KUSA - More than 100 years ago, entrepreneur John Brisben Walker wanted to build a "Summer White House" in the foothills of Jefferson County.
Walker's dream took only a few steps towards reality, but it is a dream that still exists in a place that can be explored today: on Castle Trail in JeffCo's Mount Falcon Park.
The length of the trip back in time depends on which side of Mount Falcon Park you choose. A longer hike of six miles round-trip starts at the east trailhead.
The shorter version, three miles round-trip, starts from the west trailhead. Starting from the west trailhead will also lead you past the ruins of a castle, where the dream for a summer White House started.
It is also only 0.7 miles from the west trailhead to the ruins of Walker’s home. It’s a stone castle with fireplaces on several floors. Walker preserved thousands of acres of land around Morrison in the early 1900s. In 1918, lightning hit this home, causing a fire. The ruins are all that is left of this home.
Walker left Colorado soon after the fire, but his land became the foundation for Denver Mountain Parks and JeffCo Open Space.
Just 0.8 miles from Walker's home, you can still see the foundation of Walker's dream to build the Summer White House.
Follow the castle trail for another 0.4 miles, and signs will point to another trail, Walker’s Dream. The trail rises about another 200 feet in elevation, up to 7,600 feet. As you walk along this path, incredible views of Denver and Red Rocks can be seen just to the east. A large white stone that looks out of place will suddenly come into view.
That stone is the corner stone of what would have been a gift from the people of Colorado to the presidents of the United States.
On July 4, 1914, a cornerstone of Colorado yule marble was to be the start of a castle in the clouds. The idea was to build a castle modeled after those in Europe for the president to enjoy during the summer months.
The castle was to have 22 rooms and was designed by Denver architect J.B. Benedict. One key issue with the construction was funding. One idea was to persuade students at schools across the country to donate pennies to the project.
If it had been built, the Summer White House would have had five floors built into the side of a steep cliff. An early wall for this castle still stands. Walking along the path, you can see the views that would have been seen from the castle’s windows. It would have been a pristine and natural escape for the nation’s leader.
It would also have been a challenge to reach the site. But the castle would have had some amazing views of Red Rocks and may have been able to be seen from the famous concert venue.
Walker was a man of many dreams and many projects at the start of the 1900s. For a time he owned and edited Cosmopolitan magazine. He pioneered farming changes in Colorado, and developed parts of downtown Denver.
Shortly after he came up with the idea for the summer White House he moved onto other things and life in Colorado took several hard turns. It was only a few years later that his wife died and his home in what would become Mount Falcon Park was destroyed.
He left Colorado and many of his dreams behind, including the Summer White House.
A place he loved would eventually become home to trails and thousands of acres for people to explore and enjoy.