It has been more than a century ago that the first pioneers built their lives in this region, although the current modern day community was established in 1981.
A man known as Dad Clark was declared the Potato King of Colorado. Mr. Clark filed a claim on a 160-acre homestead at the location of what is currently known as the Highlands Ranch Golf Club in 1859. The farmers of Colorado were very successful at growing potato crops during this time period and Rufus decided to try growing his own potatoes. Mr. Clark eventually came to be known as the Potato King of Colorado because his harvests were always so abundant. The Highlands Ranch Mansion displaces 17,000 square feet. The nearby ranch buildings and barns only total 41,000 square feet.
The historic Highlands Ranch and Ranch Mansion stands today as valuable pieces of history that reflect the lifestyle of early pioneers and settlers of the region currently known as Highlands Ranch, Colorado. This magnificent building is over 100 years old and home to some of the more noteworthy families in Denver.
It was believed for many years that the first owner of the Mansion was a man named John Springer. During the 18-month renovation of the Metro District’s Highlands Ranch between 2010 and 2012, made an important discovery. Above the original door of the home etched in stone close to the 1891 etching, the word Rotherwood was discovered etched in stone. The Rotherwood reference was traced to the first owner of the Mansion, who was named Samuel Long, who was originally from Pittsburg, PA. In 1861, Mr. Long was one of the first refiners of petroleum. He was also the Director of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In 1880, Mr. Long relocated to Colorado. He had business interests in farming, real estate, timber, livestock, gold mining, and coal mining. In 1884, Mr. long filed a claim on 40 acres in Douglas County. Then in 1888, he purchased 2,000 acres and named it after his boyhood farm known as Rotherwood. Between 1889 and 1890, Mr. Long was recognized as an innovator of dry land farming methods. While visiting the Mansion, he looked directly over the small door on the east porch to see both the Rotherwood and the 1891 etchings.
A man named John Springer, who had a wife named Eliza who was ill, which forced him to relocate to Denver in 1897 was the next owner of the Mansion. Mr. Springer started remodeling the mansion in 1891. The original building was of a Russian castle style. He completed nearly 60% of the current structure. Mr. Springer ran for the mayor in 1903. His wife, Eliza passed away in 1904. Mr. Springer remarried a woman named Isabelle, and changed the name of the Mansion to Castle Isabelle.
In 1913, a Colonel named Hughes, who was Mr. Springer’s first son-in-law, purchased the ranch. Later, Mr. Hughes changed the name of the property to the Sunland Ranch. Colonel Hughes passed his property to his granddaughter named Annie Hughes after he passed away in 1918. In 1920 Annie Hughes and her husband named Lafayette sold the mansion to a man named Waite Phillips, who was one of the brothers who established Phillips Petroleum. Mr. Phillips owned the land for approximately six years and first introduced the name of Highlands Ranch. A man named Frank Kistler purchased the mansion from Mr. Phillips for $425,000 in 1926.
Mr. Kistler converted the ranch into a breeding ranch that specialized in purebred chickens, hogs, and sheep, as well as Angus and dairy cattle. In those days the ranch was known as the Diamond K Ranch. Local parks are named after the Diamond K Ranch and Mr. Kistler. Mr. Kistler added the final 40% of the mansion and altered the classic Tudor style. The secret passageway, hardwood floors, nine bedrooms, and six fireplaces, were reminiscent of the European homes that permitted entertaining in a grand style.
In 1929, Mr. Kistler invited a man named Lawrence Phipps Jr.to move the Arapahoe Hunt Club in the southernmost portion of the ranch. However, the financial problems that Mr. Kistler had resulted in him selling the entire property to Mr. Phipps in 1937, for $250. A man named Lawrence Phipps, who was Mr. Phipps’ father, made his fortune with Carnegie Steel. With involvement in real estate, ranching, professional sports, including the Denver Broncos, trucking, and construction, the Phipps family members have been prominent leaders of Colorado industry. The Phipps family renamed the mansion to Highlands Ranch after purchasing the property as a working ranch and residence. The property once again prospered, under their skillful management.
A man named Marvin Davis, from the Davis Oil Corporation purchased the ranch for over 13 Million dollars from Lawrence Phipps, Jr. who passed away in 1976. Then, in 1978, he resold the property to the Mission Viejo Company, which had a vision of a master-planned community. Shea homes bought the Mission Viejo Company in 1997.
The ranch encompasses some 250 acres. The ranch included a dairy operation, which was located in the northern barn although the primary purpose of the ranching operation has been beef production. In the wintertime, the brick silos connected to the barn provide storage for cattle feed. Lodging for many of the ranch hands who worked on the land is provided by a bunkhouse located west of the dairy barn. The next barn was used for general maintenance activities within the ranch. The corrals to the east and the south of the barns were usually used during the branding and calving operations.
Shea Homes gave the Mansion and funds for the renovation to the Highlands Ranch to the Metro District in 2010. In 2012, the Metro District opened the Mansion for private and public event rentals after conducting a comprehensive renovation of this beautiful building.