Highlands Ranch

Although the current community was founded in 1981, the first settlers built their
lives in this area more than 100 years ago.

In 1978 the area known today as Highlands Ranch was owned by Mission Viejo
Company. This was the time Highlands Ranch started to exist. The Highlands Ranch
master plan was created and approved in 1979. In 1981 the first residents moved
into the area.

Highlands Ranch started growing and reached a growth of 2,500 houses per year at
some point. In 1997, Shea Homes purchased Mission Viejo and the undeveloped
portions of Highlands Ranch. Shae Homes is still in place and acts as some sort of
city government for Highlands Ranch.

Located 12 miles just south of Denver along C-470 and approximately 1 mile west of
Interstate I-25, Highlands Ranch is a very popular neighborhood. Highlands Ranch
today offers a diverse range of housing, from condo/townhomes to multi-story

      Victorian Horrors Storytelling
    at the Tattered Cover/ Highlands Ranch!

Saturday, October 1, 2005 4:00 PM

Join us for a visit from authors such as H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Edith Wharton.
Presented by the Molly Brown House Museum, professional actors will portray famed
Victorian horror authors as they "haunt" the audience with their thrilling tales. Each
author will present select readings and answer questions afterwards. This is the
perfect introduction to classic literature for all ages. For a more in depth Victorian
Horrors experience, visit the Molly Brown House on the evenings of October 20, 21,
22 and 23. For more information visit www.mollybrown.org or call (303) 832-4092
ext. 16.

Tattered Cover/ Highland Ranch
Highlands Ranch Parkway at Lucent Blvd.




Is the historic Highlands Ranch Mansion haunted?


Story by  William Kirby
Douglas County News-Press

In late September I was treated to an inside look at the Highlands Ranch mansion.
The Highlands Ranch Historical Society was preparing to give tours of the place, and
I had been invited a day before the house was to be opened to the public.

It was my first time in the mansion, and to be honest, my feelings were mixed. There
is no question of the house's grandeur. The great room and ballroom have more
square footage than my house, and there are enough windows to build two or three
normal-sized houses completely of glass.

What's more, the mansion has all of the necessities of a castle, including two secret
passageways, a shadowy gaming room with a low chandelier and, according to
some, a ghost.

And yet, as an amateur historian, I was unable to erase a sense of sadness as I
walked through the long upstairs hallway toward the room that is purportedly
haunted. This graceful old building had been plundered. Anything that hadn't been
bolted to the walls or floor had long since been removed.

Worse, the mansion had been used as a showcase for an interior design gala in the
mid-80s. Several rooms had been redecorated in wall-to-wall blandness. I couldn't
help but think that any ghosts in the area would be a trifle upset at this.

Completing the tour, I was made aware of another, perhaps even more troubling set
of facts.

The history of the mansion is fading. I looked through a series of old photographs
while members of the historical society pinpointed all of the inconsistencies in the
"official" version of the mansion's past.

Additions clearly shown years before they were supposedly built, missing rooms and
windows that had to look into walls were just some of the problems raised by the old

The society is working to reconstruct the tangled past of the building, but they are
working with a jigsaw puzzle in which a good number of pieces are permanently lost.

It is disconcerting to see how fast history sinks into obscurity. Surely the ghost
couldn't be too happy about that either.

But all is not gloomy. The society has numerous dedicated volunteers, and I have no
doubt many of the mansion's mysteries will be cleared up. Certainly the society's
enthusiasm for this great landmark is infectious, and after talking to them I have
spent several hours researching the mansion. I will give fair notice of the next tour
dates, so that readers can attempt their own hand at solving the riddles of the
mansion - but be warned! Everything about the Highlands Ranch Mansion is habit-

My tour ended with a last walk upstairs, accompanied by four members of the
historical society.

We wanted to make certain that the lights had been shut off, and that we had left the
place in good order. This meant walking along the long hallway to the haunted room,
then walking back down in total darkness. This we did with nary a "boo" heard or
apparition seen.

But as we turned to go down the stairs, a light, apparently of its own volition, came
on in a small room 40 feet down the hall.

Our reactions were mixed, but I was delighted. Not only does the Highlands Ranch
mansion still have ambience and character to spare, but the light confirmed once
again what I keep repeating in these columns. Local history is fun.

Oh, and happy Halloween.

The Highlands Ranch Mansion is a much more interesting building because of the
ghost stories that have always hung about the place. These tales remind us that
although the building is interesting, it is the people who lived there who are the real
story. In a poetic sense, the mansion must be saved not for its bricks, which, after
all, are not rare, but for its ghosts.

9/21/2002   DC News-Press    William Kirby
William Kirby is a free-lance writer who lives in Castle Rock.


                       History of the Mansion

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 as it did in the past, as a working 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.

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.  Between 1890 and 190, Springer amassed
property to total 23,200 acres and became the largest landholder in the area by
acquiring many of the original homesteads. He established the Springer Cross
Country Horse and Cattle Ranch and began constructing the caste-like home we
know as the Highland Ranch Mansion in 1891, building about 60% of the present

In 1909, five years after the death of his first wife, Springer met and married his
second wife, Isabelle Paterson, and named his mansion Castle Isabelle. While
Springer introduced Isabelle Paterson to Denver’s high society, this beautiful young
woman’s actions gave them plenty about which to gossip. She 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 and held the property until 1920 when
she sold it to Waite Phillips.

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. They
added a west wing in the English Tudor style featuring a shake-shingle roof, gables,
and carved wood trims. Various fireplaces, hardwood floors, two secret panels, and
an unusual one-lane bowling alley directly east of the mansion, were included in
Kistler’s elaborate remodeling. 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
cattle ranching and changed the name to Highland Ranch. 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 horsebacked hunters known as the
Arapahoe Hunt Club. The Club frequently hunted the land for coyotes using

Marvin Davis purchased the land in 1976 shortly after Phipps death. Davis formed
the Highlands Ventures Corporation to market the property, and in 1978, Mission
Viejo Co. entered into a two-year option agreement to become the official owners of
the Highlands Ranch lands in 1979. Mission Viejo Co. began residential construction
in1980 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           
9900 S. Ranch Road                        
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126            

Highlands Ranch Historical Society
3375 W. White Oak Lane
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
(303) 471-7637




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