Dolores Ebner’s road to ruin cuts through the Dakota Ridge hogback southwest of Denver and then veers north past pale limestone and ruddy sandstone slopes covered in Gamble Oak and Ponderosa Pine to an upscale Ken-Caryl Ranch neighborhood. Ebner has been driving this road for nine years now and preservationists should thank her for it.
Ebner’s route—otherwise known as Ken-Caryl Avenue and North Ranch Road—leads to beautiful Bradford Park, which features tennis courts, a playground, a swimming pool, and the ruins of an important pioneer’s home that burned down in 1967. Once listed on Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s Most Endangered Places List, this jumble of collapsing stone walls—known today as the Bradford-Perley House—has been stabilized and preserved as a picturesque reminder of the area’s heritage and as a gathering place for school-age and adult education programs focusing on early Colorado history.
Ebner and other members of the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society convinced the Ken-Caryl Ranch homeowners’ association to make this site’s preservation a priority almost a decade ago. Since then, the association has worked with the historical society, the State Historical Fund, and other groups to save what is left of this fragile chapter of Jefferson County’s story.
The story began when Major Robert Boyles Bradford moved here in 1859 to set up a general merchandise store for the freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell. A full partner in the business, Bradford wanted to establish the area as a commercial and transportation hub for mountain mining districts. To facilitate his vision, he incorporated a company that built a wagon road from the banks of Cherry Creek in Auraria through his homestead in present-day Ken-Caryl Ranch, to the Blue River mines via South Park. The road operated for seven years and was eventually extended to Breckenridge, a town that Bradford helped to establish.