Just 20 minutes west of downtown Denver, atop a hill in southern Lakewood, are 65 bucolic acres few people have ever seen. Hemmed in by white fences and accessed via a long, narrow gravel drive, they’re home to the Taylor Estate, which comprises a 26-room, 13,901-square-foot manor house designed by Denver architect Burnham Hoyt in 1932 (you’re familiar with his work, which includes the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the north wing of the Central Denver Public Library, and the State Capitol Annex Building); a cottage, beach, and pier on Ward Lake; three staff cottages; equestrian stables and a dressage ring; a tennis court and swimming pool; and gorgeous grounds and formal gardens designed by Jane Silverstein Ries, Denver’s first female landscape architect.
At 11 a.m. on July 13, every bit of the estate will be sold at absolute auction to the highest bidder, without reserve or minimum, by Naples, Florida-based luxury-real-estate auction house DeCaro Auctions International. That means it could sell for $1 million—or $14 million, which is the price listed on LIV Sotheby’s International Realty’s website for the property. Also unknown is what will become of the historic estate: While it’s possible a wealthy buyer will continue to use it as a single-family home, it’s just as likely a developer will snap it up and divide it into 1-acre homesites—including a handful of prime lakefront sites—which is what current zoning allows.
A hallway in the home’s private quarters tells the story of the property—and its jet-setting owners—with hundreds of framed photos, letters, and newspaper and magazine clippings: Vernon “Moose” Taylor, Jr. and his wife Ann Bonfoey Taylor made the estate their home in 1951. He was a naval aviator during World War II before joining the family business, Westhoma Oil Company. She was a pilot from the age of 12, a commercial flight instructor (one of just 25 in America at the time; she was later enlisted to train U.S. Army and Navy pilots), a model and fashion designer, a nationally ranked tennis player who competed at Wimbledon, an alternate on the Women’s Olympic Ski Team in 1939, and a talented equestrian.
The Taylors summered at their Lakewood estate, preferring to spend winters at Vail Resort, of which they were founders, where they built one of the very first ski homes at the base of a run on Rockledge Road. The couple hosted a steady stream of royals, dignitaries, and luminaries at both homes. At the Lakewood estate, Henry Kissinger lounged by the pool, the United Kingdom’s Princess Anne went riding with Ann (according to a longtime housekeeper, Anne wore jeans, while Ann wore full riding regalia), and Truman Capote, Gregory Peck, Gerald Ford, Nan Kempner, and Diana Vreeland also came to stay.
Life is much quieter at the estate these days, following the death of Ann in 2007 and Vernon in 2013. Earlier this year, one of the couple’s sons, Vernon Taylor III, sold a 60-acre piece of the property to the City of Lakewood, which will preserve the tract as open space. Taylor’s hope is that his family’s estate will not be developed; soon its fate will be decided.
Before then though, the property, located at 6900 W. Lakeridge Road in Lakewood, will be open to all for previews every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The last open house will be held on Thursday, July 12, from 1 to 4 p.m. To bid at the July 13 auction, you’ll need to bring a driver’s license, cashier’s check for $200,000, and be prepared to make a 10-percent deposit with no contingencies, and settle in 30 days or sooner.
Jeff Rhoades, business development director for DeCaro, has some advice for those who think they don’t have a bank account big enough to score a property like this: “Show up. The worst thing that could happen is that the property sells for less than you were willing to pay.”
To register to bid, or just to learn more, visit decaroauctions.com/the-taylor-estate.