POSTED: 07/01/2021

Excavation of Historic Astor House Unearths Clues of Fascinating Past


Maura O’Neal 

303.370.6407 • [email protected] 


Excavation of Historic Astor House Unearths Clues of Fascinating Past 
Denver Museum of Nature & Science archaeologists collaborate with Foothills Art Center, universities and others to investigate historic site 

July 1—GOLDEN, Colo.—The Denver Museum of Nature & Science, in collaboration with the Foothills Art Center, Colorado State University, University of Denver, University of Colorado Denver, Colorado School of Mines, Community College of Denver, Statistical Research Inc., and Metcalf Archaeological Consultants have made several exciting finds during the excavation of the historic Astor House in downtown Golden that began on June 21. 

“This project is so exciting – not only for the discoveries awaiting us, but also because we have so many amazing collaborators. It’s fun to work with professionals, students and citizens from so many different backgrounds who all have an interest in the history of Golden,” Denver Museum of Nature & Science Archaeologist and project co-lead Michele Koons said.  

Astor House opened in 1867 and operated as a boarding house and hotel for 104 years. The property transitions to a museum until 2014, and has sat vacant since then. In 2020, Foothills Art Center submitted plans to restore the historic house and transform it into a cultural arts hub. The City of Golden approved the project in the fall of 2020, and the excavation team is thrilled at the opportunity to investigate the property’s back yard before renovations begin.  

The excavation team, co-led by Koons and long-time Denver Museum of Nature & Science Volunteer and recent Master’s degree recipient from University of Colorado Denver, Amy Gillaspie, is using a number of methods to bring the story of the earliest days of the Astor House to life. The team used ground-penetrating radar to gain a better understanding of what lies beneath the grass and flagstone that is now covering the backyard where old fire insurance maps confirm several buildings – from barns to privies – once stood. The research team is also able to use the maps to confirm what material those buildings were made out of, which when paired with the radar scans, helps them determine where to dig and how to organize the excavation. 

After just a week of digging, the excavation team has already uncovered several noteworthy finds, including:   

  • Bone related to the hotel kitchen or a meat market that preceded the boarding house at the site in the early 1860s 
  • Coins from the late 1800s 
  • A Grand Army of the Republic fraternal order pin, showing dates 1860-1866 
  • Pieces of ceramic likely from dishes used in the boarding house 

Significant excavated materials will be catalogued and become part of the Golden History Museum’s collections. 

Tours of Astor House for members of the public will be held on July 10 and 11 as part of ARTSWEEK Golden. The public is also encouraged to stop by between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily leading up to the public tours to talk with scientists and see the discoveries.  

Follow @DenverMuseumNS, @Dr.Michele.Koons and @astorhousearchaeologyproject on Instagram for project updates. 

Additional partners include Community Connections LLC who will give tours of the excavation and history of the property on July 10 and 11, the Golden History Museum where artifacts will be housed, the City of Golden as the property owner, History Colorado, and Factor Earth LLC who will unveil new technology during the ARTSWEEK festivities. 

About the Denver Museum of Nature & Science 
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain Region’s leading resource for informal science education. Our mission is to be a catalyst and ignite the community’s passion for nature and science. The Museum envisions an empowered community that loves, understands and protects our natural world. A variety of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum visitors celebrate and understand the wonders of Colorado, Earth and the universe. The Museum is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO, 80205. To learn more about the Museum, visit or call 303.370.6000. Many of the Museum’s educational programs and exhibits are made possible in part by the citizens of the seven-county metro area through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). The Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Connect with the Museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



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