The Witches Hat Experience

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When I was an art student at U. of Colorado decades – many decades – ago, I was introduced to Meininger’s Art Supply in Denver, established in 1881 by Emil Meininger. It was already an institution then and by now it is a monument; family owned and dedicated to the passionate pursuit of creative arts. It is a supply destination with a beating heart. My own artistic soul found every tool, book, easel, paper and paint that it needed there and still does. A trip to Meininger’s, be it the Denver location on South Broadway, the Boulder location on The Hill or the Colorado Springs location is like discovering the art Mecca. You can learn more in this link:

In 1922, Emil’s daughter-in-law, Josephine, bought a cabin in the Insmont area of Bailey, Colorado,  on top of a hill overlooking the picturesque South Platte River about 45 miles southwest of Denver. They named the cabin Blue Jay Bunk after the Stellar’s Jays in the area and Josephine and their four children, including Henry (“Cap”) Meininger, spent summers there without inside water or electricity for many years, while her husband, the elder Henry “The Chief” Meininger, worked at the store Monday through Friday. He took the Denver train to Bailey on the weekends, and the cabin became a popular place where he and Josephine entertained family and friends.

“Cap” Meininger died in 1991, and left Blue Jay Bunk to his children, including Henry pictured above on the left, with his son Judd Meininger. Henry lived in the cabin year-round throughout the 1970’s making improvements and cutting cords of firewood for the winter, while still commuting to work at Meininger’s in Denver.

“Next to Blue Jay Bunk are three houses running down the hill, all built about the same time as the cabin in the early 1900’s. All the old houses, having been built as summer cabins for fishing lodges and summer camps, have needed much restoration and upgrading to keep them from deteriorating. In 1985 Henry married Betsy Palin and together they bought the green house next to the cabin, and Henry’s sister bought the white house next to that. Henry eventually bought the house at the bottom of the hill that has always been called Witches Hat for its conical roof. Henry bought that house and had it restored just in time for his son, Judd, to be married there in 2011.”   excerpted from the brochure titled Meininger’s Insmont Retreat, Bailey, Colorado

Yesterday I was fortunate to find myself arriving at Witches Hat with my artist friend Peter Heineman who was participating in the Golden Triangle Museum District plein air paint out, an event hosted on Sunday by Henry, Betsy and Judd Meininger. Peter remembered the property well, having spent time there when it was owned by Larry Weckbaugh even before the Meininger’s purchased it. Good times were had under that roof, and another of Peter’s friends, Bill Fifield, was the woodworking artist who hand carved much of the interior detail surrounding doors and mirrors, plus adding his personal touch in other areas of the cabin.

The day was perfect with fall colors, Colorado’s deep blue sky, the S. Platte gurgling along across the back meadow, artists with easels sprinkled throughout the property and great stories from Henry and Judd about this legendary property. The whimsical Witches Hat house is like nothing you have ever seen, with old photos and funky art, a well-loved and hard-working kitchen, nooks and crannies, additions and secret places to explore, all arranged around that famous high-ceilinged cone. If those walls could talk! Betsy had a lovely lunch which we enjoyed outside on the deck, topped off with a cookie assortment and a tray of the fanciest, most chocolate-y pastries, contrasting nicely with the rustic rural setting. It was a day to be remembered…thanks to a family that has meant so much to Colorado artists and the history of art in this area. Who knew that some fine day, far into the future of one freshman fine art student at CU who knew to shop at Meininger’s, such a day would come. Life is never dull, is it? Many thanks to Henry, Betsy and Judd Meininger – a family I had always admired from afar – for making some grand memories for me.

Denver‘s Golden Triangle Museum District is home to art galleries, a first Friday artwalk, restaurants, bars and popular arts attractions like the Denver Art Museum …

See Peter’s artwork at

For more photos visit my Instagram account at joannbrownscott

See my art at and

Book – “The Creative Epiphany, Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott and visit




3 responses to “The Witches Hat Experience

  1. The Witches’ Hat is evocative of part of the work studio and some of the features in houses designed Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Village, il. He was keen on making novel and best use of natural light in his designs.

    Again, Gaudi (Barcelona, Spain) has used similar features in his architectural designs. The idea of all round ‘falling light ‘ is seen in the construction of the ancient houses of prayer, mosques, temples etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is very interesting – thanks for that info! The decision to add the cone shaped witch’s hat was an afterthought, done years after the original construction, and from what I heard it was quite a big deal to cut up through the roof and add it on. Up inside the circular cone are a series of pie-shaped bedrooms and another almost hidden stairway leading on up higher to a sparse white loft with just a mattress in it.. The whole interior is crazy and fun – a real maze of rooms and secret places.


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