Among the most architecturally unique structures in Colorado, the Highlands Ranch Mansion is a true treasure with a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains. The Mansion itself comprises 22,000 square feet and features 14 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, 5 fireplaces, a great room, a ballroom, a dining room, a billiard room, a library, a butler’s pantry and kitchen, a private courtyard, and an elegant staircase. The property functions today very much as it did in the past, as a working cattle and horse ranch. The Highlands Ranch Mansion, and the land on which it stands, is an area with a rich and colorful history from its many owners. Between the years of 1540 and 1700 the land changed ownership between Spain and France several times. As part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Thomas Jefferson negotiated the land from Napoleon Bonaparte to become part of the United States. The Highlands Ranch land was also once the hunting ground for the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Native Americans.
In 1859, Rufus “Dad” Clark, “The Potato King of Colorado" filed a 160 acre homestead where the current Highlands Ranch Golf Club now stands. In 1871, “Dad” Clark, a philanthropist, auctioned off a crop of potatoes in Denver and sent the proceeds to assist the Chicago fire victims.
The 1860’s brought great changes for this area when David Gregory in 1867, under the Homestead Act, filed for 80 acres and acquired a land grant, becoming the first homesteader to live on Highlands Ranch land.
In 1879 Austrian immigrants, John Welte and his brother-in-law Plaziduo Gassner, began the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch. They started the dairy ranch with 21 cows and produced butter and brick and limburger cheese. After the death of Plaziduo in 1883, the ranch continued to grow and be successful.
John W. Springer, a wealthy man with a background in politics, banking, and law moved to the area with his family. Starting in the 1890's, Springer acquired many of the surrounding homesteads to a total 23,200 acres and became the largest landholder in the area. He established the Springer Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch and began constructing the castle-like home we know as the Highland Ranch Mansion in 1891, building about 60% of the present structure.
In 1909, five years after the death of his first wife, Springer met and married his second wife, Isabelle Patterson, and named his mansion Castle Isabelle. Isabelle had an addiction to nightlife, drugs, and adventure. In 1911, her extra-marital exploits resulted in a highly publicized murder of an alleged lover at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel by another one of her alleged lovers.
Following a scandal-ridden divorce and the custody loss of his child from his first wife, Springer sold the Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch to his former father-in-law. Springer’s daughter inherited the land, renamed it Sunland Ranch and held the property until 1920 when she sold it to Waite Phillips, who named the land Highland Ranch from 1920-1926.
In 1926, Frank E. Kistler purchased the ranch and with the help of architect J.B. Benedict, Kistler and his wife began extensive renovations to the mansion which included - The west wing in the English Tudor style (shake-shingle roof, gables, and carved wood trims) various fireplaces, hardwood floors, two secret panels and an unusual one-lane bowling alley
In 1937, during the mist of the Great Depression, Kistler had to sell the ranch due to financial difficulties. Lawrence Phipps, Jr., a son of a former Colorado Senator, bought the property for horse and cattle ranching. The property was known as Phipps Ranch from 1937-1976. Between 1937 and up until his death in 1976, Phipps sold some of the original land holdings and acquired the East Ranch and the Cheese Ranch properties, expanding the property to an accumulated 22,009 acres of the present day land. During this time, the property was also headquarters for a prestigious group of horse back hunters known as the Arapahoe Hunt Club. The Club frequently hunted the land for coyotes using bloodhounds.
Marvin Davis purchased the land in 1976 shortly after Phipps death. Davis formed the Highlands Ventures Corporation to market the property, and in 1979, Mission Viejo Co. become the official owners. Mission Viejo Co. began residential construction in 1980 and the first residents, the Phil and Kaye Scott family, moved into Highlands Ranch in September 1981. Shea Homes purchased the property in 1997.
Today the Mansion property still functions as a working cattle and horse ranch. The property includes two cottages, numerous barns, stables, bunkhouse facilities, a carriage house and a windmill.
Highlands Ranch Mansion Web Site