John Denver’s house in Aspen, Colorado
One of the most searched terms on my blog is “John Denver’s House“. I did a post a while back called Starwood in Aspen - about a home near John’s house in Aspen, Colorado that was for sale - but not John Denver’s actual house. Starwood is the name of the subdivision where he built his dream home.
I suspect people also search my blog for John Denver’s house because 1) I live in Colorado, 2) I love mountain homes, and 3) I occasionally mention my undying love for John Denver here on my blog.
Your wish is my command. Here is the be-all-and-end-all post on John Denver’s former home in Aspen, Colorado……..
John Denver and his first wife Annie Martell lived in Edina, Minnesota until the late 1960s. With the success of his latest solo album, John brought Annie to Colorado to scope out a site for a future home.
Colorado had always been a favorite destination for John, although he was not actually born here. He was born in Roswell, New Mexico of all places. His father was an officer in the Air Force and the family moved often from state to state. The young Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr had traveled through Denver and was taken by the beauty of the wondrous Colorado Rocky Mountains.
He began singing and playing guitar at age 11 when his grandmother gifted him a guitar. John performed in bars during college and soon became well known in the folk music scene as a singer/song-writer. He joined the group the Chad Mitchell Trio in 1965 and performed with the group until 1968. John was told during this time by record executives to change his name to something shorter. He chose the surname “Denver” in honor of the capital city of his favorite state - Colorado.
One thing I did not know before writing this post was that John Denver attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas where he studied architecture. So when it came time for him and Annie to build their dream home, John enthusiastically designed it himself and the home later won several architectural awards. It was built predominantly from redwood with tons of glass windows to take advantage of passive solar heating from the prime southern exposure.
Why Aspen? John and Annie had been on a ski trip to the community and fell in love with the landscape and the small town atmosphere. Keep in mind that Aspen was not the astronomically expensive wealthy enclave that it is today.
Aspen, Colorado in 1974:
Back then it was one of Colorado’s undiscovered gems. The irony of John Denver’s success is that his presence in (and vocal admiration of) his beloved Aspen contributed to droves of people swarming there. Subsequently, Aspen became an over-priced, heavily developed world famous ski resort destination. You can still find some old-timers in Colorado who are bitter about this and blame John Denver for the bastardization of Aspen, Snowmass and the surrounding areas.
Aspen, Colorado today:
Nonetheless, John Denver was NOT a fan of development and his love for the area was deep and genuine. He wished only to live there in the peace and tranquility of the mountains.
The Denver’s home in Aspen was completed by 1975 – along with a nearby guest house on the property. Even though John and Annie divorced in 1982, he kept possession of the home in Aspen until his untimely death in a plane crash on October 12 of 1997.
John Denver singing on his deck in Aspen:
As a tribute to the late musician, the state of Colorado declared ”Rocky Mountain High“ to be one of its official state songs in 2007.
After John Denver’s death, his adopted children (named on the deed as: DEUTSCHENDORF, ANNA KATE & ZACHARY ) inherited his main house in Aspen. According to the local county assessors records, the property was sold in early February of 1999 for $2,380,000. The buyer is recorded as “GREAT ROMANCE PROFITS LIMITED”. There are no other sales records available, so it appears that the home has not been sold since 1999.
Photos of John Denver’s house are few and far between - believe me - I have looked. His former home is located in a gated community in the high-dollar Starwood development of Aspen so it is difficult to even get close enough to take a picture from afar.
When John Denver’s house was for sale after his death, however, some dedicated fans had the foresight to clip and save the listing photos along with the detailed listing description.
Here are those listing photos of John’s house as it appeared in 1998, interspersed with the realtor’s write-up of his home [reprinted from: http://poemsprayerspromises.tripod.com]
“…Annie and I moved to Aspen. It was Christmas 1970. Mountain promontories had always been a part of the equation for us, and when the numbers for ‘Country Roads’ kept growing, I figured we could afford our dream house….Winter had settled in and there was snow on the slopes; the whole setting went right into your soul.” (John Denver in his autobiography “Take Me Home”)
And so began John Denver’s love affair with Aspen and Starwood. John found Starwood when it had only been minimally developed and was encouraged by a friend to purchase land, “I looked out over the valley… I knew we’d found home.” The following year John was there for the ground breaking, “A couple of hours later, there it was, the whole house laid out in pegs and string, pointing through the hundred-year-old scrub oak to the mountains beyond.”
Now, twenty seven years later the late John Denver’s dream home is being offered for purchase. The new owner of this fabulous home is sure to enjoy its spacious and inviting living spaces and magnificently private property.
This one of a kind property in Starwood is made up of two deeded lots totaling 7.6 acres. Together these lots afford its occupant some of the most spectacular views in the valley of all 4 ski areas including Pyramid Peak and the 13,200 foot Mt. Daly. The landscaping includes many mature trees and naturally occurring brush. There are flat grassy areas giving this property a potential for horses.
Unique water features are found throughout the property. There is a waterfall and summer stream. Small ponds are connected by a bubbling little creek that winds along the front entry steps providing guests with a very tranquil welcome. The compound encompasses three buildings with over 9,000 s.f. of living space.
The main house is 6,849 s.f. with 5 bedrooms and 5.5 baths and is situated on its own deeded lot. It is accessed by a circular driveway that is naturally landscaped and private. The main house has a 2 car garage with its own entrance to the house separate from the main entrance. The second deeded lot has its own private drive and a 3 bedroom, 2 bath 2,228 s.f guest house with a separate 1 car garage and spacious office.
The main house faces south and drinks in the sun incorporating it into solar energy. The exterior is all redwood with a cedar shingle roof. The home itself is large and meandering with lots of intimate spaces. It is a romantic home with lots of separate gathering places.
The kitchen is an inviting gathering place with gorgeous woodwork and a large center island. A separate sitting area has a fireplace and a sunroom leads out to the pool. The pool area includes a large hot tub and in ground trampoline. Decks surround the house and draw guests outside to take in the most spectacular mountain views in Starwood. The large great room has an exquisite stone fireplace and leads again to the decks overlooking the spectacular mountain views that this home was designed to take advantage of. There is a separate office and library as well as an intimate sitting room with fireplace.
The dining area is just off the kitchen and here as well as throughout the house is extensive and elegant woodwork. A special inclusion in the sale price of this home is a grand piano in its own special alcove that one can image was a focal point.
The master suite is large with its own fireplace and beautiful built-ins. There are his and her bathrooms and dressing rooms, a sauna and two person jacuzzi. The master bath is separated from the bedroom by a wall of custom stained glass. The master suite has private access to the outdoor decks and the fabulous mountain views beyond which provided such inspiration to its former owner.
The lower level has a pool room with an attractive pool table included and a three brass lamp chandelier. Additional highlights include private guest rooms, a nursery, wine room, lots of storage and a security system.
The quality of the reproduced photos is poor but it is an impressive real estate write-up for a remarkable musician’s former home.
When the house did sell the next year, the Aspen Times newspaper ran the following article, though some of the information in it contradicts the official Pitkin County assessors records (like the sales price and date of sale) :
John Denver’s house becomes a second home
By Tim Mutrie Aspen Times Staff Reporter
Date this article ran in the Aspen Times: 4/1/1999
Dopkin declined to identify the buyers, but said a family had purchased the seven-plus acre estate.
“They’re going to keep the home and use it as a family retreat and vacation home,” she said.
Some local residents and far-flung John Denver fans had suggested that the residence, which went on the market July 8, 1998, be made into a museum to honor the late singer and activist who died in a plane crash off the coast of California in October 1997.
A 6,800-square-foot, five-bedroom main house and 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom guest house sit on the former Denver estate, Dopkin said.
“The house is a house of intimate spaces,” Dopkin said. “It’s very romantic with a lot of quality to it. The master bedroom is very unusual because it has a whole wall of stained glass, a Jacuzzi for two, a steam room. [Denver’s] study is almost spiritual in feeling and it has a library and reading loft just off of it, and then a deck with a telescope.
“His house isn’t just a house, it’s an experience,” Dopkin said. “It has character to it, and that sounds like it must have been funky, but it wasn’t, it was quality. It has a lot of things that I would call timeless. It has very interesting architecture, with lots of wood and lots of solar applications.”
Dopkin said Denver and his former wife, Annie, built the two houses in 1975. Both were remodeled in 1984, she added.
“There’s a swimming pool and beautiful grounds, suitable for horses. It’s just a very romantic house,” Dopkin said.
“The place has the most spectacular views,” she added.
When Denver purchased the two adjoining lots in the 1970s, “he had his choice of almost any lot in Starwood and he chose this one,” she said.
Denver’s presence in the subdivision attracted so many fans that the singer put up the funds for the first Starwood guardhouse.
John Denver did not have a will when he died so his first ex-wife (Annie Martell) was appointed as estate executrix by a judge. Annie divided John’s assets equally between his three children (2 adopted with Annie, and a third biological daughter with his second wife). The federal government penalized Denver’s estate with huge taxes because he did not have a will upon his death. His property went through probate court and the guest house was reportedly subdivided from the main house and sold separately. (source)
A tribute museum would have been a great way to preserve the main house and to honor the legacy of its famous designer and former owner. But, alas, it was not meant to be. John’s creation in Starwood is now a private home completely off-limits to the public. There is no gravestone or cemetery where you can visit John in memory either – his remains were cremated and scattered in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
But if you ever do find yourself in Aspen Colorado, there is a special place where you can go to pay your respects to Colorado’s beloved son. The John Denver Sanctuary park is free, open to the public and is a truly an emotional experience.
I was there a few years ago in the summertime, and, well, let’s just say I fell in love with John Denver – and Colorado - all over again.
*** There is a lot of contradictory and even false information floating around on the Internet about John Denver’s home. I spent days wading through it all trying to piece together the true story. If you find I have anything in error, or you have more details to add, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.