Voice of the Land
Jack and Greg’s House
If you are driving past the Denver Botanic Gardens, you drive right by this lovely Georgian home and may not know that it isn’t part of the Botanic Gardens.
Jack Finlaw and Greg Movesian hired Art of the Land for their first project. They asked us to prune branches before one of their gatherings. I met Jack walking our dogs in Congress park years some earlier when I was an interior designer. After the first project, I had the pleasure of restoring a major focal point of the interior formal gardens which had been covered by overgrown fitzers into the classic Georgian-style Italian garden it was meant to be.
This included installing a fountain featuring a statue of a boy holding a sea monster, a grotto, and a peony garden complemented by roses, lavender, Italian urns, pyramidical evergreen shrubs and boxwood hedges. We also created a lovely “secret garden” surrounded by walls of yews,
a variety of viburnam and boxwood. This is a lovely place to sit and contemplate in the midst of majestic pines, a catawlpa tree, and a locust.
Presently Jack is President and CEO at the University of Colorado Foundation and Greg is Chief Advancement Officer for Denver Scholarship Foundation. They have been community builders with their time and money since they first moved to Denver.
This handsome couple purchased their beloved mansion at 918 York St., across from the Richard C. Campbell House—now the Denver Botanic Gardens House, both of which were designed by architect Jules Jacques Benois Benedict.
This is really where our story begins, with Nancy clearing an area for a party. Which turns out to be the beginning of a vision and a legacy being built by Jack and Greg that has culminated into a cultural force for good. They host fundraisers for the arts, cultural projects, education non-profit organizations and political candidates; a role appropriate for this grand home.
The Georgian, Beaux-Arts style home fit the boys’ aesthetic—both having attended Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and loving the New England and Virginia countryside. They faithfully renovated their landscape to an English garden and the interior to be a bright, lively, and decorative classic of the Georgian English Manor.
Jack and Greg’s home was built in 1924 in a classic Georgian style with many of Benedict’s principal characteristics of Beaux-Arts architecture. Benedict is described as “one of the most flamboyant personalities in Denver’s architectural history” and its greatest master of the Beaux Arts style. Born in Chicago in 1879 he studied architecture in Paris [1902-06] where he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, considered the most prestigious architectural school in the world.
All this history is important to understand from the perspective of Jack and Greg, the young couple who took on the aging property with the intention to return it to it’s appropriate glory. Becoming the homes fourth owners in 1990 at 32 years of age, the once obviously magnificent home was becoming tired if not run-down.
The over half acre lot naturally lent itself to the idealized view of nature expressed by
the English landscape garden. It’s been a process; planting new and coaxing out old vine roses, restoring garden areas, redeveloping the gently rolling lawns, and supporting the old growth trees. Brick pavers were added to existing stairway to complement this secluded, stately residence that is surrounded by mature trees and occupies a unique place in Denver’s Congress Park neighborhood. Greg unearthed a small pond and expanded it into a classic Lily and Fish Pond and garden area with balustrades, pilasters, and urns.
The color pallet of the garden is “Yew” meaning essentially monochromatic green of the coniferous type trees and shrubs. Designed for peace and calm, the interest is in the textures, while splashes of color are minimal. As you walk through the gardens the intimate spaces contain exotic and interesting plants, sculptures, and artifacts all wound together in a quiet forest sheltering Yews, Boxwoods, Peonies, old vine Roses and Wisteria.
The pair were finally able to marry in September 2015 at Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral and hosted a reception for three hundred guests in their gardens. Art of the Land has enjoyed being a part of the home landscape directed by Jack and Greg’s good works. We wish them many more happy years in their grand English manor.
I asked Greg how it was to live next to the Botanic Gardens. He said it was wonderful. Sometimes he has picnickers in his front yard, but he said, that’s ok too – it’s what one does in an English landscape garden.