High Country Summers

The Early Second Homes of Colorado, 1880–1940

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High Country Summers considers the emergence of the “summer home” in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains as both an architectural and a cultural phenomenon. It offers a welcome new perspective on an often-overlooked dwelling and lifestyle. Writing with affection and insight, Melanie Shellenbarger shows that Colorado’s early summer homes were not only enjoyed by the privileged and wealthy but crossed boundaries of class, race, and gender. They offered their inhabitants recreational and leisure experiences as well as opportunities for individual re-invention—and they helped shape both the cultural landscapes of the American West and our ideas about it.

Shellenbarger focuses on four areas along the Front Range: Rocky Mountain National Park and its easterly gateway town, Estes Park; “recreation residences” in lands managed by the US Forest Service; Lincoln Hills, one of only a few African-American summer home resorts in the United States; and the foothills west of Denver that drew Front Range urbanites, including Denver’s social elite. From cottages to manor houses, the summer dwellings she examines were home to governors and government clerks; extended families and single women; business magnates and Methodist ministers; African-American building contractors and innkeepers; shop owners and tradespeople. By returning annually, Shellenbarger shows, they created communities characterized by distinctive forms of kinship.

High Country Summers goes beyond history and architecture to examine the importance of these early summer homes as meaningful sanctuaries in the lives of their owners and residents. These homes, which embody both the dwelling (the house itself) and dwelling (the act of summering there), resonate across time and place, harkening back to ancient villas and forward to the present day.

“An authoritative, pioneering study of the summer home in Colorado as architectural and cultural phenomenon.”—James H. Pickering, author of America’s Switzerland: Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park


High Country Summers
288 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2012 Hardcover (9780816529582)
Ebook (9780816599332)

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