Pinewood Springs History

Pinewood Springs circa 1959. Courtesy of Larry Webster.

Pinewood Springs
Source: Pinewood Springs history provided by Estes Park Museum - Pinewood Springs History Exhibit 2002. 

What is Pinewood Springs?
As an unincorporated area, Pinewood Springs has a confusion of identities: its mail is addressed to Lyons, it's located in Larimer County, and its schools are there. It has its own fire protection district, road board, and water district. What makes Pinewood Springs a community are the people who live there and the connections they make with each other.

Earliest Inhabitants
The earliest inhabitants of the mountains, meadows, and riverbanks were Native Americans, most recently Ute and Arapaho. Evidence of earlier peoples has been found all over the Pinewood area: teepee rings, projectile points, scrapers, manos, metates (grinding stones for grains), and other tools. The Ute and Arapaho people were pushed out by the white settlers who arrived beginning in the 1870s lured by the Homestead Act of 1862 and the gold discoveries in the Colorado Territory.

The first white settlers, as opposed to hunters and gold-seekers, came to the area to raise cattle, farm, and harvest timber. The Homestead Act recruited families to build a house, improve the property claim with crops and fencing, and continuously occupy the claim for five years. At the end of the five years, the family was given the land to keep.

Many homesteaders in what would later become Pinewood Springs had other homes nearby in Lyons or Longmont and used their claims for grazing cattle or cutting timber. In order to fulfill the homestead requirements, families often split their time between the two homes. The father might spend the winter in the remote homestead so that his wife and children could live in town and attend school. Or the wife might spend the winter alone, or with small children on the claim so that the husband could work in town, thus ensuring both that the homestead requirements were met and the family was provided with a little cash.

Early Settlers

In these early days (1870-1900), Pinewood Springs was not a village, or even a settlement. It was a vast area with cattle ranches, grazing areas, sawmills, timber harvesting businesses, and a scattering of cabins.

The first white settlers were probably the Charles Pullen family in about 1885. The left photograph shows the Pullen house circa 1900. The toll road from Lyons to Estes Park ran directly in front of the house. The house burned down in about 1915 after Louis Meining had purchased it. Meining rebuilt it in 1917. The house was still standing in 2002, though it has been substantially remodeled.

Courtesy Estes Park Museum, 1981. 096. 001

This is the house of the Charles Pullen family, believed to be the first residence built in the Pinewood Springs area. It is a classic “I” house form, a two-story, one room deep structure typical of farmhouses in the mid-nineteenth century.

This photograph shows the toll station in the Pinewood Springs area circa 1892. The toll gate was moved several times. This is not the Pullen house, but another house along the Lyons to Estes Park road.

The Meining – May house in 2002. The one-story section in the back was built in 1916-1917 by Louis Meining.

Homestead Meadows

Homestead Meadows is an unusual settlement for the west. Not a village and only a community in a wider sense, it was a collection of homesteads somewhat nearer to each other than usual because of the wide valley and surrounding mountains. It is not part of Pinewood Springs, but its proximity and family connections make it part of the Pinewood Springs story.

From the 1880s to the 1970s, families lived and worked in this area. In 1978, the United States Forest Service bought 2,240 acres of land which had been consolidated into one ranch owned by the Holnholz family. The Forest Service wanted the land for a winter range and migration corridor for elk and multiple public uses. In 1990, it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The Forest Service has decided to allow the existing building to deteriorate naturally.

Photos Courtesy Gerry & Steve Pearson

The Brown Homestead circa 1999 – Two brothers, Harry and Cloyd Brown, filed for claims on adjoining properties. They proved their patents in 1917 and 1919.

Homestead Meadows is accessed via the Lyons Gulch trail.


Farming and Ranching
Before tourism and recreation became the primary industries in the Colorado mountains, most newcomers in the 1870s came to farm, raise cattle, and harvest timber. The short growing season and lack of accessibility to markets made profitability a challenge. Many homesteaders stayed only a few years before selling to the next hopeful farmer. The few families who stayed on are a testament to their abilities, courage, endurance, and good fortune.

Many local residents took advantage of the forests in the area. Homesteaders harvested trees, and some set up sawmills as well. The cut trees and finished lumber were hauled by wagon to Lyons or Longmont to sell.

1875 – Construction of the road on the North St. Vrain River. The man in the bowler hat is A. Q. MacGregor.
Courtesy Estes Park Museum, 1973, 088, 011


Isolated by rugged mountains, the Pinewood Springs area in the 1870s was a place to travel through, not a destination. Several stagecoach roads were built to help shorten the harrowing trip from Longmont.

Alexander Q. MacGregor, early homesteader in Estes Park, incorporated the Park Road Company in order to build a toll road from Longmont to Estes Park following the St. Vrain River. MacGregor invested over $10,000 in the road and hoped to make his money back through toll fees. The road opened on July 28, 1875. MacGregor moved the location of the toll gate several times. It was not a profitable venture, and many local residents resented paying a fee, but it helped to open up the area to settlement.

One stagecoach road came from Lyons, went around Steamboat Mountain and Rowell Hill, then down into the flat area now covered by Crescent Lake. It continued across what is now Kiowa Road. Remains of a stone cairn used to store supplies for the stagecoaches were found next to Crescent Lake.

2002 – Crescent Lake, looking slightly east and south.

Across Kiowa Road from Crescent Lake. The old stagecoach road ran along the depression in the center of the photograph.

2020 - Crescent Lake

Another road follows Highway 36 along Morris Gulch. Highway 36 was completed in 1938.

1908, the St. Vrain Canyon with cars of the Lyons and Estes Park Auto Company.

F.O. Stanley of Estes Park incorporated the Estes Park Transportation Company in June 1908. The fleet of steamer cars brought hotel customers from Longmont. Stanley paid for improvements to the road and used a fleet of Model Z Mountain Wagon passenger cars. He stationed cars in Longmont and at the railway depot in Lyons and Estes Park. The trip from Longmont to Estes Park took three hours and cost $7.50 for a round trip.

The Twentieth Century

Changes in Culture
The twentieth century saw the end of the homesteader culture and the birth of the urban, automobile-centered culture.

Charles Everett “Granny” May bridged the two eras. He was born in Minot, North Dakota on June 22, 1896. His family moved to Lyons and he began working for Louis Meining in 1906. In 1920 he married Legora Engert, daughter of a homesteader in Homestead Meadows. He bought the Meinings' ranch in 1938 raising crops, cattle, and horses. He owned and operated the stables for the Cheley Camp for thirty years.

In 1958, Granny May sold about 1,300 acres of his land to Dwight Webster and Dr. Walter Johnson. May was deputy sheriff in Estes Park from 1953 to 1958. He was active in many community activities, especially the Rooftop Rodeo. He died on January 2, 1968. The Rodeo arena was named in his honor.

Longtime friend Lois Moor explained his unusual nickname. She said he was so serious and old for his age, even as a child, that people teased him by calling him “Granny” and the name stuck.

The Changing Economy
In the twentieth century, the Pinewood Springs area slowly changed from rural ranches and homesteads to a residential community.

From 1900 to 1950 most residents of the area were homesteaders like the Walkers or Browns in Homestead Meadows, or ranchers like Louis Meining and Granny May. The sale by Granny May of his property to Dwight Webster marked the beginning of a new era.

Earl Dwight Webster was born in Kansas on July 16, 1916, and came to Colorado in 1948. In 1958 he purchased 1,300 acres from Granny May with the idea of creating a vacation home community. Dr. Walter A. Johnson was Dwight Webster’s partner in the business. Dr. Johnson’s wife Margaret thought up the name “Pinewood Springs” for the new community.

Dwight and his son Larry prepared the lots for sale by bulldozing roads, preparing sites for houses, and building their own homes. They also created Crescent Lake near Kiowa Road. 

Photographs are Courtesy of Larry Webster

September 1962, Dwight Webster.

1959 Pinewood Springs Development Company Sales Office.

1959 The Pinewood Springs sales sign advertising modern amenities.

1959 East Pinewood Drive.

1962 Getting ready to build

This new kind of land use was part of a national trend. After World War II, American families wanted their own automobile and home. Prior to World War II, passenger trains had provided transportation for many Americans. The automobile meant access to areas without train service and freedom from railway schedules. This obsession with cars influenced the building of interstate highways, gasoline stations, motels, and restaurants, all catering to a mobile public.

The homes in Pinewood Springs also reveal new trends in vacationing. People wanted amenities like running water, electricity, and indoor plumbing for their mountain retreats. While the exteriors looked rustic, the interiors had every modern amenity available at the time.