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Quiet Rustic Elegance

Jefferson County Neighborhoods: Upper Bear Creek Road

*Reprinted with permission from Carole Lomond at City & Mountain Views.


West of Evergreen Lake • Unincorporated • zip code 80439

This winding road along a delightful stream through an enchanting forest is bordered by hand-built native rock walls that open to meadows with extraordinary views of majestic Mt. Evans. The first four miles west of Evergreen Lake are in Jefferson County. The road continues into Clear Creek County to split toward four endings: Indian Creek Park, Singin’ River Ranch, through JeffCo Public School’s Mountain Laboratory School to a State Wildlife Management Area, and the Evans Ranch. Many subdivisions in Clear Creek County, traditionally associated with unincorporated “Evergreen,” are now developed at Bendemeer and off Witter Gulch, which connects with Squaw Pass Road. Stagecoach Blvd. offers a second east/west access to Evergreen Pkwy (Hwy 74).

Irresistible once discovered, Upper Bear Creek attracted visitors to summer resorts as early as the 1860s when the John Evans family enjoyed a “summer colony.” Other summer visitors gathered at Brookvale (1876), Bendemeer (1890), and Greystone (1914), legendary Troutdale-in-the-Pines (1916) and T Bar S (1940). Celebrities like Willie Nelson have owned homes there. Current rumors claim Johnny Depp purchased property.

For 100 years, Evergreen was a stylish and rustic summer retreat “away from it all” (Denver heat), yet within a day’s travel by rail to Morrison and then horseback. Beginning in 1915, Denver built roads for motor vehicles to the Mountain Parks for “summer people” to socialize, ride horses, camp, hike, fish, picnic, dine, dance, and entertain their friends with extraordinary natural scenery as a backdrop.

The original “Troutdale” resort was 25+ summer log cabins built by Jasper Babcock in 1881. Guests enjoyed Mrs. Babcock’s home-cooked meals in their home/lodge. Harry Sidles, a wealthy auto dealer from Nebraska, built his Rippling Waters summer home across from the Babcocks in 1914. Knowing that Denver was planning to develop a lake and park on the adjacent Dedisse Ranch, Sidles developed a “rich man’s plaything,” a golf course in 1914 and Troutdale-In-the-Pines resort in 1919. The luxury hotel had four stories with 100 guest rooms, ballroom, dining room, billiard room, swimming pool, tennis court, fishing pond, croquet court, bar, barber shop, drugstore, and bakery that required 6,000 wagonloads of local rock to build.

After Denver acquired the 395-acre Dedisse Ranch by condemnation, Sidles deeded the golf course and clubhouse (Keys on the Green) to Denver in 1926 with the stipulation that it must always remain a golf course. The “crown jewel” of Denver’s Mountain Park system, Evergreen Lake and dam, was built in 1928 for recreation and water treatment for development.

Troutdale guests were world-class business executives, politicians and celebrities like Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, Ethel Merman, Liberace, and Jack Benny. Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, and Woody Herman entertained guests at the “little gem in the Rockies.” The most popular Colorado resorts during the 1920s were the Stanley in Estes Park, Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and Troutdale in Evergreen. Troutdale died a slow death after the 1950s and was demolished in the 1990s for a housing development.

Greystone Lodge was built in 1914-16 as a summer “camp” by a stunning redhead, divorcee Genevieve Chandler Phipps: a huge mansion, 7-bedroom servants’ house, guest quarters, 20 x 20-foot root cellar, stable, cow shed, chicken house, pig pens, rabbitry, dog kennels, creamery, blacksmith shop, ice house on 1,250 acres. The Sandifers purchased it in 1946 and continued raising cattle and horses before turning it into a year-round resort. Friendly hospitality was always the primary theme for guests as well as Evergreen locals.

During the late 1940s, T Bar S Guest Ranch was developed by the “Baroness of Cadillac Canyon,” Adele Trumbull. There were horses and barns, a swimming pool, barbecue, guest housing, a popular bar and restaurant. “Stuntmen” were hired to put on a mock gun fight for visitors. She helped organize the Upper Bear Creek Homeowners Association in 1954. The Upper Bear Creek sign was posted in 1963.

Upper Bear Creek has always been considered Evergreen’s Beverly Hills, and 50- to 100-acre “conservation easement” estates remain, but many small homes also remain. Homeowners prefer a community of individual choice rather than covenant controls. Younger families are gradually replacing long-time residents. “Our neighbors are very outgoing and friendly. The best buddy of a wealthy resident can easily be his handyman,” says 7-year resident Tony Reed. “The creek keeps us cool in the summer and warm during winter. We love it here!”

Traditions: Native land stewardship; trash pick-up twice annually.

Organized: 110 of the 160 JeffCo families donate $30 per year to Upper Bear Creek Homeowner Association, which publishes a directory and newsletter, greets new residents, sponsors a summer picnic, autumn hayride, and Christmas party, and rallies the neighborhood on issues that threaten the unique natural heritage.

Real Estate values: From $350,000 to $5 million.

Public JeffCo Schools: Wilmot Elementary, Evergreen Middle, and Evergreen High School in Jefferson County; King-Murphy Elementary in Clear Creek County.

Amenities: Privacy and quiet, low to no crime, extraordinary views.

Plus: Stable real estate values. Minus: Danger of wildfire in the overgrown forest.