Highlands Ranch Mansion is a 27,000-square-foot mansion that has been home to cattle barons, oil tycoons, prominent Denver socialites, as well as political and business leaders who helped create the Colorado we see today.
The Highlands Ranch Mansion is a historic home located about a half-hour outside of Downtown Denver, tucked away amongst large suburban real estate developments. The property passed between residential owners before developer Shea Homes gained stewardship from 1978 to 2010, after which the property was opened to the public to visit free-of-charge as part of the Highlands Ranch Metro District.
After seeing how close Highlands Ranch Mansion was to where I was staying, I decided to schedule a visit. I want to thank our tour guide – Karen – and the amazing staff who showed us this breathtaking property.
The Highlands Ranch Mansion used to belong to a vast ranching empire in Colorado, and is surrounded by 250 acres of ranchland. See another historic ranching home.
Lawn & Grounds: open to the public daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. unless otherwise posted.
Interior: limited to public open hours.
As of 1/20/2022:
Tuesday & Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Currently, due to COVID, it is suggested that you request a tour and plan your visit ahead of time as hours are limited.
Admission to the Mansion is free. You can do self-guided tours, or schedule a tour with a docent. Free admission is funded by The Highlands Ranch Metro District. Thank you 🙂
Rent the Highlands Ranch Mansion for special events like weddings, receptions, holiday parties, and business meetings.
Exploring the vibrant lives and personalities of the owners offers an avenue for learning about this place, as well as the 20th century in Denver.
For nearly a century, the Highlands Ranch Mansion served as a residence for some of Colorado’s most notable families. State history remembers the names Long, Springer, Hughes, Phillips, Kistler and Phipps as synonymous with ambition and prestige.
Despite industry differences, each head of household was similarly recognized as a leader in his field prior to spending time at Highlands Ranch Mansion.
Highlands Ranch Mansion Owners & Families
- Samuel Allen Long filed a 40-acre homestead in 1884 and later expanded it to a 2,000-acre farm. By 1891, he had constructed the stone farmhouse on the property.
- John Springer purchased the property in 1897 and renamed it Springer Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch. A prominent businessman and politician, Springer turned a small farmhouse into a memorable castle.
- Colonel William Hughes was a former Confederate officer and banker from Texas. The owner of one of the largest cattle operations in the western United States. Hughes purchased the property in 1913 and named it Sunland Ranch.
- Waite Phillips, a member of the family that founded Phillips Petroleum, owned the ranch from 1920-1926. He consolidated it with other nearby land purchases to create a prodigious spread called Phillips Highland Ranch, where he raised Highland Hereford cattle.
- Frank Kister, a successful entrepreneur in oil, ranching, and banking, acquired the property in 1926. He embarked on an ambitious renovation that transformed the castle-like structure into an English manor house. It served as the headquarters for Kisler’s Diamond K Ranch.
- Lawrence Phipps Jr., a business leader in Denver, purchased the property in 1937, renaming it Highlands Ranch. Phipps headquartered his treasured Arapahoe Hunt Club here. This tradition of fine horses, bugle calls, and friendship lasted several decades.
Mission Viejo Company and Shea Homes were stewards of Highlands Ranch Mansion from 1978-2010, after which it was conveyed to the Highlands Ranch Metro District. After renovating the home, the Metro District opened the property in 2012 and continues to operate it for the public.
The Highlands Ranch Mansion began as a small stone farmhouse on the isolated plains of early northern Douglas County. Built in 1891 by a Pennsylvania man, the original building measured about 30 feet by 50 feet. The structure featured a traditional gabled roof, a one and one half story upstairs bedroom space, and a front porch with an overhang. At the beginning, Long called his home and surrounding farm “Rotherwood” after another farm he admired during his childhood. He carved this name in the stone above the front doorway of his home and the construction year “1891” just below an upstairs window.
Historians discovered the original farmhouse’s year of construction during renovation work. This date spurred research into the original owner’s identity. Annum signage also marks each expansion of Highlands Ranch Mansion, which was common at the time.
One of my favorite features of Highlands Ranch Mansion is this stonework that features naturally occurring rocks from the area… not only are the colors absolutely gorgeous, but I love the sustainability of using what resources are available.
Remnants of the ranch’s agricultural history remain with the teller window. Here, ranch workers would receive their wages for the day. Although now enclosed, the space used to open up to the back of the ranch. Today, this area generates income as an event and fundraiser space.
The Highland Ranch Mansion’s foyer presents an impressive entrance to the prestigious estate. Owner Frank Kistler’s 1929-1930 renovation of the building created the room as it appears today and included the addition of a grand staircase and equally grand carved wooden door.
The living room has seen several transformations, reflecting the personalities of various owners. John Springer, who acquired the property in 1897 after he moved from Texas to Colorado with his wife, Eliza, and daughter, Annie Clifton, constructed this room sometime before 1910. A few photographs of the room’s interior and exterior reveal that the south wall was once the back of the house and the opening into the dining room was simply a window. The former front door of Springer’s home is now a window in the center of the north wall, however, the shape and size of the room have remained unchanged from the original construction.
The living room saw some dramatic changes during Frank Kistler’s renovation in 1929 and 1930. An ornate polished sandstone centerpiece that included the building floor plan, date of construction, and ranch brand chiseled into the mantel replaced the original fireplace.
The addition of large arched doorways provided elegant transitions between home styles and adjoined rooms to the south, east and west.
Many elaborate dinners and festive gatherings took place in the Highlands Ranch Mansion’s dining room. Most likely added by either John Springer or Colonel William Hughes, the room was expanded to the south during Frank Kistler’s 1929-1930 renovation. The floor is Brazilian cherry, the crown molding is wood, and the sconces appear to be from the 1930s.
Visitors to the Highlands Ranch Mansion often mistake the butler’s pantry for the kitchen, an understandable error considering the two rooms served as functional companions. The butler’s pantry originally existed as a kitchen for the first home built by Samuel Allen Long in 1891 and was probably expanded during the dining room addition sometime before the 1920s.
Meal preparation took place in the mint-green kitchen originally located in today’s main hallway, and the butler’s pantry existed as a utility and staging area. Here, cooked and prepared food was plated and loaded onto a cart to serve to hungry guests. Notice the sloped floor leading into the dining room. This slope was a welcome relief for servants guiding heavy carts laden with dishes, utensils and food.
In addition, this room features many cabinets and drawers, serving dish and utensil storage, and a large vault that housed valuable objects such as fine china, silver and linens. Initially, the Metro District was unable to open the vault. However, after some searching, they found the code to the vault stashed away in one of the drawers. Who else has done this with their passcodes?
Other unique features in the room include two solid nickel sinks intersected by an S-curved divider, and an oddly shaped ceiling, the result of the addition of a grand staircase to the second floor. A servant’s call box originally occupied the room’s east wall.
Learn more about the life of servants…
Either John Springer or Colonel William Hughes probably added the library at the same time as the first phase of the dining room. “Coupons” hold together the elaborate wood paneling treatment on the walls without visible metal nails. An intricately carved wooden crown molding along the ceiling added even more distinction. Before the addition of the solarium and upstairs bedrooms, the library’s west door would have opened into an outdoor garden area with a clear view to the Front Range.
The historic place today serves as a valuable example of history, reflecting the lifestyle of early settlers and early pioneers of the area now known as Highlands Ranch, Colorado. More on The Arapahoe Hunt Club and The National Livestock Association.
Although it may seem odd today, many older homes belonging to affluent families featured separate bedrooms for husband and wife. The Highlands Ranch Mansion’s private master suite included not only separate bedrooms, but also his and her bathrooms, bestowing a whole new level of luxury and comfort to its married couples.
In the early 1900s, John Springer built these bedrooms directly above the grand living room, adding transom windows to both levels to create a near duplicate effect on the house’s front exterior. An alcove on the western wall of the wife’s bedroom includes a window that once offered spectacular Colorado mountain views, lost after the addition of a western wing in the 1920s blocked the window.
During Frank Kistler’s 1929-1930 renovations both bathrooms received updates, including plumbing and fixtures considered modern for the day. Kistler also commissioned an artist to hand-paint the bathrooms walls. The wife’s bathroom features a toilet and bidet, both of which are located in separate private closet rooms with unique curved doors that give the bathroom a circular appearance.
Throughout its history, this elegant space served as a center of entertainment, the perfect location for the Highlands Ranch Mansion’s influential owners to host parties, dances, and similar gatherings for Denver’s top elites and socialites. This beautiful Italian terrazzo floor with copper inlays must have been a marvel for arriving guests!
This wing of the house likely originates from the Springer/Hughes era in the early 1900s. However, Frank Kistler’s 1929-1930 renovations transformed the room into the beautiful space it is today. All light fixtures on the walls and ceiling, as well as the unique art deco inspired curtain rods, are original from Kistler’s period. In addition, he expanded to the south to include a wall of windows for the second floor bedrooms.
Upstairs, the long western hallway leads to bedrooms once reserved for the children of the families that lived here. There were a total of five children’s bedrooms in the western wing. Four had adjoining Jack and Jill bathrooms equipped with fixtures built at a shortened, child accessible height. Frank Kistler also expanded all hallway rooms to the south in 1929-1930, as they were originally half their size.
The Metro District removed the shared walls upstairs to create large areas that could better accommodate groups.
I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Highlands Ranch Mansion where I learned about the stories of this special area! There was so much to see, as well as amazing stories to hear, bringing life to this bygone era.