Owners & Families

For nearly a century, the Highlands Ranch Mansion served as a residence for some of Colorado’s most notable families. State history will remember the names Long, Springer, Hughes, Phillips, Kistler and Phipps as synonymous with ambition and prestige.

While their chosen vocations included such variety as banking, oil, law, politics, ranching, or farming, each household head shared a common place as a leader in his field, a position established prior to the time spent here at the Mansion. Exploring their vibrant lives and personalities offers an avenue for learning about this very special place that each of them called home.

1884-1893: Samuel Allen Long

Samuel Allen Long was born April 6, 1827 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a patriotic Revolutionary War family. Following college, he became involved in Pennsylvania’s manufacturing business, politics and petroleum industry. Fans of the board game Monopoly will recall the B&O Railroad (Baltimore and Ohio Railroad), of which Samuel served on the board of directors prior to his move to Denver in 1880.
While in Colorado, he engaged in various enterprises including coal and gold mining, raising livestock, farming and politics. A great booster and promoter of Denver, Samuel made several judicious land purchases in and around the growing city, which proved to be profitable investments.

In 1884, Long filed for a homestead in northern Douglas County, which he later expanded. By 1891 he had built a stone farmhouse on the property and called it Rotherwood after a farm he admired during his childhood. Today, visitors to the Mansion can still locate the word Rotherwood carved in the stone above the front entrance, as well as the year 1891 under an upstairs window.

Rotherwood gained local prominence for its extensive orchards and crops, all grown by Samuel using dryland techniques, an innovative practice involving deep plowing and irrigation by rainfall alone. After several bountiful years at Rotherwood, Samuel sold the farm in 1893 to real estate agents, Orin and Nettie Waid, who placed it on the re-sale market.

1897-1913: John Springer

John Wallace Springer had a way with words. At the early age of 19, after delivering a moving speech on statesmanship to his graduating class at DePauw University, he was hailed as a great orator, a title that would stay with him his entire life. Born July 16, 1859 in Jacksonville, Illinois, John aspired to follow in the footsteps of his father, a practicing lawyer, and his uncle, a well-known United States congressman.

Shortly after arriving in Denver in 1896 with his wife Eliza Hughes, daughter of wealthy banker and cattleman Colonel William Hughes, John immersed himself in local law and politics. He even conducted an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1904, an election that is still known today as being among the most corrupt in Denver’s history. Unfortunately, the election was not the only loss John would suffer, as the death of his wife Eliza, who battled tuberculosis most of her life, occurred only days after the final votes were counted.

In addition to law and politics, John enjoyed a passion for horses, especially show horses. In 1897, he began purchasing several small ranches south of Denver, including the Rotherwood farm. He then consolidated the properties into his 12,000-acre Springer Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch, upon which he raised rare German Oldenburg coach stallions.

John conducted a remodeling of the small farmhouse, adding a large living room and turret which gave the home a castle-like appearance. In 1907, he married a young woman named Isabel Patterson and displayed his devotion to his new bride by naming the home Castle Isabel.

Isabel would bring scandal and heartache to John only a few years later through her involvement in a love triangle that culminated into a murder at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel in 1911. He divorced her days later, sold his ranch to first father-in-law Colonel William Hughes in 1913, and disappeared from the public eye.

1913-1918: Colonel William Hughes

The life of a rancher was a natural fit for William E. Hughes. Born March 15, 1840 on a Jacksonville, Illinois farm, William left home at the age of 19 to become a sheep and cattle driver in Texas. He fell in love with the Lone Star state and joined it’s military during the Civil War, where displays of bravery and fortitude earned him the rank of Colonel, a status he used proudly the rest of his life. Successful at both law and banking, Colonel Hughes also founded the Continental Land and Cattle Company, which became one of the largest ranching conglomerates in the world.

In the mid 1890s, Colonel Hughes followed his daughter Eliza, her husband John Springer, and granddaughter Annie, to Denver, where the family had moved hoping the thin mountain air would aid Eliza’s battle with tuberculosis. Hughes was involved in several real estate ventures, including the purchase of Perry Park in southwest Douglas County, where he hoped to establish a way-station between Denver and Colorado Springs.

In 1913, Hughes purchased John Springer’s Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch, changed the name to Sunland Ranch, and continued to operate it as a working ranch. At the time of his death in July 1918, it was estimated that Hughes was Colorado’s second wealthiest man (the first being Lawrence Phipps, Sr.). Hughes bequeathed Sunland Ranch to his granddaughter Annie, who sold it two years later to oil tycoon Waite Phillips.

1918-1920: Annie Clifton Springer

Annie Clifton Springer lived a charmed childhood. Born December 22, 1892 in Dallas, Texas to John and Eliza Springer, she was primarily raised by her grandparents, Colonel William Hughes and his wife Annie, whom she lovingly called Gramps and Bammy. At the age of four years old, Clifton, as she preferred to be known, moved with her parents and grandparents from Dallas to Denver, hoping the dry mountain air would aid Eliza’s struggle with tuberculosis. After her mother passed away in 1904, Clifton lived nearly full-time with her grandparents, preferring their stability to the busy, on-the-go life of her father.

In 1907, when she turned 14 years old, Clifton inherited her mother’s large fortune and John Springer agreed to transfer legal guardianship to her grandparents. She then moved to St. Louis with Gramps and Bammy until 1912 when she married Lafayette Hughes (no relation to Colonel Hughes), son of the late Colorado Senator Charles J. Hughes, and moved back to Denver. Once again, her grandparents couldn’t bear the separation between them, and they followed. Colonel Hughes purchased an enormous plot of land in Denver’s Country Club neighborhood where he built two homes: one for he and his wife and one for Clifton and Lafayette.

When Colonel Hughes died in 1918, Clifton inherited Sunland Ranch, formerly her father’s Cross Country Horse and Cattle Ranch. A mere two years later, she sold the property to oil tycoon Waite Phillips.

1920-1926: Waite Phillips

Endowed with an innate sense of entrepreneurship, Waite Phillips lived a true rags to riches story. Born on an Iowa farm January 19, 1883, Waite and his identical twin brother Wiate, set off on a journey to see the west at the young age of 16, traveling thousands of miles and taking small jobs along the way to support themselves. Their adventures came to a tragic end when Wiate died of a ruptured appendix along the way. A devastated Waite returned home to follow more practical pursuits. He worked as an accountant before moving to Oklahoma and entering the oil business initially with his two older brothers, who founded the Phillips Petroleum Company, and later on his own.

For several years, Waite bought oil leases throughout Oklahoma, and in 1918 he consolidated these holdings into the Waite Phillips Company. When he sold this company in 1925 for a reported $25 million, Waite had truly entered the realm of a self-made multimillionaire. Years later, he and his wife Genevieve, an extremely charitable couple, donated their Tulsa home, Villa Philbrook, to the city for use as an art museum, and their several thousand acre Philmont Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico to the Boy Scouts of America.

Throughout his career, Waite owned several ranches in the Rocky Mountain region. He purchased Sunland Ranch from Annie Springer Hughes in 1920 and used it as a breeding location for high grade horses and cattle. He consolidated the ranch with other nearby land purchases to create a prodigious spread called Phillips Highland (no s) Ranch named after the Highland Hereford cattle he raised here. Although this was only one of several homes owned by the Phillips family, they visited often. A whimsical photograph taken of Waite’s son, Elliott Waite Chope, sitting atop a pony in the middle of the living room reveals a unique view into family life at Phillips Highland Ranch. Waite owned the ranch for six years before commitments in Oklahoma forced him to sell it in 1926.

1926-1937: Frank Kistler

Although Frank Kistler was born on a North Carolina plantation on March 22, 1882, he lived most of his life on a farm in Van Buren, Arkansas. As a young adult he worked as an oil leaser for Texaco where he learned enough about the business to form his own oil company called PARCO (Producers and Refiners Corporation) in 1917 and also founded a company town of the same name in Wyoming (later renamed Sinclair). PARCO, headquartered in Denver where Frank and his wife Florence lived, proved extremely successful, with an estimated worth of $50 million only six years after its formation.

With his oil business performing well, Frank decided to try his hand at ranching. In 1926, he purchased Highland (no s) Ranch from Waite Phillips, renamed it the Diamond K Ranch, and began breeding operations that specialized in dairy and Angus cattle, sheep, chickens and hogs. The Diamond K Ranch proved to be another successful venture for Frank. He, Florence, and their four children, quickly settled into Denver’s high society scene, rubbing elbows with the influential upper class.

In 1929, the family was the source of much gossip among the city’s aristocracy after Frank filed for divorce from Florence and then remarried a woman named Leana Antonides two weeks later. Despite this bold move, Frank and his new bride continued to enjoy their prestigious social standing and entertained lavishly at both their Denver home and the Diamond K Ranch.

During the years 1929 and 1930, Frank and Leana, hoping to create a grand impression on their guests, conducted an elaborate remodeling of their Diamond K mansion. They transformed the exterior style from a gothic stone castle to a classic English Tudor, included a sprawling front patio, and added to the western wing. Interior additions included a grand clock and fireplace facade in the living room. The renovations occurred simultaneously with the stock market crash of 1929. Frank was among the many that lost millions during this crippling era. He was forced to sell the Diamond K Ranch in 1937 to Lawrence Phipps, Jr. and moved to Glenwood Springs where he bought and operated the Hotel Colorado and adjoining hot springs.

1937-1976: Lawrence Phipps, Jr.

Even from the day of his birth on June 30, 1886 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lawrence Phipps, Jr.’s life had already been arranged for him. The son of a very wealthy family headed by father Lawrence Phipps, Sr., a former United States senator who made a fortune working as a steel magnate for Carnegie Steel, Lawrence, Jr. was trained throughout his childhood to someday take over the family finances. While he did so willingly and responsibly, Lawrence was also active in other ways. His many worthwhile undertakings included serving on the board of directors for the Mountain States Telephone Company (now Century Link) from 1911-1965, management of the National Western Stock Show, and military service during both World War I and World War II. He was a great philanthropist, often conducting his charity anonymously.

A keen business sense served Lawrence well in all of his varied pursuits, but his true love in life was ranching, with a special fondness for horses. In 1929, he resurrected the Arapahoe Hunt Club, a prestigious group of horse backed hunters who, aided by a band of eager foxhounds, pursued coyote as opposed to the English tradition of foxes. At Lawrence’s request, Frank Kistler granted permission in 1929 to the club to headquarter and hunt at the Diamond K Ranch. A few years later Lawrence was honored with the title Master of the Hunt.

During his days spent chasing the wily prey, Lawrence fell in love with the ranch’s rolling hills, and when Kistler finally succumbed to his financial woes and put the ranch up for sale in 1937, Lawrence did not hesitate to snatch it up. He renamed it Highlands Ranch and happily lived the remainder of his life here. Upon Lawrence’s death in 1976, the ranch passed to his estate, which handled its sale to Marvin Davis, head of the Highlands Venturers Corporation.

1978-2010: Mission Viejo Company & Shea Homes

In 1978, Highland Venturers sold the property to Mission Viejo Company and development began of the modern community called Highlands Ranch. Mission Viejo sold Highlands Ranch to Shea Homes in 1997. In 2010, Shea Homes gave the Mansion property and funds for renovation as well as an endowment to the Highlands Ranch Metro District.

2010-Present: Highlands Ranch Metro District

The Highlands Ranch Metro District became the new owner of the Highlands Ranch Mansion in April 2010 and developed a projected timeline for the next couple years. The Metro District proceeded with the design of the building renovation and managed the site planning process and subsequent Douglas County approvals. Renovations to the Mansion commenced in 2011 and cost $6 million, with another $4 million dedicated to an endowment fund to support future operations. On June 15, 2012, the Highlands Ranch Metro District hosted the grand opening of the renovated Mansion, inviting the community to enjoy this community treasure.