History of Castle Rock

By Peggy A. Cummings

Citation: Courtesy, Castle Rock Museum Caption: Viewed from the top of the courthouse on Wilcox Street is the D&RG train heading south to Colorado Springs. Castle Rock is in the background, and the town of Castle Rock in the foreground.

Members of John C. Fremont’s 2nd U.S. Survey Expedition 1843, with Kit Carson as their guide, spied a flat rock on top of a butte that became known to the starving explorers as “Poundcake Rock.” Fremont documented in his journal, “…as our hungry people seem to think it is a very agreeable comparison.” Later, in 1874 Frankstown (now Franktown) was voted out as the county seat; Castle Rock was voted in and grew in importance. John Craig and Jeremiah Gold drew out six streets with 77 lots that were auctioned off for a total of $3,400. Thus, at the base of “The Rock,” the town of Castle Rock was born.
Also in 1874, The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad route ran through Castle Rock. This brought more citizens to the growing town and took farm products to market. Miner Silas Madge took in a sample of the local lava rock called rhyolite to be assayed, hoping it contained gold. This pink, grey and mauve volcanic stone contained no gold but was a fabulous building material. Soon, the first quarry (near Crystal Valley) opened to supply the demand for building stones. It was used to build homes, schools, churches and businesses. The railroad depot, built of rhyolite, was constructed in 1875. Later, it was preserved and moved to Elbert Street and turned into the Castle Rock Museum. The early Douglas County Courthouse, Cherokee Castle, Castle Cafe, Cantril School, The Castle Rock Bank and even Union Station in Denver are built from native rhyolite.
The main thoroughfare of U.S. Highway 85 from Denver to Colorado Springs ran right through downtown Castle Rock before I-25 was built in 1952. Large old trees lined Wilcox Street on both sides. The highway department created the first paved street in town when Wilcox was designated as part of this route. Along this highway, as Castle Rock grew, downtown included the courthouse square, creameries, the B&B Café, Kroll’s Grocery, Miller Meat Market and Van Lopik’s Drug Store. Famous for their good steaks and fried chicken was the Castle Hotel and Bar (now the Castle Café, with apartments above). This building, too, was built of rhyolite and became a community gathering place for Friday and Saturday night dances. In the 1930s, boxing matches were held in the basement. Markings on the walls from these matches can still be seen.
Today on a visit to the B&B Café on Wilcox Street, one can learn its famous story from 1946. An escaped Denver felon, Manuel Blanco Perez, was on the run from the shooting of two Denver policemen. He swaggered into the B&B and ordered. Perez was recognized by several locals as a “Wanted Person.” One man ran for the sheriff, and others tried to keep Perez occupied. Unarmed lawman Marshall Ray Lewis arrived and wrestled with Perez as he tried to arrest him. Lewis was shot and killed. Lewis Street was named in his honor in 1953. Two stray bullet holes can still be seen while enjoying the food at the B&B. 
An early town benefactor, P.S. Miller, came west from Illinois. He and his family operated the Miller Meat Markets in Kiowa and Castle Rock. He married Jerry Stuart in 1921 and she helped in the business. Miller was turned down for a bank loan, and he decided that if he could ever help others financially, he would. In 1939, he established The Bank of Douglas County, which became prosperous in the community. With no heirs, he and his wife established a Perpetual Charitable Trust of over $30 million for the town, the county and the library. P.S. Miller Library and the new recreation center (MAC) are beneficiaries of their generosity.
Held since 1892, the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo is a popular attraction. Before the grandstands were built, attendees parked their cars in a circle in which the show was held. 4-H exhibits, agricultural and livestock displays and sales and a PRCA Rodeo are favorites. The evening before the downtown parade an old-fashioned cattle drive, complete with Texas Longhorns, travels from beneath The Rock down Front/Perry Streets towards the fairgrounds. The next day’s annual parade down Wilcox includes bands, floats, horseback riders, tractors and more!
Every holiday season since 1936, downtown Castle Rock hosts a special event, to attract commerce and to enjoy the holiday spirit with the community. For “The Lighting of the Star,” people gather to celebrate an electric star that adorns the top of The Rock. It is lit in a ceremony, now called “Starlighting.” Today, one can climb to the top of Castle Rock from Rock Park, reached off of Perry Street. And downtown includes various cafes and restaurants for hungry visitors.
From its humble beginnings to a current estimated population of more than 72,000, Castle Rock remains a landmark as the County Seat of Douglas County. 

History of Castle Pines
The city of Castle Pines, originally settled by miners, lumbermen, and farmers, has grown in size from a little over 9 square miles to a bit over 25 square miles. Happy Canyon Ranch was the basis of today’s Castle Pines, extending from Surrey Ridge over the Wildcat Mountains and down to what we now know as Happy Canyon Road. An early cowboy “line rider” named Jack worked for the ranch by looking after their cattle. He always whistled and sang as he was riding along on his horse. He stayed a few years and then disappeared. Since he was always so vocal, the name “Happy Canyon” was given to the trail he rode.   

The border to the west includes Colorado’s First Territorial Road, now Daniel’s Park Road. Its course followed old game and trapper trails. The Florence Martin Homestead, Kit Carson Monument, D. C. Oakes Sawmill and Cherokee Ranch and Castle flow along the boundaries of this road. Cherokee Castle, built by the Johnsons, later was purchased by Tweet Kimball. Constructed of rhyolite stone and petrified wood found on the property, Cherokee Ranch and Castle is internationally known and has hosted Hollywood stars, heads of state and royalty. It is also famous for raising Santa Gertudis cattle. Cherokee Ranch and Castle, open to the public by appointment, hosts cultural events, weddings and tours.

The city border to the north contains the Backcountry Open Space and then Highlands Ranch. The stunning view from the top of Wildcat Plateau on Daniels Park Road gives a vista of 200 miles along the Front Range of the Rockies. In the 1920s, motorists from Denver drove out to picnic in Daniel’s Park and to watch the sunset. On Wildcat Plateau, one can still find the monument to Kit Carson, erected to commemorate his last campfire in 1868. The Florence Martin Homestead, now part of the City of Denver’s Mountain Parks Buffalo Preserve, allows the visitor to see the famous herd in its natural habitat. Farther up on the northern end of Daniel’s Park is land dedicated as the Tall Bull Memorial Grounds. Native Americans hold a powwow here each autumn to celebrate their cultural ancestry.

 A little to the southeast off of Daniels’ Park Road was a portable sawmill owned and operated by D.C. Oakes. D.C. was famous – or infamous – for writing a glowing pamphlet that helped urge pioneers to stampede west in search of gold. D.C.’s outrageous statements were believed and created a motive to populate the West. Many gold-seekers stayed, while others became “Go Backers” on the “Pikes Peak or Bust” trails. Oakes’ sawmill cut down the native growth of trees that furnished part of the wood for the building of Denver. The trees now seen are all second-growth forests.

And to the east, the boundary with Reuter-Hess Reservoir ends the city. Annexing The Canyons, the town land now includes parts of Newlin Gulch, the site of an early gold strike. The mine tunnel and tracks leading to it used to be viewed from I-25. Now they are covered by new construction. Castle Pines boundaries touch Castle Rock’s.  
Straight south of the city is a gated community, Castle Pines Village. Farther south lays The Castle Pines Golf Club, home to 20 years of the PGA Tournament, The International. In this area, some residents have found remains of petrified wood crystals from long ago when landscaping their yards and planting their gardens.
In 2008 the city of Castle Pines North was established. In 2010 it changed its name to the City of Castle Pines and in 2019 changed to a home rule government. Current estimate is a population of 10,000, soon to grow with the development of The Canyons east of I-25.  

The Castle Pines Library shares a building with City Hall and is a gathering place for speakers, community events and learning. Castle Pines is a great place to call home if one enjoys the outdoors, fabulous views, blue sky, local history, family activities and a variety of art and cultural community events.