In 2003, we began seriously working with an agent to find a place in the foothills west of Denver. We came across an AMAZING house in Shawnee, Colorado. Shawnee is a one-horse village just south and a little west of the mountain town of Bailey Colorado overlooking the sprawling river valley of the North Fork of the South Platte River.
It has a tiny post office, general store, art gallery and some neat old cabins and Victorian era homes. A mile further down the road is a newer subdivision featuring mountain-contemporary style homes. This is where we found “The One”. Our realtor drove us up a winding gravel road, up the side of a mountain and into the driveway of this incredible house:
The house was literally wrapped around the views! It faced south and had panoramic, sun-drenched views of the mountains. Here it is from another angle:
The house featured a huge solarium with an in-ground cedar hot tub so you could soak while taking in the spectacular views AND the scent of cedar. The whole front of the house was basically glass so you couldn’t get away from the views!
Here’s the actual flyer from 2003:
I still remember that the realtor.com listing stated: “Best views in the area” and that was an understatement. The views from the deck and looking out the windows of the house were enough to literally take my breath away. I think I even got light-headed when I first turned around to see the uninterrupted expanse of snow-capped mountains and ponderosa pines:
[Mountain views are common in Colorado, but UNINTERRUPTED views - i.e. no other houses in sight - are rare and sought-after]
The house had a really unique floor plan too – the likes of which I have never seen before or since. A wide central hallway ran right down the length of the house and all the rooms were open to it with the exception of the bathrooms and bedrooms. There were clerestory windows that let in even more light and views. Another unique feature was the deep ocean-blue ceramic tiles that covered the kitchen counters. I LOVED everything about it!
I’m very sorry that I didn’t take my camera with me back then. The only pictures I have to convey the beauty of this place are from this old, low print-quality flyer:
We were instantly and deeply smitten. We decided to put in an offer on the spot. So we went ahead and submitted an offer for what we could afford – the very tippity-top of our budget (but still short of the seller’s asking price).
We were waiting on pins and needles for 24 hours. Then our realtor called me at work: our offer was completely rejected! We went back and forth with the sellers for about 3 weeks trying to get them to come down to what we could afford. But they just would not budge. With a closing date on our Denver condo fast approaching, we had to find a place to live – FAST. So we had no choice but to move on.
Ironically, my dream house in Shawnee sat on the market for at least another 6 months and the sellers lowered the price (twice). In fact, they eventually had to lower the price to LESS than what we had initially offered! Their bad. But we lost out to. The house eventually sold and I resigned myself to waiting to see if it ever came up for sale again.
Whenever we were in or near Shawnee, we would drive by our lost dream house to make sure it was still there. Then, one day, it wasn’t.
We rounded the corner of the winding road and found… an empty lot. Where our dream house used to stand was a large, dark patch of ashes. Yes my friends, it burned down to the ground!
To say we were in shock, well, let’s just say: I might have even cried. [housecrazy indicator: have you ever mourned a house?] For the longest time we didn’t know what happened to the house in Shawnee. Obviously it was lost to a fire, but what were the circumstances?
Then a couple of years ago, we were out scouting in the area and there was a for-sale sign on the lot of the former Shawnee house. We called the number on the sign to ask about price and ended up getting the full story of how the house burned down. Apparently, the owner had come home late at night after work and put some clothes in the dryer. He went to sleep and was eventually awakened by a raging fire which quickly overtook the entire house. He barely escaped with his life. Because the area is so rural, it took a long time for the fire department to get there. When the flames were all extinguished, the fire investigator determined that faulty wiring in the dryer caused the blaze. And because the house was entirely constructed of wood and glass, it snapped, crackled and popped and went up like a tinder-box.
While the price the seller was asking for the lot was too steep for us, we did walk around on the site for a while and contemplated buying it and re-building that one-of-a-kind beauty we had fallen in love with.
In the end, we settled for just picking through what was left of the ash pile to find tiny shards of glass and – *gasp* – blue tile. I almost took a piece home with me. But then I determined that taking a piece of it would be like robbing a grave. So I just let the poor house’s soul rest in peace.
R.I.P. Shawnee mountain house – you are always in my memory (and forever in my house files).
p.s. Have you ever lost a favorite house?