This charming turn of the century mansion is located at 9900 Ranch Road in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It is a Tudor style castle. I became familiar with it after watching the miniseries, Centennial, which was made in 1976 and based on the novel of the same title by James Michener. It was the filming location of the Venneford Cattle Ranch in Centennial.
The mansion is 22,000 square feet with 14 bedrooms, 11 baths, five fireplaces, a greatroom, a ballroom, a dining room, a billiard room, a library, a butler's pantry, a kitchen, a private courtyard, an elegant staircase, two secret panels and a bowling alley.
As one enters the mansion the most striking features are the fireplace mantle and antique German clock weighing nearly a ton. The mantle is over five feet high and is constructed of marble. It features engravings depicting the mountains, views from the east and west porches of the mansion, the footprint of the mansion and diamonds and Ks interspersed between the engravings.
The construction of the majority of the mansion mainly took place from 1989 to 1913 by John W. Springer, the first owner. Springer was a wealthy man with a background in politics, law and banking. He moved to this area in 1898 with his wife, Eliza. He became a wealthy landowner and named the area the Springer Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch.
Mr. Springer became a widower in 1904 after Eliza died. He remarried five years later to Isabel Patterson, whom he renamed the castle after. It became known as Castle Isabele in her honor. Isabelle proved to have an addiction to scandal including drugs, affairs and nightlife. She became involved in the infamous 'murder at the Brown Palace' in Denver. One of her alleged lovers was murdered by yet another of her alleged lovers. Springer could not endure this and divorced her five days later after this scandal which occurred on May 5, 1911. He sold the castle to his father-in-law, Colonel William Hughes, a very wealthy cattleman and father of his first wife, Eliza.
After the death of Colonel Hughes the property was willed to the daughter of John and Eliza Springer, Annie Clifton Springer Hughes. Annie sold the ranch to Waite Phillips, an Oklahoma oilman whose brothers founded Phillips Petroleum Company. Phillips christened the land Highland Ranch.
Eventually Frank Kistler, the president of Wolhurst Stock Farms bought the property in 1926 from Phillips. During this time the property became known as the Diamond K Ranch. The distinctive fireplace mantle was built by Kistler hence the reason it is adorned with diamonds and Ks. During this time Kistler also expanded the mansion by 40 percent, bringing it to its Tudor appearance one sees today.
Kistler lived at the property with his first wife, Florence, until 1929. He divorced and remarried Leanna Antonides. Julia, the daughter of Florence, remained at the castle after her mother moved away after the divorce. Julia dearly loved her father but his love for her never was returned. She spent hours waiting for her father while weeping in her room on the west side of the mansion. It is rumored that her ghost still roams the halls and leans over the balcony by her room while wearing her favorite dress.
Kistler sold the mansion and lands to Lawrence Phipps Jr. in 1937. Phipps was the son of a former Colorado senator. The property was renamed Highland Ranch during this time. It continued to be a working ranch and home of a hunt club known as the Arapahoe Hunt Club.
Phipps was the owner until his death in 1976. Today Shea Homes owns the property and mansion.
Interesting facts about the mansion:
During most of its life the Highlands Ranch mansion was the only building for miles around and nearly a day's walk or horse ride from Denver. Many a time the owner of the mansion offered a warm meal and room to a traveler who was exhausted or whose horse became lame on the trail.
The family kept their jewelry, silver, gold and other valuables in a secret vault near the kitchen. There was always the threat that murderers or thieves would pay them a visit during the night. The other secret panel was behind the immense fireplace mantle and had room in which the women and children could hide until danger had passed.
The upstairs sitting room was the filming location of the deathbed scene in Centennial. The father of Mrs. Seccomb is shown dying in England in this room. In reality Mr. Phipps died in the upstairs master bedroom.
The clock is rumored to be haunted also. In the 1970s the gongs struck on an hour. The clock had been turned off for decades. Julia is rumored to haunt the mansion and many strange events are known to have occurred.
The mansion is open periodically throughout the year. I saw it during Highlands Ranch Days from September 9-11 2004.
Highlands Ranch Historical Society brochure
Tour given by HRHS president, Chris Eppers