Travel File: Beckwith House

Our return trip to Amarillo from Twin lakes, CO was a series of long, green pastures and distant hazy skies.  The still-burning wildfires had been contained, but not extinguished.  We wound through verdant valleys scattered with quiet country roads encompassed by the mountains.  It was a pleasant way to slowly and silently ease back into the strip malls of increasingly larger towns as we neared the interstate.

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Along that less-traveled path back to Texas, we came across an old ranch that caught my eye just outside Westcliffe, Co.

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In 1869, Edwin Beckwith drove a herd of Texas cattle to this picturesque valley with pioneer trailblazer Charles Goodnight.  Edwin’s brother Elton joined the new cattle operation not long after and together they built one of Colorado’s largest ranches.

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U.S. General Land Office records show that the brothers built their first home, a 24 by 22–foot cabin, while they were building their ranching empire. Eventually this log cabin became the foundation for the New England-style Victorian mansion which is the centerpiece of the ranch. The brothers built additions to the cabin as their fortunes improved. Sometime in the 1880’s—just prior to or during Elton’s term as a state senator—they converted the original one-and-a-half-story log cabin into a two-story house with a stairway tower, ballroom and a kitchen wing with a pantry, cooler, and mud area.  Eventually they added the wrap-around porch and porte-cochère.  In the 1890’s, they improved the ranch headquarters by adding a bunk house, servant’s quarters, carriage house and barns.

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This family was very successful in the cattle ranching business, owning almost half of all the cattle in their county.  Elton died in 1907 (it is said he took his own life, possibly due to health and financial issues, by jumping from a second-story window of the house). Soon after, his wife Elsie sold the ranch and moved to Denver. Elton, Elsie, and Edwin are all buried in the Ula Cemetery located a few miles southwest of the ranch.

beckwith-ranchWe were able to peek through the curtains to the front room, which I guessed was the ballroom.  The interior seemed to be in its original state with vintage wallcoverings and some furnishings. (Although now I know that the inside has been restored to match the original 1870’s design) Three and a half acres of the ranch, including the main house and outbuildings, were donated to the non-profit group, Friends of the Beckwith Ranch, who began restoration after listing the ranch in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.  In 2009, the ranch had undergone completion of its $700,000 exterior renovation.

beckwith-ranch-coloradoToday, the ranch can be rented for private events.  A variety of rooms are available, including a grand ballroom, bride & bridesmaid’s dressing room, groom & groomsmen’s room, dining area, kitchen, library and sitting room. I love that someone took the time to refurbish an historic homestead like this.  It’s just one more cool spot to check out when you’re out wandering the roads of Colorado…

You can read more about the Beckwith Brothers and their family here.

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