COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE HONORS FRANCES STAUNTON’S LEGACY
CPW press release
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.