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Home Builder/Developer: Burns, Franklin L.

Birth/Death Dates: 1914-1997

Practice Dates: 1940-c.1980

Firms: Burns Realty and Trust

Biographical Information

Franklin Lane Burns was born in Denver on August 1, 1914. He graduated from Denver’s East High School and went on to attend the University of Southern California for a year and then enrolled at the University of Denver as a pre-med student for two years. He married his first wife, Evelyn Denahey, in 1939 and that same year sold his first home for $1,250; it was just two rooms and 288 square feet. In 1940, he dropped out of school to take over Burns Realty and Trust (established in 1899) after the death of his uncle (News, 08/14/1997).

Burns anticipated the post-war housing boom and began developing the Burns Brentwood subdivision in southwest Denver in 1946. He offered small Minimal Traditional type houses to  returning servicemen and their families, taking advantage of the generous loan provisions of the G.I. Bill. Burns also led the development of post-WWII housing near the Fitzsimmons Army Base in Hoffman Heights and Aurora Hills. Active in regional and national home builder organizations, He served as the Treasurer of National Association Home Builders (NAHB) in 1957.

In 1955, Mayor Nicholson named Burns as Denver’s representative on the Inter-county Regional Planning Commission (News, 07/28/1955). He stated the commission “plans to make recommendations for the development of residential areas, industrial, commercial and agricultural areas, locations for public ways and places, playgrounds, etc.” The commission was expected to create a regional master plan for the four-county area. Later that year, he filed for divorce (News, 01/27/1957).

In 1959, Burns filed a request asking that Denver annex 239½ acres of Arapahoe County, near West Warren and Yale Avenues [south], and South Monaco Parkway [east] and Albion and Ash Streets [west] (News, April 17, 1959). The parcel eventually became part of Denver’s Goldsmith neighborhood in the 1960s.

Burns announced his engagement to Joy Steelman Colwick, formerly of Texas, in 1960. At the time of the announcement, the News noted that Burns was President of Burns Realty and Trust; a member of National Home Builders; director of the Denver United States National Bank; and a member of the Denver Club, Denver Country Club, Denver Athletic Club, Cherry Hills Country Club, and Columbine Country Club (News, 5/14/60). Burns organized a successful political  ampaign in the 1960s to establish Denver’s two percent sales tax.

In 1970, Franklin and Joy Burns purchased the old Hampshire House in downtown Denver. Joy eventually oversaw its conversion into a five-star, all-suite hotel, renamed the Burnsley Hotel (Colorado Builders Forum, March-April, 2003).

Burns was elected to the then newly-organized NAHB’s Housing Hall of Fame in 1970. The nomination noted that he had “built  more than 13,500 residential and commercial buildings in the Denver area. The homes and buildings are valued at more than $120 million” (News, 02/11/1977). Using a personal donation of $5 million, the University of Denver formed the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management in 1997. Franklin Burns passed away on August 10, 1997, at the age of 83. In 2002, Franklin and Joy Burns were elected to the Colorado Business Hall of Fame (News, 12/05/2001).

(Biography by Paul Malkoski)