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Who is she? Legislative Council seeks help identifying mystery woman in portrait at Colorado Capitol

Author: Marianne Goodland - March 21, 2018 - Updated: March 23, 2018

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Can you help identify this mystery woman? She may have played a part in Colorado history, but her identity is now lost. (Photo by Marianne Goodland/Colorado Politics)

DENVER — Okay, all you Colorado history buffs and longtime politicos: I’ve got a mystery for you to solve.

A recent water leak at the state archives forced the hasty relocation of a group of portraits of some of Colorado’s earliest governors — and one mystery woman, possibly from the 1930s.

Gov. Frederick Pitkin, Colorado’s second governor. Photo at right shows damage. (Photos by Marianne Goodland/Colorado Politics)

According to Damion Pechota of Legislative Council, who is coordinating a restoration project, there are about 20 portraits of former governors in sad shape. They include the likenesses of Gov. Frederick Pitkin, Colorado’s second governor and for whom Pitkin County is named. There’s also a portrait of the state’s third territorial governor, Alexander Cummings, that shows large tears in the canvas. Other portrait frames need repair and/or regilding.

The Capitol Building Advisory Committee has authorized restoration of the damaged portraits, which represent more than a third of all Colorado governors, both territorial (eight) and those who governed after Colorado became the Centennial State in 1876 (42, including the current resident of the Capitol’s chief first-floor office, Gov. John Hickenlooper).

Gov. Alexander Cummings, third territorial governor of Colorado. Photo by Marianne Goodland

But then there’s this portrait of the mystery woman (above). It doesn’t need fixing, but it does need identification. Doug Platt of the Department of Personnel and Administration said information previously listed on the back of the portrait has been torn off and is now lost to time. There is a handwritten date on the back of the canvas — 5-13-33 — and the name of the Turner Art Gallery, formerly on 17th Street in Denver, which may have commissioned the portrait.

Platt said she could be related to the administrations of Gov. William Adams, who served from 1927 to 1933, or to Gov. Edwin Johnson (1933-1937), for whom the eastbound lane of the Johnson-Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 is named.

If you’ve got any thoughts about who the mystery woman might be, and more importantly, can help with first-hand proof, contact project coordinator Damion Pechota at damion.pechota@state.co.us. He’s also interested in hearing from anyone who can help with clues related to her dress and hairstyle and what time frame those items fit into.

And drop me a line at marianne.goodland@coloradopolitics.com. I’d like to know who it is too!

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.