Citation
Ranches to ranch houses

Material Information

Title:
Ranches to ranch houses suburbinization in Metropolitan Denver
Creator:
Richardson, David John
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xii, 244 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Ranches -- History -- Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( lcsh )
Suburbs -- History -- Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( lcsh )
Housing development -- History -- Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( lcsh )
Housing development ( fast )
Ranches ( fast )
Suburbs ( fast )
History -- Denver Metropolitan Area (Colo.) ( lcsh )
Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( fast )
Genre:
History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 230-244).
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by David John Richardson.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
57654392 ( OCLC )
ocm57654392
Classification:
LD1190.HL57 2004m R52 ( lcc )

Full Text
RANCHES TO RANCH HOUSES:
SUBURBANIZATION IN
METROPOLITAN DENVER
by
David John Richardson
B.B.A. University of Texas, 1976
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
2004
.
\ L


2004 by David John Richardson
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
David John Richardson
has been approved
by
Thomas J. Noel
Mark S. Foster
James B. Whiteside
Date


Richardson, David John (MA, History)
Ranches to Ranch Houses: Suburbanization in Metropolitan Denver
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
The Denver Metropolitan Area has experienced explosive growth at various
times since the citys 1858 founding, often at the expense of nearby agricultural
properties. The early suburbs were formed during the later nineteenth century,
primarily along or at the end of the streetcar lines. At about the same time a number
of large ranches were assembled on the far reaches of the city, including several
spreads in excess of 10,000 acres. Many of these ranches were owned by members of
the citys emerging social elite, and were in fact their country estates.
During the first half of the twentieth centuiy Metropolitan Denver grew at a
relatively slow rate. Suburbs did not extend much beyond the original streetcar
suburbs of the 1880s and 1890s. Only after the Second World War did significant
outward growth again reshape the city. Suburban growth was driven by the rise of the
automobile culture in the United States, intense consumer demand, low interest loans
backed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and other government incentives, as
well as the availability of relatively cheap land in the form of outlying farms and
ranches.
Many of the historic ranches that once ringed Denver are gone. Most were
swallowed by suburban development with little or no discussion of alternatives. It is
only in last decades of the twentieth century that alternatives to wholesale
development of historic ranches were even considered. As the debate over land use
and resource allocation intensifies in the twenty first century it will be even more
important to explore preservation and conservation alternatives.
IV


The story behind these historic ranches and how they came to be suburban
developments is not only important to Coloradoans, but also to Western Historians
generally. By gaining an understanding of what has happened in the past, modern
residents of Western cities can perhaps consider alternatives to wholesale
development. Many beautiful ranches have been lost forever, but there are still others
that are on the cusp of development. These few remaining ranches can either fall to
the bulldozer or be preserved as examples of Colorados ranching heritage.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
v


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my wife, Javana, who stood by me and supported me in my
quest to fulfill a lifelong dream to be a historian. Without her prodding and
encouragement I would never have found the courage to do this.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Thank you to all those who helped me with my research and who acted as sounding
boards for my ideas during the last couple of years. I want to give particular thanks to
the staff at the Colorado Historical Society, the Denver Public Library Western
History Collection, the Littleton History Museum, the Douglas County Library
District and the Jefferson County Library District for all their help in locating
research materials. I also want to acknowledge the contribution of all the ranchers and
others I interviewed in conducting background research into the history of ranching in
Colorado and along the Front Range. I also want to give particular thanks to my
advisor, Tom Noel, for his ideas and encouragement during the course of this project.


CONTENTS
Figures.........................................................x
Tables........................................................xii
CHAPTER
1. THE LAND RUSH................................................1
Early Ranching in Colorado...............................7
Evolution of Land and Water Use Policy..................12
Modern Suburbanization..................................18
2. HIGHLANDS RANCH: FROM CATTLE SPREAD TO SPRAWL...............34
The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch..........................36
Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch....................39
The Diamond K...........................................46
Highlands Ranch: The Ranch..............................52
Highlands Ranch: The Suburb.............................56
3. KEN-CARYL RANCH: FROM COUNTRY ESTATE
TO SPACE AGE............................................75
Bradford City...........................................77
Ken-Caryl Ranch.........................................82
Later Ranching Era......................................93
Ken-Caryl Ranch: The Suburb.............................96
viii


4. THE MARCH OF PROGRESS...................................111
The Church Ranches...................................112
Pinehurst Farm.......................................128
Grant Farm...........................................136
5. ALTERNATIVES TO DEVELOPMENT.............................151
Cherokee Ranch.......................................152
Prairie Canyon Ranch.................................165
Greenland Ranch......................................173
Walker Ranch.........................................179
6. CONCLUSIONS.............................................186
Why They Ranched.....................................187
The Drive to Develop.................................193
Alternatives.........................................198
Future Considerations................................201
ENDNOTES.........................................................209
BIBLIOGRAPHY.....................................................230
IX


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Typical Cowboys on a Colorado Ranch, ca. 1890...........................8
1.2 Ranch in Colorado Mountains, ca. 1890..................................11
1.3 Map of Major Ranches Close to Metro Denver.............................32
1.4 Map of Major Outlying Ranches..........................................33
2.1 Welte and Gassner Families, ca. 1890...................................37
2.2 Highlands Ranch Headquarters Complex..................................54
2.3 Location of Highlands Ranch...........................................61
2.4 Highlands Ranch Headquarters Complex..................................71
3.1 Ken-Caryl Valley in 1910...............................................83
3.2 Ken-Caryl Valley in 2003..............................................97
3.3 Location of Ken-Caryl Ranch..........................................100
3.4 The Manor House in 2003..............................................106
3.5 Bradford-Perley House Ruin...........................................108
4.1 Location of Church Ranch..............................................125
4.2 Location of Pinehurst Farm...........................................130
4.3 Location of Grant Farm...............................................142
5.1 Location of Cherokee Ranch............................................156
5.2 View of Cherokee Ranch From the Castle...............................158
x


5.3 Location of Prairie Canyon Ranch.....................................167
5.4 Headquarters Complex at Prairie Canyon Ranch.........................170
5.5 Longhorns at Prairie Canyon Ranch....................................172
5.6 Hounds After a Coyote Hunt at Greenland Ranch in 1908...............174
5.7 Headquarters Complex at Greenland Ranch.............................175
5.8 Location of Greenland Ranch.........................................178
5.9 Blacksmith Shop at Walker Ranch, ca 1990............................180
5.10 Headquarters Complex at Walker Ranch, ca. 1990.....................182
5.11 Location of Walker Ranch...........................................184
xi


TABLES
Table
2.1 Family of Lawrence C. Phipps, Sr.......................................57
3.1 Family of John C. Shaffer..............................................87
3.2 Johns-Manville Land Utilization Plan for Ken-Caryl Ranch..............99
3.3 Projected Tax Revenues From Ken-Caryl Ranch 1972 Through 1985..........102
3.4 Projected Population of Ken-Caryl as Percent of Surrounding Area.......103
xii


CHAPTER 1
THE LAND RUSH
The land that came to be known as Colorado has always attracted people,
whether they were the tribes of Indians who once roamed free on the vast plains in
summer and wintered in sheltered mountain valleys, or Hispanic farmers and ranchers
coming up from the arid lands of New Mexico in search of better grazing, or Euro-
Americans lusting after mineral riches. People came to Colorado for a number of
reasons; some proved transitory, while others led to more permanent settlement. For
those who stayed, the state proved to be a bountiful home with one of its chief
attractions being its wide-open spaces and seemingly limitless plains and mountains
stretching to the sky. However, these once open spaces no longer are as open as they
once seemed, and the limitless lands that beckoned those first settlers are filling up
rapidly with homes and businesses.
During the later quarter of the twentieth century a debate raged across the
state of Colorado, pitting those who wanted to continue fueling the economic growth
against those who feared that population had grown too large. Concerns over water,
land use, housing density, air pollution and the intrusion of humans into the wild
places of the state ran counter to the traditional boosterism that had been a factor ever
since the first Euro-American settlers came to Colorado in search of easy wealth. This
1


debate has continued into the twenty first century, with much of it coming to center
on the rapidly growing cities along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in
particular Metropolitan Denver.
Nothing epitomizes this conflict more than the battle over the 1976 Winter
Olympics and Denvers selection as the host city. The initial jubilation that greeted
the International Olympic Organizing Committees awarding of the quadrennial
games to Denver soon gave way to expressions of doubt and concern. A young state
representative named Richard D. Lamm led a campaign involving the Sierra Club,
anti-Vietnam War activists, and other public interest groups to gather signatures for a
statewide referendum on the issue. Opposing Lamm and his allies were the traditional
forces of boosterism, represented by Governor John A. Love, Denver Mayor William
H. McNichols, Jr., and most of the Colorado business community.
The issue of the Winter Olympics was closely tied to the environmental
concerns of those who were opposed to hosting the games in Colorado. Supporters
and opponents agreed that the games would stimulate growth in the state, however the
disagreement came over whether such growth was beneficial to Colorado and its
residents. The idea that the Olympic games would put Colorado on the map drew the
comment, New York City is on the map, and its problems are insurmountable...1 In
a short time the grassroots opposition movement, capitalizing on a series of public
relations gaffes on the part of the Denver Olympic Organizing Committee, coupled


with rising cost estimates for hosting the games, had raised sufficient doubts to get
the issue of the games put up for a statewide referendum.
On November 7, 1972, the voters of Colorado, by a margin of three-to-two,
elected to discontinue state funding for the 1976 Winter Olympics, thereby rejecting
the invitation to host the games. Soon afterward, the International Olympic
Organizing Committee formally rescinded the offer to let Denver host the games.
Public sentiment against uncontrolled growth, concerns over the environmental
impacts, constantly increasing cost estimates and fear of terrorists generated by the
massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic games in Munich, all played
a part in the vote to reject the games.2
Even though this vote has been pointed to as a watershed event marking a
change in attitude among the inhabitants of the Mile High state, economic depression
in the 1980s, and later attempts to lure the games to Colorado, demonstrated that this
did not represent a permanent change of heart.3 By the end of the twentieth century,
generally uncontrolled growth in Colorado, in particular on the part of the cities along
the Front Range, had once again become a topic of heated debate. As urban
development swallowed more and more rural areas, questions about planning,
population density and the need to preserve open space for future generations arose
more frequently.
A significant segment of the debate centered on the development of large,
open tracts of land, including ranches. Current residents of Metropolitan Denver,
3


many of whom have lived there less than ten years, rarely realized is that up until just
a few decades ago most of the land upon which their homes sit today was still utilized
for farming and ranching. There does not seem to be any connection in the minds of
many, particularly the more recent arrivals, between the vast suburbs that now ring
the Denver area and historic ranches. Many times the only trace one sees of these
historic properties is a sign, usually posted near the entrance to a suburban tract,
bearing the name of a ranch or farm. Passersby probably assume that this name is an
attempt on the part of the developer to create a feeling of the Old West for
homebuyers. The truth, in many cases, is that these signs indicate the name of the
property upon which the suburb is built. They also may be that communitys only link
remaining to the agricultural heritage brought to Colorado by the first white settlers.
Though mining attracted many of Colorados early Euro-American settlers,
most of whom were of the get it and get out variety, it was the prospect of
agriculturelivestock raising and farmingthat attracted the people who stayed and
made Colorado their home. Much of what is now Metropolitan Denver is on land
where these people raised their families, crops and livestock, and built their lives.
Their agrarian legacy may interest Coloradans being swallowed up by the
seemingly insatiable engine of development. The bulldozer and the backhoe tear
wounds in the prairie each and every day, as new housing developments and office
parks are thrown up on land that only months before had been the home of wildlife
and livestock. Rural residents who used to have to travel an hour or more to find the
4


nearest store now find a Wal Mart or a Target store, surrounded by acres of asphalt,
encroaching on their pastures, while the pounding of hammers and the buzzing of
saws gives notice that new neighbors are on the way.
Their splendid isolation ended by encroaching suburbs, ranchers and farmers
find themselves the objects of curiosity, if not outright scorn, as these newcomers
complain of flies and the odor of animal manure, and petition government for wider
roads to accommodate the increasingly heavy traffic. Economic pressures force many
ranchers and farmers into selling to developers, and moving elsewhere.
However, in the case of many farms and ranches near Denver this view of the
suburbanization process does not hold true. While some small landowners were
forced to sell out to big developers, the larger ranches and farms should have been
immune to such pressure. For the most part, these properties were owned by what can
only be termed the social elite: wealthy, politically connected families who were not
vulnerable to pressure by developers.
In nearly every case, these larger properties had not been established
originally out of any desire to pursue ranching or farming as a primary source of
income. Rather they were the country estates of the wealthy, used only on weekends
or as a retreat from the daily pressure of business life in the city. In fact, what
occurred in the case of many large agricultural properties near Denver was just the
opposite of the traditional view of the helpless rancher caving in to developer
pressure. Pressure by developers or local government authorities did not transform
5


these once grand estates into suburbs. Instead, it was the conscious decision on the
part of their wealthy owners to cash out. These socially elite families initiated the
development of their properties and, in several notable cases, took on the active role
of developer themselves.
However, not all ranches and farms in the crosshairs of development have
ended up as paved streets lined with cookie cutter houses of little or no architectural
merit. Due to the efforts of preservationists and local government several key pieces
of the agricultural landscape on the fringes of Metropolitan Denver have been saved
as open space, or had severe limits put upon their development. Visionary landowners
and concerned citizens have put together some unique public-private partnerships to
salvage some of the rural landscape that once surrounded the city.
The purpose of this study is to examine the history of some representative
properties and illustrate how they came to be in their current state. The people of
Denver and Colorado have a choice to make about the direction future development is
to take. Before them is the question of allowing the traditional booster development
at any price to continue, or to take a more measured approach that combines planned
development with preservation of historically significant ranches and farms, which
can be utilized to provide open space, and for education of future generations. By
gaining an understanding of what has already been lost, and why these ranches and
farms were significant, Coloradans can better make an informed decision on the fate
of those that remain.
6


Early Ranching in Colorado
Almost from the first, settlers coming to Colorado recognized the value of this
land for farming and raising livestock. The first Europeans, Hispanic settlers moving
up from Santa Fe and Taos, brought horses, cattle and sheep. This livestock thrived
on the nutritious grasses of the open prairie and in the protected mountain valleys.
From the earliest days, settlers found that raising livestock on this land would take a
particular kind of individual: one who loved the outdoors and the rugged lifestyle of a
rancher.
The earliest Euro-American stock raisers in Colorado relied upon Longhorns
brought up from Texas by men such as Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. They
used the open range, along with cheap labor, to make cattle ranching profitable.4 John
Wesley Iliff typified these early cattle barons, building a huge cattle empire on the
public domain of northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, while giving
little thought to securing legal title to all the land his 50,000 head of cattle roamed.5
These first stock outfits learned that by having a few trusted hands file homestead
claims on land bordering the few sources of water in a given locale, they could
effectively control the tens of thousands of acres nearby. Without access to the water
controlled by the livestock growers anyone who attempted to farm on these acres
would soon fail and move on. It was a highly effective way of operating, as long as
no one challenged the stock growers right to dominate the land and water.
7


The wild and wooly days of the open range came to a sudden halt in the mid-
1880s. A series of drier than normal years, combined with the explosive growth of the
cattle business, fueled by European and Eastern capital, left the range overgrazed;
herds were dangerously weakened by the resulting lack of forage. The heavy snows
and bitter cold temperatures of the winter of 1886-87 devastated the livestock
operations of Colorado, as it did throughout most of the West. Stock animals died by
the tens of thousands in the frozen white hell the plains had become, wiping out many
of the ranching operations, and leaving those that survived much smaller and more
cautious in their future operations.
Figure 1.1 Typical Cowboys on a Colorado Ranch, ca. 1890. (Silver
emulsion on glass plate. Photograph from authors collection.)
8


Ranchers understood that they could no longer leave their stock to fend for
themselves on the open range, particularly during the winter months. The result was
the introduction of crop production on ranches for the express purpose of providing
feed for the animals during times when grass proved insufficient. Hay grasses, alfalfa
and com were raised on most ranches, and herds were reduced to levels that would
allow ranchers to feed them within the limits of their own resources. As the size of
the average herd dropped, so did that of many ranches, leaving livestock operations
on a much smaller scale than before. Instead of ranches that encompassed hundreds of
thousands of acres, many of the surviving operations now took in ranges that
measured only a few thousand acres. However, some ranches remained baronial,
covering tens of thousands of acres, and employing hundreds of horses, dozens of
cowhands, blacksmiths and other workers. Unlike Iliff and other pioneer cattle
tycoons, later day ranch kings either owned the land or leased the public range their
cattle operations required.6
In the final years of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth,
a series of new ranches were established near Denver. However, the ranchers putting
these spreads together tended to be cut from a different piece of cloth than were those
original stock raisers. Far from being the freebooting cattle barons of legend, ranchers
in the immediate vicinity of the state capital were, for the most part, men whose
primary business interests were in the city of Denver. Their wealth derived from a
9


diverse collection of interests that included mining, manufacturing, banking,
publishing, transportation; almost anything other than raising livestock. These people
also were part of the political establishment and could use their influence to an extent
not available to the average rancher. The ranches they owned were more on the order
of summer or weekend estates on which they just happened to raise some livestock.
Also, with the advent of the federal tax on income these ranches became a tool for
generating tax deductions. Ranch also came to be a euphemism for large tracts held
by real estate speculators.
The livestock raised on these ranches also tended to be on a different order
than that found on a typical ranch in earlier times. Gone were the rangy Longhorns of
Western legend; in their place were herds of prize horses, or blooded cattle from the
stock farms of the Mid-west or Europe. While some of these ranches did achieve
significant size, and many were managed as serious ranching enterprises, for the most
part the wealthy owners treated these ranches as recreational properties and as a
symbol of their social standing, than as a source of income.7
That is not to say that only the wealthy and politically connected engaged in
ranching near Denver in those days. There were small outfits, mostly on the order of
farms, which grew food crops and also happened to have small herds of animals
raised primarily for their meat or milk. However, brutal winters and scorching
summers, punctuated by long periods of drought, made ranching in Colorado a
challenge, even for the larger, better financed outfits.
10


Working from before first light to as late as it took, ranchers faced challenges
that very quickly separated the real McCoys from the tenderfeet. It took courage to
hang on despite everything; wildly swinging livestock markets, unrealistic land
policies, rustlers, drought and blizzards. For the past century, ranchers have faced
pressure from development, as cities all along the front range of Colorado swallowed
up vast tracts of ranch land to house a burgeoning urban population. All of these
factors served to eliminate many of the small ranchers in the Denver area before the
Second World War. Ranches greater than 1,000 acres much more frequently survived
until well into the second half of the twentieth century.
Figure 1.2 Ranch in Colorado Mountains, ca. 1890. (Silver emulsion on
glass plate. Photograph from authors collection.)
11


The stories of the people who have worked in ranching are as varied as the
landscape they worked. Many lived and died in complete obscurity, but others left
their mark on Colorado as surely as did the railroaders and miners. Many counties
and towns still bear the names of these early stockmen. In other places all that
remains of their legacy is a name on a new subdivisionHighlands Ranch, Ken-Caryl
Ranch, Stroh Ranch and dozens of others. The ranch designation on the entrance
sign of a suburban housing tract may cause those who drive by to wonder
momentarily what is meant by the name. An examination of some of the more
prominent Denver area ranchers may provide a better understanding of the underlying
forces that led to the development of their spreads.
Evolution of Land and Water Use Policy
Beginning with the early Hispanic settlement of Colorado the limited natural
resources of a semi-arid region required different notions of land ownership and
control. Native American cultures, in general, had no notion of private land
ownership, considering the land open to all who wanted to use it. As a result, the
Hispanic settlers were the first people living in Colorado to consider the issues of
O
water and land use from the perspective of ownership and legal rights of usage.
The Spanish settlers brought with them a land use system based on ancient
concepts adapted to the drier, warmer climate of the Mediterranean basin. As their
settlement gradually spread northward, Hispanic livestock raisers developed a system
12


of communal ownership and control of strategic water sources, along with extensive
rather than intensive grazing of livestock.9 This meant that their livestock required a
much larger area in which to graze than was traditional under the Euro-American
system. However, this also resulted in less damage to the land, grasses and water
supply. In recognition of this simple fact, Hispanic Ranchos in the West and
Southwest tended to be much larger than American farms east of the Mississippi.
When American livestock growers began moving out onto the Great Plains
and the prairie in the first half of the nineteenth century they quickly realized the
importance of water. No farmer or rancher could survive without an adequate and
steady supply of water. In a very short time, ranchers had pre-empted nearly every
source of surface water on the plains. Control of the land along the banks of a stream
or river gave a rancher effective control of thousands of acres of public domain
beyond.10
The first people to be directly impacted by the developing livestock industry
were the Indians, in particular the plains tribes. These nomadic hunter societies
depended upon the buffalo for practically everything they used to survive. Beginning
in the eighteenth century, the horse was introduced into Plains Indian culture, thus
making it that much easier to hunt buffalo and allowing the Indian tribes on the open
grasslands of North America far greater freedom of movement than they had ever
enjoyed in the past. In the case of the Cheyenne, the introduction of the horse induced
members of a formerly agricultural society to give up their lifestyle and become
13


nomadic, following the great herds of buffalo as they migrated across the seas of
grass.11
Both the herds of buffalo and Indian horses relied upon the grasses of what
was now the public domain of the United States. As more and larger herds of
livestock occupied these lands, competition for the grass became intense and often
violent. Finally, bowing to pressure from ranchers and homesteaders alike, the United
States Army conducted a systematic campaign to remove Indians from the land. By
1890, the process had been completed.12
Concurrent with this removal came the formation of the large livestock
operations based upon open rangelands. Land laws in effect at the time did not allow
for the purchase of large tracts of the public domain, as had the earlier Spanish
system, permitting the establishment of haciendas or estancias de Ganado of a size
that recognized the difficulties of stock raising in a semi-arid environment.13 These
Euro-American cattle barons were left to their own devices, by which they worked
out a system of accommodation and land utilization that largely relied upon extra-
legal means.14
Long before the Indian removal had been completed the livestock growers
already had another source of competition for the public lands. The Homestead Act of
1862 granted any resident of the United States the right to take up farming on 160
acres of the public domain. All they had to do was occupy the land for a period of
14


five years, make certain specified improvements, and the land was theirs for a small
fraction of market value, often less than a couple of dollars an acre.
Where the difficulty arose for livestock growers in Colorado and across the
West was the failure of Congress to recognize the preemptive rights of the ranchers
already occupying much of the land now being claimed by the homesteaders. The
government did not necessarily agree with the Western philosophy that those who
first established a beneficial use of the land had acquired a priority right tantamount
to legal title.15
Ironically, while the stock raisers pushed the idea of preemption to preserve
their domains, they never realized that such a concept, had it been adopted into the
US legal code, could have validated Indian claims to the land, and resulted in their
own claims being extinguished. If Congress had seriously considered granting legal
title to the first occupants of a piece of property it would have called into question the
process by which Indian land titles had been negated, first by territorial governments,
and later by the various states and the federal government. Recognition of the concept
of preemption based upon first occupancy of land carried with it the seeds of just such
a legal basis for validating Indian land titles and would not have done the pioneer
ranchers much good. A secondary issue was the lack of political support for the idea
of deeding huge chunks of the public domain to what were thought of as greedy cattle
barons.16
15


Even with this intense competition for land that livestock raisers considered
rightfully theirs, there was not the level of conflict often depicted in the popular
media. Most of the violence occurred between large and small ranchers, rather than
ranchers and homesteaders. Many of the large livestock operators contented
themselves with filing homestead claims along the few Western rivers and lakes,
using employees and anyone else they could trust as surrogates. Once homesteaders
realized the futility of trying to raise crops in semi-arid environments, such as that of
eastern Colorado, without an adequate supply of water, they moved on, leaving the
open range to the stock growers once again.17
The question of water rights had a profound impact not only on the future of
the livestock industry in Colorado, but also upon many other aspects of life for the
citizens of the state. In 1882, the Colorado Supreme Court handed down a decision in
the case of Coffin et al v. Left Hand Ditch Company that forever changed the way in
I ft
which water rights were recognized in the West.
Up until the Coffin case, most jurisdictions in the United States recognized the
primacy of the riparian rights of property owners. Simply stated, this means that only
those whose land borders on a stream or watercourse have the right to use of that
water. This was derived from English common law and had been the law of the land
since early colonial times. However, in a case involving Longmont, Colorado
landowner Morse Coffin, the Colorado Supreme Court established the primacy of
prior appropriation in determining who had the right to use of water. In this decision
16


the court held that anyone upstream who had previously diverted water from a stream
or river had the right to continued beneficial use of that water, no matter how far
away from the banks their property might lie.19 This not only overturned the concept
of riparian water rights, but also made it possible to develop the drier areas of
Colorado.
The impact of this decision was felt not only in Colorado among livestock
raisers, but also throughout the Western United States. The idea that the right to use
water had to be based upon a derived benefit, which could be redefined to fit the
needs of society at the expense of landowners, was a radical concept that reshaped
water law in the Western United States. What came to be known as the Colorado Plan
was later adopted by Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and New
Mexico. One significant exception was that of California, which adopted a hybrid
system involving riparian rights and preemption in formulating their water policies.20
Issues surrounding water usage are even more vital to Colorado today than
they were a century ago. Increasing urban populations, business growth and migration
from other states to take advantage of Colorados scenic beauty has made water the
key issue in a state that has essentially a high desert environment. Questions as to
how much water is required to support a growing population and still have enough to
conduct agriculture are prominent on the political landscape in the state at the dawn
of the twenty first century.
17


A large part of the discussion over land and water usage concerns the
livestock industry and its continuing role in Colorado. Drought in the early years of
the twenty first century has called into question whether the livestock grower can
even survive. Many have gone out of business due to poor prices for beef and the cost
of feeding hay to cattle that can no longer find grass on a parched range.
However, ranching is not simply about making a living; it is about living a
way of life some people find satisfying. Fulltime ranchers are not wealthy people for
the most part; wealthy ranchers usually derive their fortunes from other sources.
People who raise livestock do it because they like the life that comes along with the
job. They look upon themselves as stewards of the land and want to do a good job of
balancing the grazing of their herds with the need to let the land regenerate. Most
consider themselves conservationists in the old manner, taking care of the land so that
it can continue to be productive. It is perhaps that concern and the desire to care for
the land that keeps many ranchers going against all odds.
Modem Suburbanization
The phenomenon that has come to be labeled suburbanization is the subject of
increasing study by modem historians, sociologists, demographers, geographers and a
host of other professional disciplines. Articles and books in which the authors
examine the origin of the process and its effects on society, both in the United States
and internationally, have proliferated in recent years. Most of the studies concentrate
18


upon the racial and social aspects of suburbanization, while others detail the history
of the process, and its origins. A few key examples from the literature will serve to
illustrate some of the salient aspects of suburbanization.
As Kenneth T. Jackson notes in his 1985 book, Crabgrass Frontier: The
Suburbanization of the United States, suburbia has come to embody contemporary
American culture. On these fringes of our urban centers are manifested the
fundamental characteristics of our society, such as upward mobility, the nuclear
family and reliance upon the private automobile as a principal means of
transportation. The rush to suburbia has also been expedited by the desire of many
Americans to achieve a physical separation between work and home life, as well as
the darker tendency toward racial and economic segregation. At the end of the
twentieth century, suburbia is where three fourths of all Coloradans live.
Jackson begins his study of the process of suburbanization by examining the
evolution of the structure of the urban environment. He found that in the first cities,
the core or center was considered the most desirable place to live. Often, this was the
area of settlement that was within a citys fortified walls, representing safety and
protection. The wealthiest and most powerful members of society claimed the areas
closest to the center, which were deemed the most secure. The outer fringes, what we
would today consider the suburbs, were the realms of the poor and social outcasts. To
live on the edge of a city or town was the least desirable of residential options.
19


Jackson concludes that as long as the primary forms of transportation
remained muscle, wind or water-driven the suburbs were the least desirable area of
any metropolis in which to dwell. This tendency continued in European cultures until
the early nineteenth century. It was not until about 1815 that the first signs of
suburbanization appeared in the United States and Great Britain, in the form of rapid
growth at the fringes that outstripped that of the core cities.22
One of the more interesting points in Crabgrass Frontier is the fact that in the
United States, the first group to seek separation from the metropolis by moving out to
the fringe was often blacks, who sought to live as far from the city homes of their
masters as possible. Unlike religious minorities, such as Quakers, Mennonites and
later the Mormons, who separated themselves from mainstream American society by
building their own communities, blacks had to maintain a home within commuting
distance to those of their masters. Blacks, by seeking some measure of physical
separation within the limits imposed by the necessity to commute to work in their
masters homes, became the first true suburbanites in America.23
Jackson goes on to note that whites did not move out to the fringes of urban
areas until much later. Gradually, the more well to do populations of cities began to
seek the larger lots and more spacious environment offered by the suburban fringes.
Families sought the increased privacy of homes surrounded by yards and gardens,
while the expanding role of trolley lines made it possible to live in the suburbs and
work in the core city.24
20


Jackson points out the role of the federal government in encouraging growth
of the suburbs. Federal tax law gives greater advantage to new construction over older
structures and mortgage interest deductions constitute the largest single line item on
many personal tax returns. The Federal Highway Act of 1916 and the later Highway
Act of 1956, which authorized the construction of the Interstate system gave
favorable treatment to trucks and automobiles over more traditional modes of
transportation.25 Thanks to the lending guarantees of the Federal Housing Authority,
homeownership came within the means of a much larger segment of the population of
the United States, leading to an explosion in new construction, most of which
occurred on the suburban fringes of cities. These policies and initiatives lead
Jackson to conclude that the federal government subsidized suburbanization.
In his 1981 book, From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners
and Urban Transportation, 1900-1940, Mark S. Foster examines the growth of
suburbs in America from the view of automotive technology. Foster points out that
nineteenth century urban planners advocated movement to the outlying areas as a
solution to overcrowding in the cities, which placed a much greater strain on mass
transit systems.27 At the same time very few planners were willing to expend their
hard won political capital defending the mass transit operators. Many of these
companies wielded enormous economic power, which had led, in many cases, to an
unsavory reputation with the public.28
21


In the early days, automobiles were viewed as bringing positive changes to the
way in which cities could grow. Early suburbs had often been the result of collusion
between streetcar system operators and land speculators. The operators often worked
hand in hand with boosters and land developers by extending lines into particular
areas in which all three had financial interests in the real estate.29 The goal was not to
have even, controlled growth, but rather to maximize profit potential on specific tracts
of real estate. This led to development within just a few blocks of a street railway
line. Automobiles made it possible to develop land farther out from the streetcar lines,
filling in more of the available land.30
Peter Mieszkowski and Edwin S. Mills, in The Causes of Metropolitan
Suburbanization published in the summer 1993 Journal of Economic Perspectives,
point out that between 1970 and 1990 the percentage of Americans living in
metropolitan statistical areas increased from 69 percent to 77 percent. However, they
also note that the percentage of those living in the core cities dropped from 43 percent
to 37 percent during the same period of time. The number of jobs located in the core
cities also experienced a sharp decline, going from 55 percent to 45 percent by 1990.
This trend led the authors to conclude that core cities in the United States will
eventually have only a third of urban residents and perhaps as few as 40 percent of
the jobs.31
Mieszkowski and Mills also discuss what they see as two classes of theories
of suburbanization. The first they refer to as the natural evolution theory, which holds
22


that as land near the core city fills in with homes and businesses, those people with
higher incomes just naturally gravitate to the larger, more modem housing tracts on
the periphery. The development of different, albeit more expensive, modes of
transportation makes it possible for wealthier residents to commute to work and tends
to favor the suburbs.32
A second theory of suburbanization stresses the importance of the problems
associated with traditional core cities as the primary driver for the development of
suburbs. Mieszkowski and Mills note that high taxes, low quality schools, racial
tensions, crime, overcrowding and generally lower quality of government services
makes the core cities less attractive to residents of greater affluence, in effect pushing
the wealthier segments of urban society out into the suburbs. Another factor driving
the decision to move to the suburbs under this model is the desire to avoid taxation to
redistribute wealth.33
In their article, Bold New City or Built-up Burb? Redefining Contemporary
Suburbia, which appeared in the March 1994 edition of American Quarterly, authors
William Sharpe and Leonard Wallock observe that between 1950 and 1980 the
population of suburbs in the United States nearly tripled. In that period the number of
Americans living in suburbs increased from 35.2 million to 101.5 million, and that by
1990 nearly half of the population of the country lived in suburbs.34 However,
suburbs had not simply gained residents; they had more office space than downtowns.
This increase in office space is tied directly to the fact that most new jobs are being
23


created in the suburbs, putting them in the forefront of economic development in the
United States.35
But besides the lack of dependence on core cities on the part of suburbanites,
Sharpe and Wallock observed that the view of many analysts toward suburbia has
changed in recent years. They note that in the 1950s, 1960s, and even as late as the
early 1970s, suburbia was roundly criticized for encouraging racial discrimination,
political separatism and sprawl as residents of these areas sought to create a
bourgeois utopia. However, by the final two decades of the twentieth century this
view had changed, with many analysts and critics displaying a great deal of
acceptance of the suburbs, a situation the authors refer to as suburbanophilia.
The authors cite the works of Robert Fishman and Joel Garreau in their
discussion of the increasing independence of suburbs. In their study of suburbs as
independent urban centers, Fishman and Garreau note that highway beltways that link
suburbs, while never passing through core cities, have helped to encourage this trend.
Since most of these suburbs rely on high-tech industry, highway growth corridors and
electronic networks, Fishman refers to them as technoburbs. Garreau goes on to
note that these edge cities often rise in areas that only thirty years before were small
villages and farmland, a situation very much akin to what has happened in
Metropolitan Denver.38
Lizabeth Cohen, in her article in the October 1996 edition of The American
Historical Review titled From Town Center to Shopping Center: The
24


Reconfiguration of Community Marketplaces in Postwar America, examines the
process of Suburbanization from the point of view of its effect on American buying
habits. Cohen begins by noting that between 1947 and 1953 the growth of the
suburban population outstripped that of the United States in general by nearly 4 to 1.
As does Kenneth Jackson, Cohen attributes this in large part to the shortage in urban
housing, government policies and consumer demand.39
Cohen notes that this increase in suburban population has been accompanied
by aggressive merchandising on the part of large merchandisers. As early as the
1950s these merchandisers realized that of greater importance than even their
numbers, the income of suburbanites was far greater than the national average, giving
them an enormous amount of purchasing power. In the process of catering to this
demographic, commercial developers created the regional shopping center with the
hope of attracting both retailers and shoppers. These shopping centers were aimed at
not only satisfying the consumption requirements of suburbanites, but also their
community needs in terms of gathering places for socialization, and, in some cases,
government services. This has resulted in the creation of what are essentially new
cities supported in large part by the sales taxes generated by the shopping centers.40
Stephen Leonard and Thomas Noel note in their 1990 book, Denver: Mining
Camp to Metropolis, this migration to the suburbs began early in Denvers history. As
early as the 1870s, residents sought homes out in the rural areas that would become
the first suburbs for the city.41 These people followed streetcar lines out to the fringes,
25


a process that would be accelerated in the twentieth century by the spread of the
private automobile.
In very short order suburban areas, such as Baron Eugene A. von Winklers
Park Hill, developed to the east and south of the city. The corridor along Broadway
was especially active, with the streetcar line making it possible for settlements such as
Washington Park, University Park and Orchard Place (Englewood), and Littleton to
spring up. Farthest out from the core were the cities of Fletcher (Aurora) and Golden.
However, the presence of a streetcar line did not insure the success of a new suburban
development, as another German aristocrat by the name of Walter Baron von
Richthofen found out when he tried to develop the model community of Montclair.42
Denver did not accept lightly the potential competition for population
represented by these new suburbs. Leonard and Noel note that during the Depression
of 1893 the city administration took advantage of the financial straits several of these
new suburban towns found themselves in, due largely to falling tax revenues and
rising expectations for services. Bamum, Harman, Highlands and South Denver all
realized the futility of further resistance and accepted annexation into Denver. Thus,
for the time being, Denver staved off being hemmed in by suburbs by simply
absorbing them.
At about this same time the rural outskirts of the metropolitan area began
seeing some consolidation. John Springer began buying up homesteads in Northern
Douglas County, acquiring property all the way up to the boundary with Arapahoe
26


County to form the nucleus of what would one day be Highlands Ranch. Colorados
United States Senator Edward Wolcott put together his palatial estate at Wolhurst,
located approximately fourteen miles south of Denver on the banks of the South
Platte River, near the town of Littleton.43 Other wealthy individuals followed suit,
taking advantage of the depressed market to buy out small ranchers and farmers at
distress sale prices and forming large estates within easy reach of Denver.
Even before the Second World War, the automobile began to play an
increasingly important role in the development of suburbs. This was especially true in
the Denver area as people began to move beyond the old suburbs that were within
walking or streetcar distance of the city, and find homes in outlying Adams,
Arapahoe, Jefferson and Boulder counties.44 In 1931, a Survey of Traffic
commissioned by the Denver Planning Commission found that 215,363 commuters
traveled by auto on a daily basis versus 152,991 on the streetcars.45 By 1941 the
growth rate of the suburbs was five times that of the core city of Denver.
The development of freeways, such as West Sixth Avenue, accelerated the
growth of the suburban ring around Denver and consequently the subdivision of
ranchland for residential and commercial use. Hayden Ranch out along Sixth Avenue
in what is now Lakewood, became a World War II arms plant and later the Denver
Federal Center. The Martin Marietta Corporation developed the C. K. Verdos Ranch,
southwest of Littleton in Jefferson County, into a huge manufacturing complex for
Titan and Delta rockets. Columbine Ranch was carved up into the Columbine Valley
27


subdivision and Columbine Country Club. Also in eastern Jefferson County,
Pinehurst Farm became the Pinehurst Country Club, while neighboring Grant Farm
has morphed into the Governors Ranch and Grant Ranch subdivisions, as well as the
Raccoon Creek Golf Course, and a huge high school where at the dawn of the twenty
first century later day gunslingers would horrify the nation. Portions of the Church
family ranches were incorporated into what is now the City and County of
Broomfield, as well as Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. Beer baron Adolph Zang
established his Elmwood Stock Farm on land that became the city and, still later, the
county called Broomfield. The Cottonwood Ranch, located between Denver and
Aurora, was developed into the Hoffman Heights subdivision.
In the final decades of the twentieth century the process of turning the
formerly rural outlying areas of Metropolitan Denver into suburbs accelerated even
further. Douglas County, once a rural backwater, found itself ranked the fastest
growing county in the United States during the 1990s. Its population grew nearly 900
percent from 1970 to 1993. Most of these new residents clustered into one
development, Highlands Ranch, which up until the late 1970s was a 21,000-acre
working cattle ranch.46 During this same period, Boulder Countys population
increased 88 percent and Jefferson County saw its population double. The tide of
suburbanization reached into the foothills as Ken-Caryl Ranch was acquired by the
Johns-Manville Corporation in 1971 and turned into a corporate headquarters, and
28


Research and Development park, as well as a planned housing community ultimately
intended to house nearly 13,000 people.
Development is putting increasing pressure on ranchers by making it tough to
maintain a working agricultural operation in the face of suburbanization. Harassed by
commuters as they try to move equipment from field to field, or by complaints about
the smells emanating from livestock operations, farmers and ranchers are gradually
pushed out of areas that were once utilized primarily for agriculture. In the process
development is becoming a far greater threat to Colorado ranchers than low livestock
prices.
Often driven by a desire for an easier pace of life, scenic beauty or a lower
cost of housing, urban migration to small, rural communities is increasing.47 During
the last two decades of the twentieth century approximately 1.5 million acres of
Colorado ranchland was lost to development.48 On top of the host of problems
associated with trying to conduct agricultural operations in the midst of suburban
development, most ranchers are unable to resist the lure of cashing out their property.
Faced with the choice of financial security for themselves and their family, perhaps
for generations, or continuing in a business that often provides a minimal level of
return, most sell.
In 1995, hoping to slow the tide of ranch development, the Colorado
Cattlemens Association formed the first land trust in the United States solely devoted
to preservation of ranchland. The idea is to provide ranchers with a portion of the
29


financial return they could get from selling their land for development, while setting
the land aside permanently for agricultural purposes. Since its founding, this trust has
managed to protect almost 40,000 acres; however Colorado ranchland is disappearing
at a rate of about 90,000 acres per year.49
A number of citizen initiatives have been aimed at limiting the spread of the
Front Range cities, however their effectiveness has been limited. While many
Coloradans want to protect their state from uncontrolled growth and urban sprawl,
they also resist the idea of the state dictating land use to property owners. One
initiative that did receive statewide support was Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO),
which forced the reallocation of state lottery proceeds back into open space and parks,
after the legislature diverted these funds to prisons and other ventures.
Created by the voters of Colorado in 1992, GOCO is authorized to direct a
portion of the proceeds from the state lottery to preservation of open space, protection
of wildlife and enhancement of parks. In November 2001, Colorado voters added to
GOCOs ability to carry out its mandate by authorizing the issue of up to $115
million in bonds backed by the state, with the proceeds earmarked for parks and open
space.50 Since its creation GOCO has awarded nearly $290 million in grants to more
than 1,700 projects throughout the state of Colorado.51
Most of the counties that make up Metropolitan Denver have not planned well
for growth, but that is changing. Boulder County led the way in confronting the
problem of sprawl, and the subdivision of open ranch and farmlands. Boulder County
30


exemplified their commitment not to let all of their ranches go for development
through the acquisition of Walker Ranch for use as open space and a park. Boulder
even went so far as to purchase ranchland in neighboring Jefferson County with an
eye toward stifling development on its borders. Douglas County has assumed a far
more aggressive stance in recent years, acquiring conservation easements on historic
ranches and, in some cases, purchasing properties outright.
Other counties are beginning the monumental and expensive task of tackling
growth and sprawl, although not all citizens disparage development. But in the face of
projections that Douglas County will grow by 700 percent over the next 50 years,
Jefferson by 100 percent and Boulder by 140 percent, the old system that precluded
planning is giving way to one that attempts to preserve at least a few token ranches
for educational purposes.52
31


Figure 1.3 Map of Major Ranches Close to Metro Denver. (Rand
McNally & Company, New York, 2000)
32


Figure 1.4 Map of Major Outlying Ranches. (Rand McNally &
Company, New York, 2000)
33


CHAPTER 2
HIGHLANDS RANCH: FROM CATTLE SPREAD
TO SPRAWL
However, before any of this concern for preserving some of the ranches on the
edge of Metropolitan Denver could take hold it was already too late for many of the
best known spreads. One of these was Highlands Ranch. Once the realm of the great
and near great of Colorado society, the baronial splendor of the ranch and high
society lifestyle of its owners was legendary. Until the late 1970s, the lowing of cattle
was interrupted only by the sound of society blades riding to the hounds amidst the
rolling hills and dry washes of northern Douglas County.
Highlands Ranch was the country estate of the Phipps family, one of the
wealthiest in Denver society. Politically connected and influential, the ranch
proprietor and patriarch, Lawrence Phipps II, was anything but a typical rancher. He
lived on a ranch simply because it offered a refuge from the Denver business world of
which he was so much a part. During his lifetime he lavished money and time on
building his ranching operation, not out of a desire to turn a profit, but because he
enjoyed being the owner of one of the preeminent ranching properties in Colorado.
But starting in the late 1970s, soon after his death, all that began to change.
Highlands Ranch is now a sprawling development just south of the Arapahoe
County line, in northern Douglas County. Located on over 22,000 acres of prairie
34


stretching from Interstate 25 on the east to the South Platte River and Chatfield
reservoir in the west, Highlands Ranch has been developed over the course of the last
twenty-five years into what one newspaper article called the Ultimate Suburb.1
Thousands of homes, and dozens of office parks and commercial developments dot a
landscape that once was home to prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, coyotes and cattle.
Originally the brainchild of Mission Viejo Company, a subsidiary of Phillip
Morris Tobacco Company, the ranch now hosts more than fifteen homebuilding
companies at work turning the old preserve of the Arapahoe Hunt Club into a planned
community. Driving through the former ranch, one is struck by the extent of the
development creeping up hillsides and down into gullies and washes. Men and
machines work at tearing into the landscape, scraping off the native plant life and
churning the soil in preparation for modem homes and acres of Bluegrass lawns.
Everywhere new strip shopping centers, office parks and roadways are going in
where just a few years ago livestock roamed.
Middle class, mass production housing now besieges the baronial Phipps
Castle, a reminder of the splendor enjoyed by the wealthy and powerful families that
once reigned over this ranch. Along with the gated mansion, situated at the end of a
residential street, still lie the stock bams, storage silos, corrals and other structures of
a once great working ranch. The setting, with its trees and horses, seems strangely out
of place with the hundreds of houses surrounding it, crowding in a bit more with each
35


passing year. The rumble of the bulldozers drifts on the wind, drowning out the
sounds of nature and pastoral landscapes that originally drew the newcomers.
The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch
Highlands Ranch originally consisted of a few small homesteads, some of
which dated back to the 1860s. Between January 14, 1867, when David Gregory filed
his first homestead on 80 acres, and 1910 there were a total of 189 filings in this area
of Douglas County.2 Most of the homesteads were small, limited by the Homestead
Act of 1862 to 160 acres or less. In order to gain legal title to the claims, settlers were
required to make certain improvements on the land, such as a house, within the first
five years. They also had to reside on the land, to insure that the public domain was
not being handed to land speculators.
One of the earliest arrivals in northern Douglas County was an Austrian
immigrant named Johanne Welte. He was part of a group that included his wife, her
brother, Plazidus Gassner, and his wife. Together, John and Plazidus paid $700 in
1878 to purchase a 160-acre parcel of land that included a small log cabin. The
property was located 18 miles south of Denver, the Colorado State Capital, and 17
miles north of Castle Rock, seat of Douglas County, on the banks of the Big Dry
Creek. In addition to the land, the pair purchased 20 milk cows, which they financed
at 18 percent interest.3
36


The Weltes and the Gassners settled on their property and opened a dairy
farming operation. Working odd jobs in Denver during the summers to help pay the
cost of feed for the cows, the two families gradually added land and purchased
equipment to expand their ranch. Eventually, they set up an operation that allowed
them to manufacture butter and cheese on the ranch.4
Figure 2.1 Welte and Gassner Families, ca. 1890. (Photograph courtesy of
the Littleton Historical Museum)
The usual procedure for starting the manufacture of the cheese was to take the
morning milk fresh from the cows and run it through a strainer. Afterwards, the
strained milk was chilled by placing the big metal milk cans in ice water. Most of the
settled cream would then be skimmed off. The milk from the night before was placed
with the skim milk and immediately worked into cheese.5 The ranch produced Brick
and Limburger cheeses, which were sold primarily through the Littleton Creamery.6
37
i


At its height of operation the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch, or Welte Cheese
Ranch as it was also known, encompassed some 3,380 acres. Besides the dairy
operation the families also farmed on the property, planting acres of alfalfa, wheat,
barley, com, and a variety of beet with yellow roots known as mangle wurtzels. The
family used large portions of these crops to feed for their cattle, but they also had a
10-acre orchard in which they grew apple, cherry, plum and peach trees. An artificial
y
lake that held runoff from the hills was used for watering the livestock.
Plazidus Gassner died in 1883, after which the management of the ranch fell
a
to Johanne Welte alone. Welte was very progressive in his approach to ranch
management, utilizing dry farming techniques in recognition of the semi-arid
environment of Colorado. He continued to improve the infrastructure of the ranch,
adding a slaughterhouse, hog house, granaries, icehouse, cisterns, and carpenter and
blacksmith shops. As a result of his careful and progressive management the ranch
was acclaimed in farm journals such as Scientific Farmer.9
In 1910, Welte finally retired from active management of the ranch, deeding
the ownership to Philip Remes, his son-in-law.10 The family continued to
manufacture their cheeses well into the twentieth century. During this time the ranch
was a popular spot for Denverites on their trips into the countryside south of town.
Townsfolk could dance to music, drink their favorite iced beverages and eat the
splendid cheese made at the ranch.11 Eventually the Great Depression caught up with
38


the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch, which was forced to shut down operations in
1938.12
Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch
By far the largest portion of what would one day become Highlands Ranch
consisted of the magnificent spread put together by Denver businessman John
Wallace Springer. Starting in 1891, Springer set out to purchase the scattered
homesteads of the early settlers in the northern part of Douglas County. His first
acquisition was 160 acres belonging to Mary Burkhardt, one of the original settlers.13
Around the same time, Springer significantly increased his ranch through the
purchase of 1,200 acres from Orville C. Wade.14 Over the next twenty years he
continued to acquire land, eventually putting together a ranch that covered some
12,000 acres, which he christened the Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch.15
John W. Springer was not a typical rancher. He did not fit the mold of the
early stockmen, such as Charles Goodnight or John Wesley Iliff. He was bom in
Jacksonville, Illinois on July 16, 1859 to John and Sara Henderson Springer. He
attended Asbury (now DePauw) University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts
degree, then went on to law school. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1880, and
then elected to the state legislature.16
While serving in the legislature, Springer married Eliza Clifton Hughes on
June 17, 1891, a match that changed the course of his life. The marriage produced
39


two children, Annie Clifton in 1892, and Sarah Elizabeth in 1898. The younger girl
died in 1899 at the age of 10 months.17
Elizas father, Colonel William E. Hughes, was president of the Continental
Land and Cattle Company, one of the investment outfits that changed the face of
cattle ranching in the West. Besides being a cattleman and financier, Colonel Hughes
was a good judge of men. He saw potential in his new son-in-law and decided that his
talents were wasted in the Illinois legislature. In short order, the Colonel moved
Springer into an executive position, appointing him a vice president at Continental
Land and Cattle Company.18
In those halcyon days, Colorado was known far and wide as a haven for those
with health problems, in particular anything having to do with the respiratory system.
The high altitude and clear, fresh air was perceived as the proper tonic for chronic
sufferers of tuberculosis and a range of other diseases. After Eliza Springer developed
tuberculosis, the young couple moved to Colorado to seek these healthful benefits.19
Springer wasted little time in establishing himself among the business and
social elite of Denver. One year after arrival he became the vice president of the
Chamber of Commerce. Within two years he was on the planning committee of the
Festival of Mountain and Plain, a weeklong festival sponsored by the business
community as part of the effort to overcome the Silver Crash of 1893. In this role he
managed to convince the organizers that the celebration could use a horse show; an
idea that sprang from his interest as an avid horse breeder.20
40


At first, Springer concentrated on raising horses, specifically Oldenburgs, a
breed he imported from Germany. Beginning with three prizewinning stallions and
one hundred fifty first class brood mares, the young rancher set out to produce what
he hoped would be the ideal American coach horse exhibiting good sense, style,
action, substance and endurance. Springer wanted to breed his horses for
individuality, rather than speed, but also uniformity of appearance, color, gait and
high knee action.21
Once he had acquired the land, Springer set about the job of constructing the
horse bams needed for his planned breeding operation. He also built a system of
wells, water tanks and cisterns to provide irrigation for his crops. Alfalfa, oats, com
and sugar beets were planted on more than 200 acres of irrigated fields. In addition,
22
the Cross Country Ranch grew wheat, rye and brome grasses as feed for the horses.
Springer continued the Germanic theme established by the horse breeding
operation in designing and building the main house on the ranch beginning in 1901.
Designed in a style inspired by the Duchy of Oldenburg, whence his horses
originated, Springer ordered the construction of a baronial residence, which he
christened Springers Castle. Starting with an existing fieldstone residence on the
ranch, Springer had his workmen utilize ironstone, and pink and lavender Rhyolite,
quarried from around Castle Rock, in turning the original structure into a mansion
worthy of his social position. A great hall and tower accented the design of the new
home.23
41


Besides his horse breeding activities, Springer also became active in the
nascent National Livestock Association. His election as its first president in 1898
recognized his contributions in founding the organization. He continued in that role
for a number of years, serving as president for eight of the first twelve years the
organization was in existence.24
Springer was a leader in the Denver business community. He was one of the
founders of Continental Trust and a director of Capitol Bank during the late 1890s.25
However, Springer also had political ambitions, taking an active role in the
Republican Party in Colorado. In 1904 he ran for mayor in Denver, losing to Robert
Speer in a hotly contested election. The electoral contest aroused so much interest that
the denizens of several area cemeteries, as well as residents of cities as far away as
Kansas City and Omaha, cast at least 10,000 of the votes recorded for Speer. In what
some have called one of the most blatant cases of voter fraud in the history of Denver.
Speers organization arranged for professional voters, known as repeaters, to cast
ballots in multiple precincts around the city using names garnered from cemetery
records and the telephone books of Kansas City and Omaha. If not for this Springer
would have won the election by a margin of nearly 5,000 votes.26
Springers next foray into politics came later that year when, at the
Republican Partys nominating convention, he sought to place his name into
contention for the office of vice president of the United Slates on the same ticket with
Theodore Roosevelt. Lacking any significant political base of support, Springers
42


attempt to jump onboard the ticket failed, despite spending a small fortune trying to
gamer delegates at the convention. Springers bid to put himself a heartbeat away
from the oval office was repeated in 1908 when William Howard Taft ran for the
presidency on the Republican ticket. This attempt for national office failed as well.27
It was not simply his professional life that was changing during these years,
but also his personal situation as well. On May 22, 1904, just days after his loss in the
Denver mayoral contest, Eliza Springer succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of
thirty-five. However, Springer did not remain a widower for long.
On a business trip to St. Louis later that year Springer met a pretty young
woman named Isabel Patterson. Despite being in the process of getting a divorce from
her abusive first husband, Isabel was the belle of the St. Louis social scene, attending
parties and attracting the attention of many young men. However, the financial and
social advantages of marriage to John Springer proved more alluring for Isabel than
the young men attracted to her beauty. In April 1907, John married the enchanting
Isabel and brought her to Denver where he installed her as the new queen of his
castle. It was a move that forever changed the way John Springer is remembered in
the history of the City of Denver.
Her wealthy and prominent husband gave the newly minted Mrs. Springer
access to a number of homes. Besides the magnificent Springer Castle out at the
ranch, there was his sixth floor suite at Denvers luxurious Brown Palace Hotel and a
seven-bedroom mansion at 930 Washington Street. Not being much of a country girl,
43


Isabel spent much of her time in town, occupying the hotel suite where she frequently
entertained her many admirers.30
While Denver society gushed over Springers new young wife, Isabel
unsettled other members of his family. Colonel Hughes had her background checked
out in her native St. Louis and was not pleased with the evidence of her many
flirtations and romantic alliances. Hughes convinced a judge that his granddaughter,
Annie, would be better served living in his household. Soon afterward, Colonel
Hughes relocated to St. Louis, selling out his business interests in Denver and taking
o 1
his granddaughter with him. Springer hardly seems to have noticed, seeing only
Isabel as she held court in their suite at the Brown Palace Hotel.
Isabel had two favorites in particular; Harold Francis Frank Henwood, a
business associate and friend of her husbands, and Sylvester Tony von Phul, a
young man of indeterminate profession whom she had known back in St. Louis. As
was revealed later in court testimony, the two became rivals for Isabels affections; a
rivalry that turned deadly when, on the night of May 24, 1911, Henwood pulled a gun
in the bar at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver and mortally wounded von Phul. An
innocent bystander was killed instantly and another wounded in the leg during the
short, but furious, fusillade unleashed by Henwood. Five days after Frank Henwood
put an end to von Phuls affair with Isabel Springer, her husband filed for divorce
from the young woman. Henwood was convicted in the murder of the bystander and
44


Isabel left Denver in disgrace, moving first to Chicago, before ending up in New
York City, where she died in a paupers hospital on April 19, 1917.32
John Springer had devoted much of his energy building his Cross Country
Horse and Cattle Ranch into one of the premier operations in the region. It was
compared favorably with other ranches, such as Isaac van Wormers Plum Creek
Ranch, Dr. Henry A. Buchtels (Governor of Colorado, 1907-09) Springcliffe Ranch
and Alexander Hunts ranch on Larkspurs Hunt Mountain. However, the scandal
surrounding his second wife left him politically ruined and in disgrace socially. In
1913 he sold his much beloved ranch to his former father-in-law, Colonel Hughes,
and virtually disappeared from Denver society. Springer died in 1945 at the age of 84,
survived by his wife of ten years, Jeanette Elisabeth Lotave. Both are buried in
Littleton cemetery.33
Colonel Hughes did not own the ranch established by his son-in-law for very
long. After the Colonels death in 1918, the ranch was left to John and Elizas
surviving daughter, Annie Clifton Springer, who had married Lafayette Hughes, son
of U. S. Senator Charles J. Hughes in 1912.34 The following year she sold her fathers
former ranch to Waite Phillips who, along with his brothers, had founded the Phillips
Petroleum Company. When the deal closed in October 1920, it was reported that
Phillips had paid approximately $250,000 for the property.35
Phillips apparently never lived or spent much time at the ranch, even though,
in a harbinger of things to come, he cared enough to rename it Highland Ranch.
45


Eventually, the oilman decided that the nearly 20,000 acres that made up the
Highland Ranch simply was not enough of an estate for his ambitions. Phillips
arranged to sell the ranch to Wolhurst Stock Farms, Inc. in December 1926 for a
reported $425,000 and purchased a 600,000-acre estate in New Mexico.36
The Diamond K
Wolhurst Stock Farms, Inc. was listed on the official land records as the entity
that now owned John Springers old ranch, however the individual behind the
company was its president, Frank E. Kistler, an oilman from Casper, Wyoming.
Although the details of the deal are a bit murky, it appears that Waite Phillips may
have owed Kistler a real estate commission arising from another deal and settled the
debt by transferring the ranch to his fellow oilman.37
Kistler initiated a new era for the ranch. The first thing he did was to rename it
the Diamond K Ranch, after considering and rejecting its previous designations.
Kistler wanted a name for the ranch that would translate into a brand of simple
design, yet sounded euphonious when spoken aloud. After checking the brand records
on file at the capital, Kistler settled on the Diamond K brand, and named his ranch the
same. The fact that this brand also contained the initial of his last name most likely
settled the issue.
Next, the new owner set about having the main house, sitting at the end of a
two mile long winding dirt road off South Broadway and County Line Road,
46


renovated to fit his vision. Kistler hired locally renowned Littleton architect Jules
Jacques Benoit Benedict to remodel the castle, while he attended to turning the ranch
into one of the premier cattle operations in Colorado. To help with the interior decor
of the castle, Kistler hired a painter to take up residence and paint a series of wall
murals and decorations.39 Before the renovation was completed, Kistler had sunk
more than $250,000 into the project.40
Thanks to the aggressive land acquisitions of John Springer, which included
Colorado Governor Elias M. Ammons and Thomas F. Dawsons old Ox Yoke Ranch
on the east side of the South Platte River, Frank Kistler had nearly 20,000 acres of
prime range on which to graze his herd. In what was said to be one of the largest
cattle deals of 1927, he purchased just over 700 head of Black Aberdeen Angus cattle
from Charles Sutton of Kansas, and had them moved out onto his new range south of
Denver.41 By early 1929 the Diamond K cattle operation boasted Holstein, Friesian,
Aberdeen Angus and Milking Shorthorns cattle on its acreage.
As evidence of his determination to renovate the ranch and return it to a
position of preeminence, Kistler instituted a program to construct modem
outbuildings. Sweeping away the various bams and sheds left by previous owners,
Kistler had new, spacious bams put up to house his prized stock, along with corrals
and other structures. Kistler was fully committed to making the Diamond K a success.
J. S. Raymond, Kistlers ranch manager, once stated that the new owners goal was to
elevate the breeding operations of the Diamond K to the top of the livestock world.
47


Over one hundred people worked at the ranch, kept busy with the cattle breeding and
dairy operations; hogs, chickens, sheep and horses rounded out the stock raised on the
property.42
This commitment also carried over to the dairy herd at the ranch, which had
originally been quartered at the Wolcott familys old Wolhurst Farm located just
north of County Line Road at Santa Fe, on the east bank of the South Platte River.
Immediately upon acquiring the ranch, Kistler had the entire prize-winning herd of
Holsteins and milking Shorthorns moved over to the new property. A modem milking
bam was built, as part of the dairy operation, with the capability of handling 200
cows at a time. At the time of its completion in 1929, it was rated as one of
Colorados most modem and sanitary dairy structures.43
By the early 1930s, Kistlers efforts were beginning to get results. Cattle
raised on the ranch garnered awards at various stock shows around the country. A. A.
Schmidt of Kansas City exhibited a carload of Angus in the Fat Cattle category
during the 1930 National Western Stock Show in Denver and walked away with the
Sweepstakes Prize. As it turned out, these cattle had been raised on the Diamond K,
not twenty miles from the site of the show.44 Other purchasers of Kistlers product
experienced similar success, which served to further enhance the reputation of his
ranching operation.
During the late 1920s, the Arapahoe Hunt Club, an organization that included
many members of the socially prominent families in Colorado, decided that it needed
48


new quarters. The club, dedicated to the traditions of the English fox huntin this
case coyoteshad outgrown the confines of the Denver Country Club and was
looking for a more spacious environment for its activities. In 1929, when Kistler
extended an invitation to the organization to relocate to the Diamond K, club
president, Lawrence C. Phipps II, gratefully accepted.45
For the better part of the next forty years the hills and valleys of north
Douglas County resounded with the bugling of the hunting hom, pounding of hooves
and cries of Tally ho! as the members of the Arapahoe Hunt thundered across the
landscape on their panting mounts in quest of the coyotes that stood in for foxes. The
object of the hunt was not to kill the coyotes, but merely run them to ground.46 What
was even more important to the history of this property is that Lawrence Phipps came
to understand and appreciate the beauty of the area. The fate of both the ranch and
Phipps would soon be bound together.
As had the founder of the ranch, Kistler soon found himself mired in marital
controversy. Once the renovation of the castle was completed, Kistler moved his
wife, Florence, their son and three daughters out to the ranch. The idyllic setting
would seem to have been a good place to raise a family, but apparently all was not
happy in the marriage.
On February 15, 1929 Frank Kistler married Leana Antonides, a widow, in a
ceremony in Honolulu, Hawaii, after having obtained a quick Mexican divorce from
Florence. Ralph Antonides, Leanas late husband, had been a Denver investment
49


broker and oilman who was sometimes associated with Kistler. Ralph had died of
polio in 1927, leaving his wife to raise their young son by herself. Hoping to give the
controversy over the suddenness of his change in wives a chance to die down before
returning to Denver, Kistler booked passage on a steamship bound for New York via
the Panama Canal: From there the newlyweds planned to take a train to the Mile High
City47
However, even this slow journey homeward did not prove sufficient to the
task. When Kistler showed up in Denver with his new bride he quickly learned that
his former wife and their children were still in residence out at the ranch. After quick
action on the part of his attorneys, the former Mrs. Kistler and three of her children
were hustled out of the mansion and installed in quarters elsewhere in the city. One
child, a daughter, elected to stay behind and help her father and his new wife settle
into the castle.48
Frank Kistlers enjoyment of his new life out at the ranch proved short lived.
The trouble began in 1932 when Kistler was forced to refinance $100,000 of debt
under unfavorable circumstances 49 Matters only got worse as the economic impact of
the Great Depression on his business interests, along with his massive expenditures
related to the ranch, combined to cause him severe financial problems. At about the
same time, a project he had bankrolled to pipe natural gas from Wyoming to Denver,
and east to Chicago, ran into financial trouble. Overburdened by costs that totaled
more than $120 million, Kistler was forced to merge his company with the Prairie
50


Gas and Oil Company. Later, he lost the last vestige of control over his oil interests
when this company was absorbed into Sinclair Oil.50
Despite the reputation his ranch had garnered in the livestock world, Kistler
was unable to make the ranch profitable. In 1934 he shut down the livestock
operation, selling his prized cattle herd at auction for a reported $30,000. Seeing no
point in hanging around, ranch manager Ed Center left and took a job in El Paso.51
By 1937, Kistlers financial situation had become critical and forced him to
sell the Diamond K. Lawrence Phipps, his old friend and associate, stepped forward
to purchase the property for his own use. The purchase price is recorded in the public
records as being a mere $100, but in those days there was no legal requirement to
disclose the true price in a real estate transaction The ridiculously low reported price
may have been a ploy to throw Kistlers creditors off the trail.52 Other sources list the
sale price as being approximately $450,000, which still left Kistler with a substantial
loss on his investment in the property.53
Frank Kistler and his wife moved out of the grand castle and into Denvers
Park Lane Hotel. In later years he was involved in the restoration of the Hotel
Colorado in Glenwood Springs and the Redstone Inn. Frank Kistler passed away in
I960.54
51


Highlands Ranch: The Ranch
Lawrence Cowle Phipps II was bom June 30, 1886 in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. The son of Lawrence Cowle Phipps and Ibrealla Hill Loomis, he
attended public school in Pittsburgh and later the Haverford School of Pennsylvania,
graduating in 1904. He graduated from Yale in 1907 and moved out to Colorado to
join his parents, who had relocated to Denver after his fathers retirement from his
position as Vice-president at Carnegie (later US) Steel.55
The younger Phipps married Gladys Hart, daughter of Edward W. Hart, on
December 28, 1912. The union produced three children, Mary Hart, Diana and Joan,
before ending in divorce in 1930. When the United States entered the First World
War in April 1917, Phipps answered the call, serving in the Army Air Service as a
balloon pilot in France.56
After his military service Phipps returned to Denver and followed his father
into the business world, becoming Vice-president and Treasurer of the Nevada-
Califomia Electric Corporation, a director of the Mountain States Telephone and
Telegraph Company, and also of the Moffat Coal Company. He also served on the
reorganization committee of the Denver and Salt Lake Railway Company, better
known as the Moffat Road.57
Besides his business interests, Phipps served as City Commander of the
American Legion. He was a member of the Denver Club, University Club and Denver
Country Club. He also took an active role in the Arapahoe Hunt Club, eventually
52


becoming president. Phipps was involved in the familys cattle ranching operation, La
Garita Ranch, located at Wagon Wheel Gap, between Creede and Del Norte, in
southwestern Colorado.58 With the acquisition of the Diamond K, he had a chance to
go into ranching on his own terms.
As was the case with the other owners, Phipps was primarily an urban
businessman for whom his ranch residence served as an escape. Even so, he became
completely involved in the day-to-day operations of the cattle ranch. Every morning
he went down to the bunkhouse, located near the bams, to greet the ranch manager
and hired hands. He enjoyed riding across the open, rolling terrain of his huge estate,
taking in the majestic views of the mountains. It had been this, more than anything
else that attracted him during the years he had been a visitor to the property in his role
as president of the Arapahoe Hunt Club.59
At the time of his purchase, the ranch consisted of just over 20,000 acres, with
the vast majority of the property lying to the east of US Highway 85. Most of the
structures on the ranch had been added by Frank Kistler to support his dairy and cattle
breeding operation. There were four large bams for housing cattle and horses,
bunkhouses, private residences for the use of ranch personnel and guests, and a
complete working cattle operation.60
The main house, referred to simply as The Castle and which appeared in the
television mini-series Centennial, was immense, featuring fourteen bedrooms, eleven
bathrooms, five fireplaces and a bowling alley in its 22,000 square feet. The exterior
53


walls were a combination of ironstone (so named because of its hardness), native
fieldstone and stucco, on a concrete and stone foundation. The house had wood frame
windows, and a gable and hip roof with wood shingles. Interior walls were of lathe
and plaster, many of which were covered by wood paneling. Hardwood, terrazzo and
marble floored the mansion. The extensive grounds around the Castle included
gardens, a swimming pool and tennis courts.61
Figure 2.2 Highlands Ranch Headquarters Complex. (Photograph by Gib
Nesbitt, 1955, courtesy of the Littleton Historical Museum)
By the time Phipps took possession of his new ranch his marriage to his
second wife, Bertha Richmond, who he had married in 1932, was unraveling.
54


Nevertheless, he moved her and their children, Richmond and Laurence III, into the
mansion, which they christened Phipps Castle. The family lived in the castle for only
a year before Bertha moved out, taking the children with her. The couple divorced in
1941.62
Lawrence Phipps made the last addition of land to the ranch property through
a distinctly odd real estate transaction. The Welte family had ceased operations on the
neighboring Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch in 1938, after which the property sat idle
for a time. Finally, the family agreed to sell their property to Glester B. Richardson,
owner of the Greenwood Ranch in Arapahoe County. The deal closed on the morning
of September 15, 1943. However, that was not the end of the land transactions for the
Cheese Ranch that day. That afternoon, Richardson transferred ownership of the
1,800 acres he had purchased in the morning to Lawrence C. Phipps, Jr. for an
undisclosed consideration. With the addition of the historic Big Dry Creek Cheese
Ranch to his holdings, Phipps Highlands Ranch now totaled over 22,000 acres.
Phipps remarried in 1945, bringing his new bride, Elaine Oakes, out to live at
the ranch he had come to call home.64 Elaine was a talented artist whose paintings
graced the walls of the mansion for decades, and who found life on the ranch quite
agreeable. However, the latest Mrs. Phipps did not agree with her husbands sporting
activities, expressing the opinion that it was wrong for the Arapahoe Hunt Club to try
to kill animals during their outings. Nevertheless, the hunts went on for nearly four
decades at Highlands Ranch.65
55


In 1976, Elaine felt it was time for her elderly husband to move back into the
city. He resisted the idea, but she had convinced him of the wisdom of the move,
given that he was then 89 years old. Two days before they were to leave his beloved
ranch and move into a condominium in the city, Lawrence C. Phipps, Jr. passed
away.66 The end of Lawrence Phipps life that day in May marked the beginning of
the end for the old ranch.
Highlands Ranch: The Suburb
Almost immediately there was controversy over Phipps estate, most of which
revolved around the future of the vast cattle ranch. The executors of the estate,
Lawrence C. Phipps III and Gerald Hughes Phipps, initiated the process of disposing
ftl
of the huge property. Apparently none of the family cared to buy out the others and
continue operations. Lawrence III, son of the elder Phipps and his second wife
Bertha, had no particular affinity for the ranch (Table 2.1). After his mother and
father divorced in 1941, when he was 8 years old, she married a rancher in Wyoming.
The only recollections he had of spending time at Highlands Ranch were during
holidays and vacations; otherwise he had no real connection to the place. Lawrence
III was active in the Denver real estate community, working as a broker after
68
breaking into the business as a salesman at the Polo Club condominiums.
The other executor, Gerald Phipps, was a much younger half brother to
Lawrence II, the son of Lawrence senior and his third wife, Margaret Rogers (Table
56


2.1). He was well known in Denver business circles and had at one time held a
majority ownership interest in the local National Football League franchise, the
Denver Broncos, along with his brother Allan.69 Through his Gerald Phipps
Construction Company, a general contractor, Phipps was actively engaged in a
number of development projects throughout the Denver area.
Table 2.1 Family of Lawrence C. Phipps, Sr.


I. Senator Lawrence Cowle Phipps
(1) m. Ibrealla Hill Loomis (1885)
(i) Lawrence Cowle Phipps II (son)
(A) m. G ladys Hart (1912)
(a) Mary Hart Phipps (daughter)
(b) Diana Phipps (daughter)
(c) Joan Phipps (daughter)

(B) m. Bertha Richmond (1932)
(a) Richmond Phipps (daughter)
(b) Lawrence Cowle Phipps III (son)

(C) m. Elaine Oakes (1945)
(ii) Emma Loomis Phipps (daughter)

(2) m. (unknown) Chandler (ca 1900)
(i) Dorothy Chandler Phipps (daughter)
(ii) Helen Chandler Phipps (daughter)
(A) m. Donald C. Bromfield (1920)

(3) m. Margaret Rogers (1911)
(i) Allan Rogers Phipps (son)
(ii) Gerald Hughes Phipps (son)
In June 1977, a report appeared in the local press concerning a possible sale of
the ranch to an investment group headed by Denver oilman Marvin Davis. In
57


anticipation of the purchase, Davis had formed Highlands Ventures Corporation,
which included Jess Kortz, Lester Gold and three brothers, Leland, Harvey and Ted
Alpert, as principals. Eva Mitchell, a broker-associate with Garrett-Bromfield &
Company, brokered the deal, which carried a sales price of $13,660,766 or about
$650 per acre for the over 22,000-acre property.70 Donald C. Bromfield, president and
director of Garrett-Bromfield, was married to Helen Chandler Phipps another half-
sibling of Lawrence Phipps, Jr. (Table 2.1).
The proposal to develop the ranch created a storm of controversy. Officials in
the city of Littleton, located just to the north of Highlands Ranch, expressed concern
over the possibility of the development of what could turn out to be a city with
hundreds of thousands of residents right on their southern border. As an expression of
their anxiety, Littleton seriously discussed annexing the property in order to gain
control of any development process. The state of Colorado also waded into the
debate, with State Treasurer Roy Romer coming out in favor of the state purchasing
the property, so that three quarters of it could be reserved for open space.71
Douglas County planner Bill Noe expressed the opinion that high-density
development of the ranch would have the same impact as a city the size of Colorado
Springs being dropped in Douglas County. He also noted that in 1974 the County
Planning Commission had recommended that any development of Highlands Ranch
be of a low-density nature, so as to provide a buffer zone between Denver and
Douglas County.72
58


As the controversy raged over the proposal to develop Highlands Ranch,
Marvin Davis and his partners quietly finalized the purchase, then almost
immediately arranged to sell the troubled property to yet another group. In January
1978, Phillip J. Reilly of Mission Viejo Company announced that they had entered
into an agreement with Highlands Ventures Company for an option to purchase all
22,009 acres of Highlands Ranch.73 The announced purchase price of $28 million was
just over twice what Davis group had paid for the ranch less than one week before.
There were many questions raised by this sudden and dramatic increase in the
value of Highlands Ranch. Various members of the Phipps family raised the issue of
whether there had been a failure on the part of the executors of the estate to obtain
full value for the ranch during sales negotiations. Accusations of mismanagement
began to fly and factions formed within the family.74
Matters finally came to a head in 1980 when Richmond Phipps, daughter of
Lawrence Phipps Jr. and his second wife, Bertha Richmond, filed suit in Douglas
County District Court seeking to overturn the sale of Highlands Ranch to Marvin
Davis group. In her lawsuit, Richmond Phipps claimed that the original sale to
Highlands Ventures was for substantially less than the actual value of the property.
She further claimed that her brother, Lawrence Phipps III, and uncle, Gerald Phipps,
had engaged in a conspiracy to withhold documents related to the estate and which
District Court Judge John P. Gately had ordered turned over to her in a May 1979
ruling.75
59


The dispute over Lawrence Phipps estate became even more contentious by
1982. Richmond Phipps not only sought an order from the court vacating the original
sale of the ranch to Highlands Ventures, but also the removal of her brother and uncle
from their positions as executors of her fathers estate. She charged that they had
mismanaged the assets of the estate, resulting in the seven heirs receiving only
$300,000 each, a fraction of what the estate was really worth, in her estimation. She
also charged that her brother had illegally transferred the water rights on the ranch to
his friends through a series of veiled partnerships, receiving only a fraction of their
value as a result of these alleged sweetheart deals.76
Unfortunately for her case, the documents Richmond Phipps had counted on
to help her substantiate the charges were never found. The safety deposit box where
the documents were supposedly stored, which was controlled by her brother and
uncle, proved to be empty by the time the court forced the executors to open it in the
presence of a court representative. Without anything more than her suspicions and
simple long division to support her claims of mismanagement, her suit was eventually
dismissed and the sale was allowed to stand. The development of Highlands Ranch
could proceed.
60


UMUUKl
Figure 2.3 Location of Highlands Ranch. (Rand McNally & Company,
New York, 2000)
61


Mission Viejo, a wholly owned subsidiary of Philip Morris Tobacco
Company, was no stranger to development involving historic ranches. Their first
venture had been the creation of the planned community of Mission Viejo in Southern
California, building 41,000 homes on 10,000 acres of the historic Rancho Mission
Viejo. The development, which lies between Los Angeles and San Diego, became a
model for planned communities in the West.77
The company also had experience in Colorado. Just prior to their acquisition
of Highlands Ranch, Mission Viejo had developed yet another planned community in
southeast Aurora, Colorado. In this iteration of Mission Viejo, the company built
nearly 1,000 homes on 640 acres of farmland bounded by Chambers Road on the east,
Hampden on the north, Buckley to the west and Quincy to the south.78
Even before completing the purchase of Highlands Ranch in December 1979,
Mission Viejo Company proposed its vision of the future for the property. In a
submission to Douglas County dated June 1978, Mission Viejo laid out its plans for
the community to be known as Highlands Ranch. At the time of this submission the
ranch consisted of 21,437 acres to the east of US Highway 85 and 572 acres lying to
the west of the highway. The western portion of the property was not included in the
proposal, since it was believed that the highway would provide a logical boundary for
the proposed town. The proposal included a request to change the zoning from
agricultural and rural residence to a planned community district.79
62


The submitted plan called for the development of 8,530 acres over a period of
twenty to thirty years. Mission Viejo planned to construct 30,033 dwelling units on
this acreage, mostly consisting of single-family homes, but also some high-density
housing such as town homes and condominiums. Of the remaining acreage, 432 acres
was for commercial and office space, 504 acres for industrial space, and 12,907 acres
for non-urban uses.80
The area defined for non-urban use was not strictly for use as open space. A
good portion of this acreage would actually be used for schools, community
amenities, parks and government, and other uses related to the necessary
infrastructure of the proposed town. Whatever was left over from those uses would be
left as undeveloped open space.
The plan submitted to the county also addressed the expected adverse impacts
once the community was fully built out. Mission Viejo admitted that there would be a
significant reduction in the wildlife native to the ranch, due primarily to displacement.
There would also be a problem related to increased runoff, as areas that formerly
were covered by soil and native plant species would in the future be under concrete
o I
roadways, parking lots, office buildings and homes.
Another impact would be an increase in demand for utilities, requiring local
providers of these services to invest millions in upgrading facilities. Air quality would
be decreased, due to increased traffic on formerly open prairie. This same factor
would bring a dramatic increase in noise for northern Douglas County, as well as
63


southern Arapahoe County, since the new residents would add an estimated 104,190
daily auto trips. Finally, there would be an additional 17,514 students attending the
primarily rural Douglas County School District.82 One glaring omission from Mission
Viejos impact study is consideration of the increased development such a large
subdivision would naturally generate in the surrounding area, which included the
Denver Technological Center.
As if to emphasize the change that was being proposed in the essential nature
of the ranch, Mission Viejo included a statement in their proposal that speaks
volumes.
The property contains scenic areas, wildlife habitat areas and
important cultural resource areas. Because access to the property is
limited, it has had little value to the public as a recreational or
educational use area.83
What is revealing about this statement by Mission Viejo is not just its
emphasis on the value the property might hold as a scenic and wildlife area; it is the
assertion that in order to have value people must have no limits on their access to
such areas. It was precisely this increased access, and the potential for liability, that
Mission Viejo used as justification for their order to level the historic structures at the
site of the old home place for the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch in 1986.84
Historian Alan Culpin had determined in an earlier studycommissioned by
Mission Viejo Companythat these structures constituted some of the most historic
structures in Douglas County, so their value from a historical perspective was known.
64


As several Douglas County commissioners pointed out, the destruction of the Cheese
Ranch buildings demonstrated a blatant disregard on the part of Mission Viejo and its
officials for the historic integrity of their property.85
Nevertheless, the Douglas County Commissioners approved the development
proposal in September 1979. At the time, Mission Viejo Company estimated the
population of Highlands Ranch would reach 90,000 by 2005. However, before
construction could get underway on the first houses, Mission Viejo had to clear an
unexpected roadblock set up by the state of Colorado.
As anyone who has lived on the high plains realizes, the key to doing anything
in the semi-arid environment of the West is water. Without access to a reliable source
of water even the most basic improvement or development is impossible. In an
attempt to take control of the development of Highlands Ranch, the state of Colorado
refused to issue permits requested by Mission Viejo Company to drill wells on the
property. It was not until Mission Viejo prevailed in state court in August 1980 that
the requests for 15 well drilling permits were granted and work got underway.87
In January 1981 the Douglas County Commissioners approved the second
sketch plan, which called for 652 single-family housing units on 124 acres. A 10-acre
site was also included in the plan to be used for the construction of multi-family
go
housing units. The grand opening of Highlands Ranch took place in August 1981
and the first to buy homes out at the former cattle ranch were Phil and Kaze Scott.89
65


Development proceeded apace from that point. Douglas County officials
approved the third and fourth sketch plans during March and April 1982. The third
plan called for 412 single-family homes to be constructed on 111.6 acres near County
Line Road and South Broadway, at the point where the old entrance road to the ranch
headquarters had been located. The fourth plan allowed for construction of 152
homes on 109.4 acres between Dad Clark Drive (named for an early homesteader)
and South University Boulevard.90
To help with the enormous burden the new development placed upon the tiny
Douglas County School District, and also to help attract homebuyers to what was then
a remote area, Mission Viejo Company agreed to pay for the cost of constructing
Northridge Elementary School within the subdivision. In September 1982, Mission
Viejo hired the Denver architectural firm of Barker, Rinker and Seacat to design the
facility, which would end up costing approximately $3 million.91 No mention was
made of the need for additional middle and high schools to accommodate the new
pupils from Highlands Ranch.
However, the offer was not as altruistic as Mission Viejo Company wanted it
to appear. First, there was the interest Mission Viejo had in marketing its new
development. Without new schools potential buyers were faced with the unattractive
prospect of sending their children to school in Castle Rock, a thirty-four mile daily
roundtrip. The second point had to do with the financing arrangement surrounding the
construction of the school. Mission Viejo Company merely fronted the money to
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Douglas County for the building; the district was to repay the loan over a period of
fifteen years out of the additional property taxes it took in from Highlands Ranch
92
residents. Until then the school district merely leased the facility from the company.
Another sign of the strain the huge development placed on the local
infrastructure was the critical situation that developed in the area of health care. At
the time the Highlands Ranch development commenced, approval of new hospital
construction was in the hands of the Colorado Board of Health. Even as it became
obvious to those living in the new subdivision that a hospital was needed nearby, the
board was determined to block any new hospital construction in the south metro area
until 1990.93 The reasons behind this opposition appeared to center on the fear that
such a move would draw key personnel and patient base away from hospitals located
in the older core areas of Denver.
Legislative attempts to deregulate the approval process for hospital
construction were vetoed by Governor Dick Lamm in 1983, leading many in the
booster community to question the governors motives.94 Mercy Medical Center
finally went to court and successfully sued the Colorado Board of Health to overturn
the agencys perceived stranglehold on the approval process. The Highlands Ranch
Surgery Center opened in December 1984, the first new medical facility in the south
metro area in quite some time.95
By 1986, Highlands Ranch was taking on the appearance of a self-sustaining
community. Businesses, such as Highlands Ranch Bank, Fair Lanes Bowling Alley
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and a cement factory, had established themselves in the area. Centennial Office Park,
Ridgeline Business Park and Convenience Retail Center gave residents new options
for office space and shopping.96 The Links Golf Course opened in the fall of 1986 on
the east side of Highlands Ranch.97 However, as of 2004 there has been no mention of
when, if ever, a cemetery will be established to handle the future burial needs of the
burgeoning population.
At about this same time Mission Viejo Company announced plans to open the
400-acre Eastridge area to other homebuilders.98 According to the index of
homebuilders at Highlands Ranch, large residential construction firms, such as Pulte
Homes, US Homes, Writer and Ryland Homes entered the market. Eventually more
than fifteen homebuilders would be active in developing the old ranch.99 Old timers,
such as Kirk Kimball who grew up on the neighboring Cherokee Ranch and
remembered when the Highlands Ranch Recreation Center and Northridge Park were
the calving grounds for the ranch, looked on as the terrain they had known as boys
disappeared.100
When Mission Viejo first began the development of Highlands Ranch they
expressed a great deal of satisfaction that they were Working hand in hand with the
residents of their community.101 However, within a few years this facade of unity
began to crack.
In the summer of 1986, Mission Viejo Company learned of the plans for
Elitch Gardens, a popular amusement park located in north Denver, to search for a
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new location. Although the area had been fairly wide open when the park was
originally established in the late nineteenth century, the encroaching city had
surrounded it by the later years of the twentieth. With no room to expand, the owners
of the park sought to relocate to a more spacious site.
Mission Viejo officials extended an offer to Elitchs to move to Highlands
Ranch. They even had a site picked out for the amusement park to consider, 150 acres
near the C470 freeway and Santa Fe Drive (US 85). The offer immediately drew
109
protests from Highlands Ranch residents.
Although those opposed to the move had nothing against Elitchs, the idea of
having a full-scale amusement park located in the western portion of Highlands
Ranch was not attractive to many. The additional noise, traffic and other problems
that would accompany such a facility ran contrary to the reasons why many of these
people had moved out of the city in the first place.103
Mission Viejo finally agreed to hold a referendum on the issue, however they
tried to place restrictions on the election. The company agreed that they would
withdraw the proposal only if 51 percent of all adult residents in Highlands Ranch
voted against it. A simple majority of those casting ballots would not dissuade the
company from its plans. The resulting storm of protest over this attempted maneuver
caused Mission Viejo Company to drop the proposal without the vote.104
Another point of contention between Mission Viejo Company and the
residents of the subdivision revolved around the plan to extend South Ranch Road
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past the Phipps Castle. Company officials claimed it was necessary to provide better
fire protection; however many homeowners expressed the belief that it was merely a
ploy to make it easier to sell homes in the area to the west of the castle. Residents
opposed to this plan stated that they had bought their homes in the area of the Phipps
Castle after being assured that this road would never be put through.105
We were sold homes on that basis, and those promises are being violated,
said resident Midge Pierce. Claims of deception on the part of Mission Viejo officials
not only pointed out the continuing deterioration of relations between the developer
and homeowners, but also a growing concern over the encroachment of that
development on views and open space.106
In what homeowners considered to be yet another Slap in the face by the
Mission Viejo Company, a new post office was proposed for the comer of South
Quebec Street and South University Boulevard in December 1990. Normally this
would be considered an innocuous matter, however in this case the site proposed for
the facility was originally intended for residential housing. Residents saw this latest
course change on the part of company officials as yet another case of Mission Viejo
Company dealing in bad faith, and violating verbal assurances made by sales
personnel. County officials and members of the Colorado Congressional delegation
joined in the residents protest. However, in the end Mission Viejo went ahead with
the plan for the post office.107
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By the early 1990s, the growth rate of the community prompted calls from the
Highlands Ranch Community Association for incorporation as a city. The primary
advantage cited by supporters of the proposed city was the control they would gain
over the development process and growth, as well as staving off the possibility of
annexation by nearby cities, such as Littleton. Mission Viejo Company opposed such
a move, stating that the taxes needed to support such a governmental entity would be
too high for the company.108
Figure 2.4 Highlands Ranch Headquarters Complex. (Photograph by
David Richardson, 2003)
The population of the subdivision reached 30,000 by 1995, prompting yet
more calls for the formation of a city; Mission Viejo Company opposed all such
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plans, until the development was acquired by Shea Homes in 1997. At the same time,
the projections for the subdivision to reach a population of 90,000 by 2005 remained
in place. In 1995, 61 percent of the old cattle ranch was dedicated to what was
defined as non-urban use, such as parks, schools, streets, recreation and governmental
facilities. Residential usage took up another 30 percent and the remaining 9 percent
was devoted to commercial activities.109
In the middle of all this development some aspects of the grand old ranch do
survive. The Phipps Castle, surrounded on three sides by houses painted in various
shades of beige, remained a focal point of the subdivision. Various proposals as to
what to do with the structure have been floated over the years. Originally envisioned
as a community center for the residents of Highlands Ranch, the castle has remained
largely off limits to both the public and the homeowners. In a brief flashback to its
days of glory, the castle served as a stand-in for the fictional Venneford Ranch
mansion during the filming of a miniseries during the late 1970s based upon James
Micheners novel Centennial.110
More recently, Shea Homes, the successor to Mission Viejo Company, has
considered donating the historic castle, now known simply as the Highlands Ranch
Mansion, to the Metro Districts Parks and Open Space department. Two options
under discussion are either to use the mansion for weddings, receptions and other
special events, or to turn it into some sort of lodging facility. Area residents,
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concerned about the disruption from parking lot lights and noise from crowds
attending events at the facility, have come out in opposition to this plan.111
At the beginning of the twenty first century Highlands Ranch has come to
represent the very epitome of suburbanization in Colorado and Metropolitan Denver.
Houses sprawl up hillsides that once supported buffalo and cattle herds. Gullies and
streambeds that once provided habitat for game show deep cuts as increased runoff
brought about by acres of concrete and asphalt erode the soil. The sounds of wildlife
on the open prairie have been replaced by the screech of tires and the roar of traffic
from thousands of cars traversing the development each day. Tens of thousands of
commuters coming out of Highlands Ranch every morning and returning at night clog
roadways all across southern Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, leading to calls for
more roadways and increasing the tax burden for all Coloradans.
According to Metro Vision 2025: Interim Regional Transportation Plan,
published by the Denver Regional Council of Governments in April 2002, by 2025
traffic along the corridor that includes Highlands Ranch will increase to between
101,000 and 140,000 automobile trips each weekday during the peak morning and
afternoon periods. Trips between points within these suburban areas will increase
even further to between 231,000 and 335,000 each weekday during these same peak
periods.112
Travel patterns in new developments change, thus impacting where people
travel during their daily routine. Travel, both between and within suburbs, represents
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nearly 32 percent of daily automobile trips; travel between suburbs and central
Denver represent just 14 percent of daily trips.113 Such changes not only cause
congestion on roadways, but also additional strain on schools systems, police, fire and
other elements of infrastructure. This raises the issue of whether the additional
property and sales taxes from developments such as Highlands Ranch and nearby
Park Meadows Mall even begin to cover the cost of providing services to these once
rural areas.
Despite all the sales slogans touting the quality of life enjoyed by those living
in Highlands Ranch what we are left with is what historian and Highlands Ranch
resident Susan Appleby described as .. .a sea of monotonously cloned homes
flowing endlessly along the waves of formerly wind-whipped prairie.114 It is an
image that should make anyone stop and wonder if there is not a better way to
manage growth and the conversion of agricultural lands to other uses.
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CHAPTER 3
KEN-CARYL RANCH: FROM COUNTRY ESTATE
TO SPACE AGE
Like Highlands Ranch, Ken-Caryl Ranch was another great ranching property
owned by a wealthy and powerful man who was motivated more by personal
gratification than profit in operating a cattle ranch. T. A. Cap McDonald, the last
private individual to own the ranch, was a Texas oilman who liked to dabble in
breeding cattle. As was the case with Lawrence Phipps, McDonald did not operate his
ranch simply out of a desire to make a profit. Ken-Caryl was not even the location of
his principle cattle operation, but merely where he entertained clients and associates
in high style.
In another similarity to Highlands Ranch, Ken-Caryl was not put up for sale
until after McDonalds death in 1963. As would happen with Lawrence Phipps
beloved ranch, once the older generation passed on the younger members of the
family lost interest in maintaining the ranch as a going concern. For eight years after
his death, McDonalds family let the ranch lie virtually abandoned before it was sold
to the Johns Manville Corporation for development.
But during its heyday Ken-Caryl Ranch featured prize-winning herds of
Herefords and a magnificent Southern Colonial style great house that looked out over
some of the grandest vistas in Colorado. Visited by presidents and celebrities, Ken-
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Caryl was one of the showpieces of the Colorado ranching industry for most of its
history.
The geology of the area that encompasses the ranch began more than 600
million years ago, during the Paleozoic Era. Erosion of the metamorphic rock laid
down by ancient volcanoes has resulted in the formations known as hogbacks that are
the trademark of the ranch. About 70 million years ago, the distinctive Great Hogback
formation arose. At about the same time a small wrinkle in this formation formed
what would come to be called Ken-Caryl Valley.1
Archeological exploration of this land has shown that the earliest human
habitation occurred around 10,000 BC. Digs have turned up pottery, projectile points
and hide scrappers ranging in age from 12,000 years old to less than a century,
pointing to almost continuous human habitation in one form or another. It is thought
that Indian tribes utilized the valley as a killing ground during their great buffalo
hunts, driving the herds from the prairie, through the narrow entrance of the hogback
and into the confines of the valley, where they could more easily kill their prey.
Besides buffalo, the area also hosted antelope and mountain sheep.
The principle Indian tribe living in the area prior to Euro-American
occupation was the Ute. These Indians lived in mobile villages, roaming the area
around the current town of Morrison in search of game animals. One of the last
groups of Ute to live in the area was led by Chief Colorow, an Apache originally
named Two-pe-Weets who was captured as a boy and adopted into the Ute tribe.3
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In the early 1860s, Colorow would often bring ponies into Denver to trade for
supplies. He sheltered his people in a cave in the area near the hogback, utilizing it as
a stopping point on the journey into town. Evidence of such frequent occupation has
led early white residents of the area to christen it Colorows Cave.4 The cave and its
immediate surroundings are now part of a private park for the Willow Brook
subdivision.
As happened all too frequently in the West, pressure from white settlement
eventually forced the Indians to move elsewhere. As the Ute tribe gave up their
former hunting grounds in preparation for relocation to their new reservations in
southwestern Colorado and Utah, the first of the new settlers appeared.
Bradford City
Major Robert Boyles Bradford relocated to Denver from Lexington, Missouri
in 1859. Partnered with William Russell and William Waddellwho, with Alexander
Majors, founded the Pony ExpressBradford was sent to Denver to handle the
merchandising and freighting end of their business. However, contemporary accounts
indicate that Bradford was not content to stick with just one business; he was
involved in a number of enterprises in the new city, including the Bradford House, an
inn constructed in the 1860s at the comer of 16th and Larimer streets.
Although much is known about Bradford, one aspect of his life that has
remained a mystery is the source of his military rank. There is no record of his
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serving in either the Missouri Militia or the Regular Army. Despite this question,
Territorial Governor Robert W. Steele named Bradford a Brigadier General in the
Jefferson Territory militia, while he was serving as the governors aide. Although the
rank did not carry with it any authority, it was a symbol of the esteem in which the
governor held Bradford.5
As part of his freighting business, Bradford decided to build a road up to the
mining camps springing up in the Rocky Mountains, in particular the new town of
Oroville (Leadville). Freighters would be charged a toll to use this road and as part of
the operation Bradford saw a need for a way station near the foothills. On December
7, 1859, the General Assembly of the Jefferson Territory granted a charter for the
Bradford Wagon Road to the Denver, Auraria and South Park Wagon Road
Company, William Bradford, president.6 That same day Bradford purchased a parcel
of land out in what would one day be called Ken-Caryl Valley.7
A notation in the Rocky Mountain News from February 1860 announced the
opening of the Bradford Road, which followed the old Ute trail up into the mountains
and South Park. The toll road served not just Leadville, but also the mining camps
around Tarry all, continuing all the way up to Breckenridge. The road was successful
primarily because it was the only reliable route to these early camps; however, all
who experienced its twisting turns and precipitous drop-offs considered it to be a
terrible road. Perhaps this was due to its hurried construction, having been completed
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in the space of less than two months, but it also meant that the road was unsuitable for
stagecoach traffic.8
The road departed from Denver at present day Blake Street and followed the
east bank of the South Platte River. It crossed the river at Browns Bridge (Yuma
Street) and cut across the plains before entering the foothills through the Dakota
Hogback. From there it was a short journey to the way station in the Bradford
Holdings. After a stop at this oasis of civilization travelers continued their journey
into the mountains on the toll road.9 The road operated until 1867, when a superior
road running up Turkey Creek replaced it.10
When Bradford purchased the property out near the Dakota Hogback there
was already a small one and one half story stone building on it. He used this building
as the basis for a three story stone hotel he had constructed in order to provide
accommodations for travelers, as well as to serve as a residence for his family. Upon
its completion, he christened the enlarged structure the Bradford House.11
The upper story rooms were low under the eaves formed by the gable roof.
The walls in the original section are approximately sixteen inches thick, constructed
of a mixture of sandstone and limestone blocks. The first floor featured fireplaces in
both the north and south ends of the building. A basement ran under this portion of
the Bradford House.12
In 1872, Bradford constructed a large three-story addition to the original
structure. This Colonial Revival style building had sandstone veneer walls two feet
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thick and featured four chimneys for the heating system. The entry was through a
porch centered on the front, the roof of which was supported by six wooden
columns.13 Eventually Bradford had the third story removed after the third time it was
struck by lightning, leaving an elegant two-story building.14
Bradford made a number of other improvements prior to his filing of a
homestead claim in 1870. Besides the hotel, there was an icehouse, a number of water
wells and an apple orchard. There is also archeological evidence of other outbuildings
on the property that probably date from the Bradford era.15 Photos taken around the
tum of the twentieth century indicate that an ornamental lake was situated along the
approach to the main house, near where a modem day path leads to the parking area
for the park.
Despite being related to Waddell through both his first and second wives,
Bradfords relationship with his partners was stormy. Claiming that he was not
granted the respect due him, Bradford finally left the business and moved out to his
ranch in the foothills west of Denver in 1861.16 In 1867, he married for the third time,
wedding Francis Miller.17
The area around the hotel came to be called Bradford City, which was
probably an exaggeration. At its peak there were several residences, the hotel, bams,
corrals and other buildings at the settlement, but little to indicate the makings of a true
town.18 Bradford utilized Colorows Cave to entertain guests at the ranch, who
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included such local notables as William Byers, Amos Steck, Judge George Morrison
and Owen J. Goldrick.19
Major Bradford died at his stone hotel on December 30, 1876 at 64 years of
age. Francis Bradford, his widow, tried to hold on to the property for quite some time
after the Majors death.20 However, Bradfords financial affairs were in ruin at the
time of his death and Francis was forced to issue a quitclaim deed in 1877 as part of a
deed of trust to secure a bank loan. In 1880, the holder of the note, Colorado
Mortgage and Investment Company, an English firm, foreclosed and took control of
the 279-acre property.
The ranch went through a succession of owners over the next few years.
Colorado Mortgage and Investment Company sold the property to James R. McClure
in June 1882. McClure, in turn, sold the property to Mrs. Huldah J. Sours in 1884. By
1895 the ranch was in the possession of James Adams Perley, who was reported to
have purchased it for $1,000.21
Perley moved out to the ranch with his wife and six children to start a cattle
operation. Besides the cattle, Perley also had a dairy and raised hay on the ranch. The
Perleys lived in the Bradford House until James died in 1926, at which time his son,
James Jr., sold the ranch to Chicago businessman and newspaper publisher John C.
Shaffer. The purchase price was $1,000, exactly what his father had paid for the place
over thirty years before. Shafer consolidated the historic ranch into his expansive
livestock operation, which he christened Ken-Caryl Ranch.
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Ken-Carvl Ranch
The creation of Ken-Caryl Ranch was largely the result of one mans dream of
a country home for his family. John Charles Shaffer was originally from Baltimore,
Maryland, where he was bom on June 5, 1853 to James and Ann Shaffer. Not much is
known about his parents, other than that James may have been a carpenter who drank
to such excess that he could not support the family. Shaffer early on showed the drive
and ambition that would one day make him a success in street railways and
publishing. At the age of twelve John Shaffer went to work, doing odd jobs, such as
shining shoes, before finally landing a position as a clerk when he was fifteen. In
1874, he relocated to Chicago and went into business for himself.23
Shaffer invested first in railroads, specifically street railways, or trolley lines.
His first executive position was as president of the Richmond, Indiana Streetcar
Company. In 1889 the rising young entrepreneur purchased all of the streetcar
companies in Indianapolis. His ability to turn around financially troubled urban
railways became the foundation of his fortune.24
In 1901, Shaffer entered the publishing world, purchasing the Chicago
Evening Post. Not long afterward he added the Indianapolis Star, Muncie Star, Terre
Haute Star and the Louisville Herald. His entry into the Colorado business
community came in 1913 when he added the Rocky Mountain News, Denver
Republican and Denver Times to his newspaper empire in a bold deal reported to be
worth $750,000. In a foretaste of the consolidation that lay in the future for the
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Denver newspaper community, Shaffer ordered that the business operations of the
Rocky Mountain News and those of the Denver Republican be merged, while
maintaining separate newsrooms.25
Figure 3.1 Ken-Caryl Valley in 1910. (Photograph courtesy of the
Littleton Historical Museum)
There is some evidence that Shaffers interest in Colorado had more to do
with his younger son, Kent Shaffer, than it did with the opportunities presented by the
western economy. Shortly after his graduation from Yale, Kent married Helen
Phillips, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. James B. Phillips of Greeley, Colorado. The
Phillips family had been among the original members of Nathan Meekers Union
Colony, and were therefore one of the first families of Greeley. The wedding between
Kent and Helen took place March 15, 1912 at her parents home in Greeley and was
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attended by Shaffer and his wife Virginia. According to contemporary newspaper
articles, the arrival of the Illinois business magnate and his retinue in his private
railway coach created quite a stir in the agricultural community.
Kent had been in poor health for some time, so after the wedding the
newlyweds set up housekeeping in Denver. It was hoped that the high, dry climate of
Colorado would provide the needed tonic for the grooms chronic health problems.
Kent set up an auto parts business in town and Helen kept house, while they prepared
to start a family.27
Less than a year after Kent settled in Denver, his father made his memorable
entry into the Denver newspaper scene. In October 1913, John Shaffer appointed
Kent to the position of Treasurer for the combined business operations of the Rocky
Mountain News and the Denver Republican. His older son, Carroll, was the General
Manager of the Chicago Evening Post, so it was quite natural for the elder Shaffer to
entrust his younger son with the western portion of his burgeoning newspaper empire.
However, it was not long before John Shaffer decided to establish a home in Denver
for himself as well.28
On October 19, 1914, an article in the Denver Times reported the sale of the
3,000-acre Northern View estate, formerly owned by John T. Sheam, to John C.
Shaffer. Jerome S. Riche and Horace W. Bennett brokered the real estate deal
reported to be worth $100,000.29 Shaffers acquisition was the core of what was to
become Ken-Caryl Ranch.
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Sheam, a retired General Manager of the Gas and Electric Company of
Houston, Texas, was a prominent member of the Denver social scene from about
1905 to 1912. Besides his business interests in his native Texas (his grandfather was
Charles Sheam, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence) he was associated
with Nathaniel Maxcy Tabor, son of legendary silver tycoon Horace Tabor and his
first wife, Augusta. Sheam invested in Colorado mining and real estate interests
during his years of residence in Denver, as well as playing the role of gracious host at
his country estate.30
The property lay to the south of the old Bradford place, beyond the first
hogback of the foothills, and offered a view of Deer Creek Canyon to the south and of
Mount Morrison to the north. In a move that was typical of new ranch owners,
Shaffer put his own brand on the place by naming it Ken-Caryl Ranch, derived from
the names of his two sons.31
Shaffer determined early on that the existing home on the estate, which
Sheam had considered quite palatial, would be unsuitable for the type of entertaining
he planned. The new owner set out to construct a grand home in the Southern
Colonial style of his native Maryland.32 In the end, his creation would come to be one
of the most enduring of the residences on the ranch.
The Manor House, as it came to be known, had a gracious entrance through a
colonnaded veranda that offered a magnificent view of the scenery. The over 8,000
square feet of the interior was divided into 20 rooms and 6 baths. The first floor
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featured a living room, dining room, library and kitchen. John and Virginias
apartments were on the second floor, as were six guest suites. At either end of the
house were enclosed sun porches that provided sweeping 180-degree views. A
generating station located on the property provided electrical power.34
One of the most memorable rooms in the house was the living room, where
Shaffer did much of his entertaining. The room measured 60 by 38 feet and had
fireplaces at either end. Another spectacular feature of the home was the dining room,
which had a picture window looking out on a view so magnificent that the Shaffers
had special drapes made to frame it in such a way as to impart the impression that you
were looking on a piece of art.35
Shaffer also had homes built on the ranch for both of his sons. Kents home is
immediately adjacent to the Manor House, where he lived with his wife and two
daughters, Virginia and Marjorie (Table 3.1). The home where Carroll and his first
wife, Pauline, lived is no longer in existence, but was described in contemporary
accounts as being a two-story brick structure with walls 18 inches thick and with a
gazebo. Behind the house was a second structure referred to as the Cheerful Cherubs
Inn, where Carrolls four children lived along with their Swiss nurse.36 According to
an account written by Shaffers granddaughter, Carolyn Allers, most of the homes
had grass mats on the floors and smelled marvelous.37
In addition to the residences up on the hill, Shaffer set about building or
refurbishing a number of other structures on the ranch. Near the base of the hill was a
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garage for his automobiles, above which were quarters for six men. Downhill from
the garage were two additional housesone for the ranch manager and another for
the cowboy assigned to ride the fences. The servants quarters for the Manor House
were situated on the south side of the big house, near the brook. The laundry and
pump house were located just across the stream.38
Table 3.1 Family of John C. Shaffer


I. John Charles Shaffer
(1) m. Virginia
(i) Carroll Shaffer (son)
(A) m. Pauline
(a) John Charles Shaffer II (son)
(b) Robert W. Shaffer (son)
(c) Barbara Shaffer (daughter)
(d) Carolyn Shaffer (daughter)

(B) m. (unknown) Logan (1924)
(a) Carroll Logan Shaffer (son)
(ii) Kent Shaffer (son)
(A) m. Helen Phillips (1912)
(a) Virginia Elizabeth Shaffer (daughter)
(b) Maijorie Shaffer (daughter)
To the west of the Manor House, up in the foothills, was a residence known as
The Chalet. Constructed entirely of logs, The Chalet had dormitories at either end
one for women and one for men. Between the two living quarters was a large
common room with fireplaces at each end. This structure did not remain in use for
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long, as it burned down shortly after its construction. All that remains today are the
stone chimneys.39
Shaffer set about turning Ken-Caryl Ranch into a first class Hereford
operation, beginning with the construction of bams and corrals to house the stock. He
purchased his initial stock from noted Indiana breeder W. T. McCray, who had kept
the Fairfax bloodline predominant in his herd. In 1917, Frank Jay Smith was hired to
manage the ranch operations and by 1924 there were 250 purebred cattle grazing on
Shaffers range.40
One of the earliest prize bulls at Ken-Caryl Ranch was Panama 167th. Others
soon followed, but Shaffer decided to make a quantum leap in the Hereford world by
purchasing a one half interest in the legendary bull, Prince Domino, in 1924. He paid
$10,000 for his interest, what was then considered a staggering sum, especially for an
animal that would not leave his home ranch in Wyoming. What Shaffer got for his
money was access to a champion bloodline that elevated Ken-Caryl to the top tier
among Hereford breeding ranches.41 His efforts paid off when his bull, Deacon, won
the 1926 International Grand Championship in Chicago.42
The ranch varied in size over the years, with Shaffer buying and selling
acreage on a regular basis. At one point the ranch encompassed nearly 26,000 acres,
but by the mid-1920s the spread had stabilized at around 10,000 acres. The final
acquisitions for Shaffer occurred in 1926 when he purchased the South Ranch from
Frank Mann, and the Perley place from James Perley, Jr 43
88