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Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Highlands Ranch is a census-designated place in Douglas County, Colorado. The population was 96,713 at the 2010 census. Located 12 miles south of Denver, Highlands Ranch is an unincorporated community and was the twelfth most populous CDP in the United States in 2010.

Highlands Ranch boasts convenient proximity to Denver, stunning Rocky Mountain views, delicious dining, big box convenience at every turn, and housing-focused developments with open spaces, parks, and trails. It’s truly a Colorado paradise.

Highlands Ranch is a 22,000-acre master-planned community founded in 1981 that offers a wonderful quality of life and opportunities for an active lifestyle.

Highlands Ranch has received national recognition for its great quality of life and amenities. Not only is Highlands Ranch receiving accolades, so is Douglas County.

Although the modern community was founded in 1981, the first settlers built their lives in this area more than 100 years ago. Dad Rufus H. “Potato” Clark was once known as the Potato King of Colorado.

In 1859, he filed on a 160-acre homestead at the location of today’s Highlands Ranch Golf Club. At this time, Colorado farmers were very successful at growing potato crops and Rufus decided to try his hand. His first harvest was so abundant that he became known as Colorado’s Potato King.

The historic Highlands Ranch Mansion and ranch stand today as valuable pieces of history, reflecting the lifestyle of early settlers and pioneers of the area now known as Highlands Ranch, Colorado. More than 100 years old, this magnificent structure has been home to some of Denver’s more notable families.

During the Highlands Ranch Metro District’s 18-month renovation from 2010 until 2012, an important discovery was made. The word Rotherwood was found etched in stone above the original door to the home near the 1891 etching.

The Rotherwood reference was traced to the Mansion’s first owner, Samuel Allen Long, originally from Pittsburg, PA. Long was one of the first petroleum refiners in 1861. He was Director of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  Long moved to Colorado in 1880. He had business interests in coal mining, gold mining, livestock, timber, real estate and farming. Long filed a homestead in 1884 for 40 acres in Douglas County.  He then acquired 2,000 acres in 1888 and called it Rotherwood after a boyhood farm. Long was recognized as an innovator of dry land farming techniques. 

While the main purpose of the ranching operation has been beef production, the ranch also included a dairy operation, which was located in the northern barn. The brick silos connected to the barn provided storage for cattle feed during the winter.

The bunkhouse west of the dairy barn provided lodging for many of the ranch hands who worked on the property. The next barn was used for general maintenance activities within the ranch. The corrals to the south and east of the barns were typically used during the calving and branding operations.

The windmill south of the mansion is the site of the primary well used for the ranching headquarters and mansion. The well is still in operation; however, the pump is now powered by electricity. There were quite a number of wells drilled throughout Highlands Ranch so that water would be available for cattle in each pasture.

Learn more about the historic Highlands Ranch Mansion

Once part of a vast ranching empire in Colorado, the Mansion is located within the future 250-acre Highlands Ranch Historic Park. The Mansion is surrounded by a working ranch, historic barns, a bunkhouse, ranch houses, corrals, pastures and the iconic windmill.

The current park is approximately 50 acres and includes the Mansion grounds. Approximately 1.4 miles of soft surface trails provide panoramic views and are part of the Highlands Ranch Metro District’s extensive trail system.

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