(OR HOW THE DREAM CAME TRUE)
If you wanted your own Camelot, where would you build it? On a mountaintop, perhaps, near enough to civilization but a million miles from the hustle and bustle. A grand and spacious house, not perched on the mountain so much as crowning it and emerging from the earth itself, using native stone for walls supported by massive post and beam. Approachable only through groomed forests of pine and aspen, where eagles soar, hummingbirds dart, and elk and moose roam.
New but meticulously created to look old, as timeless as the history of the Colorado countryside that surrounds it. It would not be an ordinary house – certainly not! – it would be unique, the dream house of a gifted couple. People with the imagination to conjure their vision from the clean fresh air of the Rockies.
This, then, is Mount Thomas – both the mountain itself, just northwest of Denver, soaring over 9,300 feet, and the sanctuary that crowns it. Don Ruggles, the renowned architect who designed it, recalled that “Frank Lloyd Wright always said the house should be part of the hill, not on the hill. The organizing idea is that it follows the topography of the land.” And so it does, from the Pond House at the base of the property to the Summit House at its highest peak.
The owners are artistic people themselves and knew that they wanted something unique, but did not at first know what that would lead to. “The husband told me that he didn’t want it to look like just another mountain house,” Ruggles said.
So Ruggles did something extraordinary. He composed a fairy tale from fragments of history. He imagined a pioneering couple coming to Gilpin County a century earlier and deciding to build their home on a mountaintop above the virgin forest and lush alpine meadows. First, they built a simple, but strong, house, using stone quarried from the land, with a vaulted ceiling and French doors to frame the spectacular view of the snowcapped Arapaho range to the west. Then they built a barn, using the same stone, with stalls for their horses and a hay loft above. The husband became a blacksmith and so he built an expansive shop, again out of stone. But this structure was different. It was round, because the couple had seen the large round barns of Shaker villages and loved them. The couple had children and so they added bedrooms – not out of stone this time but out of well weathered lumber reclaimed from an old abandoned gold mill. Stone fireplaces followed, and covered walkways.
The twentieth century dawned and the car was invented, so a garage followed. So did a new kitchen, dining room and parlor, to accommodate the growing family. The husband, wearying of a blacksmith’s life, closed his shop and turned it into a great domed gathering hall for the family. With time to enjoy their creation, the couple added balconies and terraces and even a beautiful stone wall which encloses the front courtyard and the sight and sound of a lovely brook.
The result was the house itself which formed a whole that was so much greater than the sum of its parts, all framed by balconies and terraces and existing as one with the mountain and its forests.
Yes, this was just a fairy tale. But then the fairy tale came true. The architect turned his whimsy into a blueprint. With prodigious effort by a large skilled workforce, Mount Thomas was actually built - it exists. The original stone cabin of fable is the master bedroom. The hearth room, with its vaulted ceiling and fireplace, is a sitting room next to the kitchen and the dining room. Then comes the blacksmith shop, which is now known as the great room, more than 1,000 square feet in the round, also with a soaring stone fireplace and, naturally, French doors leading to the expansive deck. For the wife, there is a sewing room of great peace, with windows overlooking a vast valley. For the husband, there is his den and exercise room, also with spectacular mountain views. There are three guest suites and a bunk room. Like the couple in the fairy tale, the owners today shape and shift the Summit House to accommodate the needs of their large family and many friends. The fairy tale didn’t include an elevator, but the Summit House does.
Not too far away is the Guest House, the first building on the mountain, a comfortable duplex having two bedrooms and two bathrooms in each, with a large garage that can accommodate up to 15 vehicles, a mechanical shop, and ample storage. And, of course, a very large deck. The Caretaker’s Cottage is also a duplex, with plenty of room for two families, built over a garage with room for 5 vehicles plus a 45-foot motor coach, with the obligatory deck, overlooking the Continental Divide. (Incidentally, the seasoned resident caretakers are prepared to continue to serve if desired). The Caretaker’s Cottage also contains the ceramics studio where the wife imprinted the bathroom tiles and backsplash with leaves from the land. The nearby Stable has four well appointed box stalls, a heated tack room with running water, topped by a barn with a spacious drive-in hayloft.
Further down the mountain is the pond and the Pond House, rough and rustic, for fishing or swimming in the summer, but with insulation and its own fireplace, cozy for ice skating in the Colorado winters.
Everything is old – the reclaimed wood for the beams, floors and doors, the trees cut on site to make the handrails, metal accents either salvaged from older Colorado buildings or ironwork from Colorado artisans. And everything is new, including all underground utilities and the fiber optic cables that can keep this summit citadel in instant contact with the world outside.
The mountain is for sale – approximately 300 usable acres and the five unique buildings that sit on it. Everything else, say the owners, is “negotiable.” Such as the three Morgan/Percheron horses, plus the carriage, plus the 1890’s antique sleigh imported from St. Moritz, plus eleven ATVs for cruising the ten miles of hiking paths, plus the regulation pool table, plus the furnishings, including many antiques of the period, plus the player piano, plus the 1953 antique fire truck. If you get the idea that this Camelot was built for fun, you’d be right.
All else is free – the bears and the mountain goats, the ravens and great horned owls, the ponderosa and lodgepole pines, the ground juniper and whortleberry bushes among the trees, the dwarf blueberry and Oregon grape shrubs in the clearings and the delicious wild raspberry, the flowering columbine and scarlet paintbrush and lupine, the kneegrass and muttongrass in the meadows, and above all, the views and the crystal blue sky, the peace and the delight, the sheer otherworldly beauty that makes this unique place more than a house or a property, but a special home, a Camelot, a kingdom unto itself, for special people.