COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE HONORS FRANCES STAUNTON’S LEGACY
PINE, Colo. – The Staunton Ranch, a homestead in the early 20th century, is well on the way to fulfilling the legacy of Frances Staunton by being preserved as a place where generations to come can appreciate the area’s natural beauty as the early settlers once did. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has worked for the past ten years to honor the wishes of Staunton to create a state park for the people of Colorado, forever maintaining the stunning landscape that caused her ancestors to give up their California destination and make Colorado their home.
Staunton Ranch was originally settled by Archibald and Rachael Staunton in the early 1900s. Both doctors, they set up medical offices in Denver at the Republic Building downtown and provided care to people in the area. The Stauntons continued to acquire land well into the 1920s and built numerous cabins on the property for homesteading In the 1930s, the Staunton’s began renting out cabins so others could enjoy the property’s beautiful and serene countryside.
Girl Scouts of Colorado and other organizations leased the cabins and mountainous spaces for summer camps beginning in 1936, which the Staunton’s promoted as the “Lazy-V Ranch.” Between the 1920s and 1940s, the Staunton’s leased a portion of their property to a logging operation, which was complete with a sawmill, cable system, and employee bunkhouse. It was the only operation of its kind within the Elk Falls and Shaffer’s Crossing region.
Remnants of five cabins, as well as the bunkhouse, shower house, and sawmill ruins, are still standing and add to the park’s rich historical assets.
Born in 1899, Frances Staunton was Archibald and Rachael’s only child. She attended East Denver High School and received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Denver. Frances studied music and opera during her early years and in 1927, in competition with 600 other students nationally, she won one of the Julliard Foundation’s music scholarships. She appeared in local operas as an adult, with leading roles in shows like Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, and later took over management of Staunton Ranch. Frances Staunton preserved and protected the ranch throughout her life and upon her passing in 1986, she gifted the 1,720 acre property to the State of Colorado, with the understanding that the ranch would someday be developed into a state park.
Park Manager Jennifer Anderson sought to secure any properties within the park that had historical significance prior to the park opening and enlisted the help of National and State Register Historian Heather Peterson.
According to Peterson, “The Staunton Ranch tells a very good Colorado story, which includes homesteading and ranching, the treatment of tubercular patients, logging, and hosting mountain summer camps and recreational activities. Additionally, the Rustic style architecture speaks to some of the early 20th century Colorado mountain homes featuring native materials that blend well with the natural setting. The National Register is designed to celebrate properties and their owners who have served as stewards of their historic properties in appreciating and caring for them by retaining their historic building materials, as is the case of the Staunton Ranch.”
On December 4, 2012, the Staunton Ranch was granted historical designation and listed as a Rural Historic Landscape in the National Register, the official list of historic places in the United States. A Rural Historic Landscape is defined as a geographical area that historically has been used by people, or shaped or modified by human activity, occupancy, or intervention, and that possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of areas of land use, vegetation, buildings and structures, roads and waterways, and natural features.
Additional land purchases, made possible through the Colorado Lottery, Great Outdoors Colorado, and the Colorado State Land Board added 2,148 acres to the park in both Jefferson and Park counties. Each parcel of land brings natural, historic, and scenic attributes that combine to make Staunton State Park a truly unique and visually stunning addition to Colorado’s state parks system.
Staunton State Park is slated to open to the public in mid-May. More information about the additional properties and full history of Staunton State Park can be found at www.parks.state.co.us/parks/staunton.
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About Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado Parks and Wildlife gets everyone outdoors! Attracting more than 12 million visitors per year, Colorado’s 42 State Parks are a vital cornerstone of Colorado’s economy and quality of life. Colorado State Parks encompass 224,447 land and water acres, offering some of the best outdoor recreation destinations in the state. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is a leader in providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, protecting the state’s favorite landscapes, teaching generations about nature and partnering with communities. Colorado State Parks also manage more than 4,300 campsites, and 63 cabins and yurts. For more information on Colorado State Parks or to purchase an annual pass online, visit www.cpw.state.co.us
About The National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture. These contribute to an understanding of the historical and cultural foundations of the nation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. The National Park Service provides overall program administration. The Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP), a program of History Colorado, administers the register in Colorado. OAHP assists property owners in listing Colorado’s most historically and architecturally significant buildings, structures, and sites in the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.
In Colorado there are over 1,500 properties listed in the National Register and over 2,000 listed in the State Register. Properties listed in the National or State registers may be eligible for investment tax credits or for grants from the State Historical Fund, another program of the History Colorado. OAHP staff is available to assist with the initial assessments of eligibility and to provide guidance in the completion of Register nominations. Call 303-866-3392 for more information about the National and State Register program in Colorado.
Staunton State Park is named for Frances H. Staunton, who donated her family’s homestead to the State of Colorado in 1986, with the understanding that it would ultimately be developed into a state park. The park, typifying Colorado’s most beautiful mountain forest and meadow region, is approximately 40 miles southwest of downtown Denver and will be the newest addition to Colorado’s state park system.
The Staunton Ranch is the first property of many that now make up Staunton State Park. Each property is rich in human history, having supported a variety of activity including ranching and logging, and the land has previously housed a turn-of-the-20th century saw mill, a sportsman’s club and served as a family retreat. Each parcel of land brings natural, historic, and scenic attributes that combine to make Staunton State Park a unique and visually stunning addition to Colorado’s state parks system. Read more about the properties that were donated and acquired to build Staunton.
The Staunton Ranch began as a homestead around the turn of the 20th century. Drs. Rachel and Archibald Staunton were on their way to California from West Virginia and a rest stop in the Denver area convinced them that Colorado should be their new home. The first 160 acres of the Staunton Ranch was homesteaded by Rachel Staunton who lived there in the warmer months and provided medical care to the people who lived in the area. Some of her clientele were Native American families who bartered beadwork, pottery, jewelry, and rugs to show their appreciation and pay for her services. The Staunton Ranch grew to 1,720 acres over the years.
Frances H. Staunton, daughter of Archibald and Rachel, preserved and protected the Staunton Ranch throughout her life and gifted the land to the state in 1986 with the understanding that the ranch would someday be developed into a state park.
Elk Falls Ranch
The Elk Falls Ranch, on the west side of the Park, was purchased in 1999 to improve conservation and provide access to the Park. This land adds such landmarks as Lions Head, Chimney Rock, and Elk Falls to the Staunton State Park. The 510-acre northern parcel of Elk Falls Ranch was purchased by Colorado State Parks with Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Legacy Grant funds. The 540-acre southern parcel was purchased by the State Land Board and is now leased to and managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The 1,000-acre Davis Ranch, also purchased in 1999 with a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Legacy Grant, is located on the east side of Staunton State Park. The parcel was a key element in the progress of the park’s development, adding new ponds for additional fishing opportunities and offering a more accessible park entrance for visitors.
In 2006, Colorado State Parks, in conjunction with the State Land Board, purchased the 80-acre Chase parcel. This parcel was once owned by Mary Coyle Chase, a Denver native, journalist, and playwright best known for her play “Harvey” (Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945). This additional land provided the missing piece in the development of important trail connections and park roads.