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Hayden Ranch September 2016

Photos Mike Sinnwell – I happened to stop by on a day when a friend, Steve Harris, was working at his preservation tasks. He was kind enough to provide a personal tour.


The Hayden Ranch was founded in 1859. The buildings that stand today were built between 1880 and 1930. The site operated mainly as a hay ranch through the 1890s, providing feed for the horses and mules serving Leadville’s mining industry.

This ranch was first called the Elkhorn Ranch and over the years has had many different owners like John Harrington and Father John Dyer the snowshoe itinerant. Even Father Dyers son Judge Elias Dyer. The judge was eventually murdered, in his courtroom, during the Leadville wars. In 1871 it was sold to Charles Mater founder of the Leadville Chamber of Commerce. Then in 1872 it was sold to the Olive and Francis Hayden.

With the Silver Panic of 1893 and the arrival of the automobile a few years later, the ranch turned to grazing cattle.

In 1919, the Hayden’s turned the operation of the Ranch over to their son-in-law, John Weir. John made numerous improvements that allowed him to package, and ship products to the outside world. Those improvements included a Loeffel water turbine to power a stationary hay baler, a sawmill, and a machine shop. He also had a RR siding off the Denver and Rio Grande to use to get products to markets.

The Ranch was sold to the Callahan Construction Company in 1933, and was used briefly in 1939 as part of the U.S. Army Remount Service to breed choice horses for the Calvary.

Beginning in 1947, the ranch was only used seasonally and the historic buildings declined.  

In 1998 the Hayden Ranch was optioned by the City of Aurora, for the water rights. Since then the city has worked with the Lake County commissioners and the Colorado Mountain College to set a plan in motion to preserve the Hayden homestead.