The Anne Evans Mountain Home is a rustic cottage built by Anne Evans at an elevation of about 8,200 feet on her family’s large ranch in the Upper Bear Creek watershed in eastern Clear Creek County. Completed in 1911, the house was notable for its vertical log construction and artistic interiors, and it received national attention as a particularly distinguished example of a Colorado mountain cottage. The house remained in the Evans family until 1990, when it was bought by Denver art collectors Frederick and Jan Mayer, who restored it largely to its original appearance.
The Evans-Elbert Ranch had its origins in 1868, when John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor, took a camping trip in the Upper Bear Creek area with his son-in-law and future territorial governor Samuel Elbert. They enjoyed the area’s views and were impressed by its grass, timber, and game, so they soon bought more than 300 acres from local homesteader John Vance to use as a ranch and family retreat. They hired a ranch foreman, who lived in the old Vance house, and built a large rustic house—called the Cottage—for family visits from Denver. The family called the property Kuhlborne Ranch and gradually expanded it to several thousand acres.
John Evans’s youngest child, Anne, was born in 1871, a few years after the family acquired the ranch. As a child, she and other members of the family spent long stretches of the summer at Kuhlborne Ranch, where they escaped Denver’s summer heat and explored the area’s forested mountains and valleys. After John Evans and Samuel Elbert died in the late 1890s, the ranch became the property of the Evans family, with Anne playing a central role in the ranch’s development.
In the late nineteenth century, the Evans family used the ranch and cottage for gatherings. By the early twentieth century, some members of the growing family started to build their own houses nearby. The proliferation of houses on the property accelerated after the cottage burned in 1909. That year, Louise Elbert hired Jock Spence of Evergreen to build her a house near the ranch headquarters. Soon Spence was also building cottages at the ranch for Regina Lunt and Anne Evans.
For the location of her house, Anne Evans chose a hill just south of the ranch headquarters with sweeping views west to Mt. Evans, which had been named for her father in 1895. Evans probably designed the 3,200-square-foot house in collaboration with Spence. Completed in 1911, it was laid out in a T-shape on the hillside. A foundation made of local stones supported walls of vertical logs, making it appear as if the rustic house rose naturally out of the ground. The upper floor, which formed the stem of the T, contained an entry hall, four bedrooms, two sleeping porches, and two bathrooms. An eight-foot-wide staircase made of peeled logs led down to the lower floor, which had a living room and large fireplace in the top of the T and a kitchen and servants’ quarters stretching back under the stem of the T.
The decorations inside Evans’s cottage reflected her role as one of the most important patrons of the arts in the Denver area. An early advocate of Native American art, she furnished the house with Indian basketry, pottery, and rugs. One of her artist friends, Josephine Hurlburt, designed an Art Deco eagle motif for the windows, fire screen, and gable ends, while an Allen True painting was laid into the stonework of the living room fireplace. Evans was also a devoted theater lover—she was a Denver Civic Theater trustee and cofounder of the Central City Opera House Association—so entertainments at her mountain house often took the form of plays staged in the lower-floor living room or on the staircase.
In 1924 Evans commissioned Denver architect Burnham Hoyt to perform alterations to the house, mostly above the eaves. Hoyt rebuilt the roof, adding heavy timbers and local stone tiles. Both before and after the Hoyt alterations, the house had a reputation as one of the finest examples of a rustic Colorado mountain cottage.
When Anne Evans died in 1941, she left the house and ten acres of land to her nephew, John Evans, Sr. Over the next few decades, most of the house’s distinctive Native American art objects were given to the Denver Art Museum, which Anne helped establish in 1921. The house also was modernized with electricity and telephone service. It eventually passed to John Evans, Jr., who repaired and updated the house. He fixed the leaky old roof, enclosed a porch to expand the living room, and remodeled two former servants’ rooms into a den, bar, and storage room.
Meanwhile, the Evans Ranch property, which had encompassed nearly 5,000 acres in the 1930s, started to be whittled down. In the 1950s, the Evans family sold all its land south of Upper Bear Creek Road to the state of Colorado, which combined it with another large parcel to form the Mt. Evans State Wildlife Area. By the early 1980s, Evans Ranch still had more than 3,000 acres, but ownership was shared among more than thirty Evans family descendants. One heir wanted the ranch to be sold, sparking a court case and fears that the open land could be developed.
To prevent the development of Evans Ranch, in 1984 the nonprofit Colorado Open Lands bought the 3,245-acre property for $4.05 million. Colorado Open Lands had been established in 1981 to seek private solutions to the preservation of open space. The Evans Ranch property became an immediate priority, and Colorado Open Lands used a $4.5 million loan from the Gates Foundation to buy the land and develop plans for its preservation. The property was split into five ranches of about 550 acres each. Most of each ranch subdivision was preserved as open space, but construction was allowed on homestead sites chosen for their scenic views. The five ranch owners formed an association to operate the 129-acre ranch headquarters, while Colorado Open Lands retained about 267 acres to develop an environmental education program. By 1986 Colorado Open Lands had sold enough of the ranch subdivisions to repay its loan to the Gates Foundation.
One of the Evans Ranch subdivisions was sold to Denver philanthropists Frederick and Jan Mayer, who planned to build a summer retreat on the land. Soon after they bought the Evans Ranch property, they learned that John Evans, Jr., was putting the Anne Evans Mountain Home and forty acres of surrounding land up for sale. The Mayers, art collectors with a strong tie to Anne Evans through their involvement with the Denver Art Museum, bought the house and land in 1990 with the idea of restoring and preserving the property. They quickly placed the land in a conservation easement and got the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
On the Evans Ranch property, the Mayers built a house for their children and grandchildren. At the Anne Evans site, they commissioned Long Hoeft Architects to restore the house to its 1910s character while retaining modern conveniences such as electricity and telephone service. The main alterations undertaken during the restoration were that the roof was replaced with new slate tiles, the kitchen was remodeled, and the layout of the upper floor was slightly reconfigured. In addition, the attic was switched from a storage area to a space where guests could stay on sleeping bags and futons. The project received an Interior Rehabilitation award from the Magazine of Historic Preservation.