand new. And the amenities poke through every now and then. Turn a corner in the 150-year-old cabin bathroom, with a bear skin on the floor, and find a modern steam shower. Music pipes in from speakers that are difficult to make out in the ceiling.

The house, though, is brand new. And the amenities poke through every now and then. Turn a corner in the 150-year-old cabin bathroom, with a bear skin on the floor, and find a modern steam shower. Music pipes in from speakers that are difficult to make out in the ceiling. “Even all the nails on the floor are completely for show,” Cynthia said. “It’s radiant heat.”The Goldsmiths designed the house around a narrative. Thus, before the house was built, “The Life and Times of Francis G. Smith,” or “The Story of the House on the Hill,” was written. It’s a colorful story of five chapters that fits on four pages. It starts in 1860, when Francis leaves home in Albany, N.Y., and is quickly swindled of his rifle and money after a night of “several whiskeys” and “the local female hospitality.”



So he joins the Army and ends up in Colorado. There, he escapes a bloody battle with Utes by “pretending to be dead by laying under the body of a slain soldier and creeping away after nightfall.”He moves to Ute City (Aspen’s former name) in 1897 and, “with an axe and a mule named Jezebel,” fashioned a cabin of just one room. There, he eventually cashes in on some silver he mines, builds a barn and starts selling supplies to other miners. Soon after, he arranges “for a bride through one of the mail-order services of the day.”As business grew, he and Cassie added a stone house connecting the red barn and hand-hewn cabin. “It was like building three houses at the same time,” Frank said, and the stonework, floorboards and other details of the three sections are all distinct.

Thus, it is advertised: “The Homestead: a new home built to look just like one of Aspen’s original homesteads.”After two years of living here, the Goldsmiths are ready to move on to their next project. So for only $12.4 million, you can be the next ancestor of Francis G. Smith. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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