The Arrival of F.O. and Flora Stanley In Estes Park, Colorado in 1903
On the morning of June 30, 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley left Welch’s ranch hotel on the north fork of the St. Vrain River above Lyons. Following meager directions, he drove his small steam automobile up the rough wagon road toward the mountain resort of Estes Park.
Fate smiled broadly on Estes Park, Colorado that morning, with the completion of a drive just short of two hours. Forty-three years after the arrival of Joel Estes in 1859, the man who would transform Estes Park into a modern resort community had arrived.
F.O. Stanley would soon use his Yankee ingenuity and considerable wealth to advance his vision for Estes Park. He designed and built the Stanley Hotel complex, improved access to and from the Park and incorporated a transportation company for visitors. He built Estes Park’s first power plant and helped establish its water system and first bank.
With this infrastructure in place, Stanley turned to an even larger project, the creation of a national park in the Estes Park region. The direct influence of F.O. Stanley would continue to linger over town and region for another quarter of a century.
The story of Estes Park is not just a textbook lesson in civic high-mindedness and entrepreneurial success. It is part of the larger story of the development of the resort industry in Colorado and the West.
After his arrival in 1903, F.O. Stanley continued his legacy as THE transformative figure in the history of Estes Park. In 1940, he died at the age of 91. The Father of Estes Park will forever be recognized for hastening the upbuilding of the Park, to the benefit of millions who are blessed by their time in this, one of America’s beautiful places.
The Stanleys’ Summer Cottage, 1904: now known as 415 West Wonderview Avenue
Much of the fall and winter of 1903-1904 were given over to planning and constructing the Stanleys’ new summer home.
The house the Stanleys settled upon was clearly designed by F.O. Stanley himself. Its high foundation, imposing front entrance, Greek Doric columns, and classic ornamentation are an unmistakable part of the Georgian Colonial Revival style that graced almost every structure that F.O. Stanley and his twin brother ever built.
The Stanleys’ roomy “cottage,” with its 5,240 square feet on three levels, was at once elegant but simple. The second, or main, floor was the largest of the three. It opened off a long, 40-foot veranda and into a large, illuminated front hall. Facing the front door was an impressive and airy central staircase leading to a landing and then continuing up on each side of the rotunda to the third floor above.
F.O. had his private space as well. To the left and slightly below the house, Stanley built a two-story carriage house and workshop. The lower level contained his billiard table, the upper the garage and his workshop. Here he would spend time playing his favorite game, making his famous violins and crossbows, or just plain puttering about.
Clearly the grandest house in Estes Park, the Stanleys’ new home in the area called “Rockside,” would be enjoyed by F.O. and Flora Stanley in the coming thirty-six years. In its early years, the home was the site where Mr. Stanley’s genius would be employed to, set the tone for the evolution of modern Estes Park and for the millions of visitors to come.
The Site of the Stanley Home on West Wonderview Avenue
Located immediately to the north and west of what would soon become the center of the village of Estes Park and nestled against the lichen-covered rocks of a sloping hillside above a beautiful meadow, the new house commanded the same fine panoramic view of Longs Peak and the snowcapped Front Range that the Stanleys had enjoyed the previous summer.
To the north of the house, connected by a path from the rear porch, there would in time be a well–used picnic area, which shared much the same view as the house itself. Beyond and above this area were gigantic boulders. There Stanley built himself a wooden bench, bolted directly to the rocks, where he could sit and play his violin or quietly watch the scenery and ever-changing hues of the range spread out before him.
The site of the Stanley Home is a unique and magnificent complement to the Home itself. In an age today where open space is coveted and building density controlled, this four-acre site is enhanced chiefly by the presence of the magnificent structure, but is further improved by the beauty of the land around it. This land is destined to remain as it was.
As F.O. Stanley stated in 1928, “………nature has endowed Estes Park in a wonderful manner. The grandeur of its scenery, its deep blue skies, its clear, cool and invigorating air, its mountain streams of sparkling soft water, its sunny days and delightfully cool nights, are things the visitor never forgets, and having enjoyed once, desires to enjoy again.”
The visceral feelings about this place, that we all experience regardless of our human traits, are so commonly held. Whether it be F.O. and Flora Stanley in 1903, or the residents and visitors of today, it is the magnificent and soothing nature of this place that captures us always.
The Historic Stanley Home Foundation: Future Activities after Purchasing the Home
The original 1904 home of F.O. and Flora Stanley has been fortunate over many decades, that faithful succeeding owners had a heart and mind for the profound history of the home and the magnificence of the structure. It is in excellent condition for a home aged 112 years.
Gary and Kelly Brown have resided in this home for the last 38 years. Only with their dedication and perseverance would this historical gem be a candidate for preservation today. It is their hope, as is ours, that our community will now see the wisdom of setting this historical site aside for many public uses through our non-profit Foundation.
After purchase of the home in late 2019, the Foundation will endeavor to convert it from a residential use to a public property use. In all ways that are possible, recapturing the authenticity of its early years will be pursued. Indeed, many features of the home and its furnishings already stand unchanged from its early 20th century glory.
We have no intention of securing this iconic home only to have it stand idle. There are innumerable uses that will be explored with the selected activities being the ones that best serve the public, while also sustaining the Foundation charged with its stewardship. This historic home will be an extraordinary gathering place for Estes Park education and celebration for many generations to come.