Potatoes and Mansions: A Look Into The History Of Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Our Highlands Ranch towing company takes pride in being local to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. We love our home, and we want to know it fully. To truly understand a land, we believe we must know how it came to be. We would love for our customers to know as well, and that’s why we’ve done some digging and learned the history of Highlands Ranch. It all starts with a certain Potato King…

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The land of gorgeous Highlands Ranch Golf Club once belonged to Dad Rufus H. “Potato” Clark’s 160-acre homestead. Potato harvesting was in the rise in Colorado, and Clark became famous for his bountiful harvest, naming him Potato King of Colorado.

Like Clark, many folks were traveling and setting up homesteads in the area for farming purposes. While the “Potato King” wasn’t the first settler, he (along with others) started the framework of what is now Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

The Evolution Of The Highlands Ranch Mansion

After settlement had begun by local farmers, such as Johanne Welte and Plaziduo Gassner, who started a successful dairy ranch, other settlers were coming in to stake their claim. One of those pioneers was a man named John W. Springer.

He was a wealthy man with a history of politics, law, and banking. In 1898, he and his wife, Eliza, decided to settle down and purchase lands all across the Highlands Ranch area. He eventually became the largest landholder in the region and established the Springer Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch. While his wealth and popularity grew, his wife’s health became worse, and she died in 1904.

As a high-class man, Springer knew he needed to marry again and five years later he married the young and beautiful Isabel Patterson. He was enthralled by her charms and named his aristocratic Cross Country Ranch home “Castle Isabelle.” Although charming and adventurous, Isabel was not one to be held down and lived a life of wild nighttime parties and narcotics. Springer was not the only man engulfed in her glamour, and the many lovers she shared resulted in John W. Springer’s downfall.

On May 24, 1911, all was in crisis as one of Isabel’s lovers was murdered by another alleged lover at the Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel. With John’s high-class status the murder and scandal were highly publicized, resulting in Springer divorcing Isabel five days later and disappearing from the public eye. He sold his elegant ranch to his first father-in-law, the famous and highly respected cattlemen Colonel William Hughes. After his death in 1918, the ranch, which was renamed Sunland Ranch was passed to his granddaughter, the daughter of John and Eliza Springer, Annie. Two years later she sold the property to Waite Phillips, who renamed the homestead, Highlands Ranch.

Phillip lived in Highlands Ranch for six years before he sold it to Frank E. Kistler, president of Wolhurst Stock Farms. Kistler, who was very wealthy and had a history in oil, ranching, and banking, made elaborate renovations to the ranch. Originally Russian style, he changed the mansion into its present-day Tudor-style manor. He ran a successful business from the ranch for several years; operations included dairy and Angus cattle, sheep, hogs and chicken. Frank E. Kistler ran into some financial trouble in the 1930s, as many in the area did, and had to sell the ranch to Lawrence Phipps Jr.

Son of a former Colorado Senate, Phipps Jr. renamed the ranch back to Highlands Ranch and continued full ranching operations. The property was owned by Phipps Jr. until he died in 1976 and was then sold to businessman Marvin Davis. After further buying and selling the Historic Highlands Ranch Mansion was eventually bought by Highlands Ranch Metro District, where it stands as a beautiful mansion for people to visit and stay.

Highlands Ranch Mansion Today

If this piece of history intrigued you as much as it intrigues us then you’ll be happy to know you can visit it today! Not only can you visit, but you can also book this magnificent home for events and weddings!

When visiting the mansion, you can also explore the historic park that surrounds the building. That includes historic barns, a bunkhouse, ranch houses, corrals, pastures, and the well-known windmill.

Visiting Marian’s Garden

One of the many beautiful sights on the ranch is Marian’s Garden; an acknowledgment and honor to the ranch’s longtime resident, Marian E. Morgan. Completed in 2016, this garden represents Marian’s kindness, love for gardening, welcoming spirit, and loyalty to the ranch.

From 1939 until her death in 2008, Marian lived at Highlands Ranch Mansion. When Lawrence Philip Jr.owned the establishment, Marian’s husband, Bud Morgan, worked as ranch manager. Marian and Bud relocated in 1965 to a small cottage just east of the gardens on the ranch. Unfortunately, Bud passed away just nine years later in 1974. Marian was still allowed to live in her cottage, even after the ranch switched owners. In fact, ever owner following Lawrence allowed Marian to reside in her cottage and continue her many responsibilities on the ranch.

She is remembered by her genuine kindness and compassion. She had the ability to see the goodness in every person she met, and every person who had the privilege to know her felt welcomed in her presence. The garden was constructed in the shape of a flower to resemble the spirit of who Marian was.

The garden is located near the front lawn of the mansion and is best visited in the warmer months to truly appreciate the splendor of her spirit.

Touring The Mansion

Highlands Ranch Mansion is open to the public most Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., unless a private event is occurring. Self-guided and guided tours are available, both free of charge. If you’re planning on visiting you can check out their calendar to schedule a tour or make sure they’re open!

We’ve loved discovering our local history and are even more excited to tour the elegant Highlands Ranch Mansion, we hope you are too.