Windy Peak's Winding Road to Outdoor Lab
Much is made of the historical significance of the Dodge Lodge on the Mount Evans campus, but Windy Peak also boasts an impressive collection of historically significant structures on its grounds. In fact, the Silver Spruce Ranch (pictured above), as it was known, is on the State Register of Historic Properties. In the coming weeks and months, the Outdoor Lab Foundation will be working with local engineers and architects alongside staff from History Colorado State Historical Fund to document these structures and map out a plan for their long-term preservation. Read on to learn a bit more about the stories and people that make this place so special.
In 1872, the Freeman brothers filed claim to 160 acres each under the Homestead Act and settled on the site that started out as the “Freeman Cattle Range”. The original homestead cabin (which is still standing on the property) was built by Joshua Freeman in 1872 (before Colorado was a state). The brothers added acreage to the property over the next few years but eventually left the site. The property changed hands two times over the early 1880’s and by 1887 Rufus Maxwell and Fred and Cora Boegel took ownership. Their ownership had a lasting effect on the history of the land and Platte Canyon.
Catherine poses on top of Wichersham Point near Wellington Lake
Original Tent Cabins
During the next 40 years, the ranch would gain a reputation for a quality of experience that would make it one of the most popular guest ranches in Colorado, establishing Maxwell and the Boegels as trendsetters in the industry. They built the two-story addition known as the Silver Spruce Lodge in 1887 which at the time was one of the largest and loveliest homes outside of Denver. Noteworthy features of the “Rustic Vernacular Style” that are still evident today include the hand-hewn logs, the pine flooring, and the wood handrail and balustrade.
Maxwell was heavily involved in the community and the region serving as a postmaster, president of the board for the Park County School District, and generally active in community affairs. The Boegels were equally as involved locally, serving on various school boards and commissions. Cora Boegel’s Sunday dinners were especially famous, sometimes involving over 200 guests!
Cora Boegel is shown entering the door of the kitchen 1930s
In 1945, the property was sold to “Skip” and “Lib” (Amy Lou Holmes and Elizabeth Hanaman) who turned the property into a camp for young ladies. By 1948, they officially opened “Sylvania of the Rockies”. Their reputation grew over the proceeding years as girls from every state as well as overseas attended the camp. Travel magazines and agencies were asking Skip and Lib to advertise with them to tout the high-quality experience they provided. Once again, excellence in the area of recreation and entertainment was reached at this historic site.
In 1970, Jim and Ginny Coggin took over “Sylvania” and ran the camp until the property was purchased by Jeffco Public Schools in 1975. Windy Peak Outdoor Lab School has been in operation continuously since that time!
Sylvania of the Rockies Postcard
Rufus in front of Silver Spruce Lodge
Windy Peak has kept the charm, intent, and heritage of the previous site owners while serving thousands of students each year. Windy Peak has retained the tradition of accommodating guests that allow them to experience Colorado’s natural environment and cultural history. The work done by the historic owners, all who visited through the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the school district, have created a strong sense of place which instills a sense of wonder and awe in all the students who visit today.