One of the most recognizable and beloved features of the Highlands Ranch landscape is the Highlands Ranch Mansion. The history of this building is entwined with the history of the community. It has changed hands many times since construction began in 1891 and today it is owned by the Highlands Ranch Metro District. Residents of Highlands Ranch expect to be able to hire the historic mansion for private events from the year 2012.
The Highlands Ranch Mansion is set in a 250 acre ranch, complete with historic buildings and a working windmill. It was the use of wind power to draw water up to the surface that allowed settlers to set up home in the region, and to farm livestock such as cattle, which require huge amounts of drinking water. The ranch buildings include barns, silos and a bunkhouse, and there are also some old corrals on the property.
The mansion itself is a unique property. Originally built in the style of a castle it was later modified to look like a European Tudor style home. The current property consists of more than 22000 square feet, and has its own ballroom, library, billiard's room and a courtyard.
The history of the Highlands Ranch Mansion has been tied to the successes and failures of Colorado industry and the local economy, with the property changing hands many times as its owners made and lost their fortunes.
The first owner of the Highlands Ranch Mansion was John Springer. He was responsible for building about 60 percent of the mansion, which he originally designed in the style of a Russian castle. Springer was a prominent local figure with an interest in politics. He married twice, renaming the mansion Castle Isabelle in honor of his second wife. Isabelle did not seem too appreciative of her husband's efforts, however, because she had a string of affairs, which culminated in the very public murder of one of her lovers by another man with whom she had been having an affair. After this, Springer retreated from public life.
Springer sold the mansion to his first wife's father, in 1913, and it became known as Sunland Ranch. Its new owner, Colonel Hughes, used the mansion house as a stable. The Colonel left the mansion to his granddaughter, Annie Clifton Springer Hughes, but she and her husband sold the property in 1920, just two years after they had inherited it.
The mansion was bought by Waite Philips, one of the founders of the Philips Petroleum company. Philips was the first owner to call the property by its current name, Highlands Ranch.
The mansion was sold again in 1926, to Frank Kistler, who renamed it the Diamond K Ranch and set it up as a working ranch breeding Angus and dairy cattle, sheep, chickens and hogs. The names Kistler and Diamond K are still familiar in the Highlands Park area since they were used to name some of the local parks. Kistler was the second owner to make a significant mark upon the mansion. Under his ownership, most of the rest of the modern ranch was completed, and the building was altered to the classic Tudor style, which is today well loved by many of the locals. As well as expanding the property, Kistler added a secret passageway to the mansion, giving it a hint of mystery.
Kistler was forced to sell the mansion in 1937 due to financial difficulties, and its ownership passed on to Lawrence Phipps Jr, who had made his fortune from Carnegie Steel. The Phipps family were well-known in the area for their involvement in industry and the local social life. The ranch prospered under their ownership, and it was not sold again until after the death of Lawrence Phipps Jr, in 1976.
Marvin Davis, the new owner, sold the mansion again in 1978. It was bought by the Mission Viejo Company, which hoped to create a new planned community in the property. They began work on the building in 1980 and residents began moving into the mansion in 1981. The Mission Viejo Company was taken over in 1997 by Shea Homes. The plans for developing the mansion as a residential community did not go smoothly. The property ended up empty and at risk, until the local community decided to step in.
The Highlands Ranch Metro District bought the mansion in 2010, with the aim of protecting this important part of local history and providing facilities that will be available to residents of Highlands Ranch. Renovation work will continue on the property, and it is expected that the mansion will be available for hire from 2012, making this historic landmark truly a part of the community in which it stands.