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Neighborhoods - I-70 Corridor: Panorama Estates

1950s “Beverly Hills” of JeffCo’s Foothills

Unincorporated JeffCo • Golden 80401 zip code • south of the east Lookout Mountain summit

Indians cherished Lookout Mountain for the extraordinary views of the plains to the east and Continental Divide to the west. Today’s community of 78 families treasure their neighborhood and the same views cherished by Indians.

1911 Plat
1911 Plat

The first recorded deed to the land was signed by President Grant to Abraham and Sarah Hartzell in 1875. More land was deeded to Samuel and Mary Hess in 1880. The Denver Lookout Mountain Resort Land Transit and Improvement Company acquired 2300 acres of Lookout Mountain in 1889 for a resort capitalized with $500,000. Investors hired Frederick Law Olmsted (creator of New York’s Central Park) to plan a resort hotel at the east summit (where nonconforming antenna towers now stand) with hiking and horse trails connected clusters of summer cabins. Colorado’s silver bust in 1893 and lack of a water supply delayed the project.

Plat 1956
1952 Plat

In 1902, the Lookout Mountain Resort Company was again capitalized. In 1903, the City of Golden agreed to provide water taps for Lookout development in exchange for a pipeline right-of-way from Beaver Brook Watershed to Cedar Lake Reservoir and down to the city. British developer Rees Vidler acquired much of the resort land in 1907. Golden booster “Cement Bill” completed the Lariat Trail to Lookout from Golden and Vidler built a funicular up from Golden in 1914. The City of Denver acquired land for Lookout Mountain Park and a gravesite for Buffalo Bill in 1917. Mount Vernon Country Club, established in 1922, became THE primary amenity as Lookout Mountain for wealthy nature lovers. The 1930s Depression and World War II delayed further development until the housing shortage of the 1950s brought GIs to build homes in the foothills with federal Veteran Administration loans.

Bill and Nelle Beth Weller acquired and filed the Panorama Heights plat for homes on Lookout Mountain in 1948-1955. Mrs. Weller carefully tracked potential real estate deals while working for the Jefferson County Assessor. Jefferson County rezoned the area for mixed use in 1953 and almost exclusively for residential in 1955 (including “TV hill” lots). Dick and Marge Over purchased one of the first Panorama lots on Mountsfield Drive for $1,639 in 1953. Genesee developer Galen Knickel was also a first buyer.

The Weller Water line connected the neighborhood of 78 custom ranch homes with two miles of lateral pipelines for untreated Golden water. “We cleaned up the water with a charcoal filter as it entered the house,” explains Over. After many years of citizen strategy to gain treated water, voters approved formation of the Lookout Mountain Water District in 1988. Lookout neighborhoods continue to be responsible for lateral lines, but are blessed with clean, treated water that has only been used by wild flora and fauna near Mount Evans.

“Lookout was a popular place for picnics, hiking, and entertainment,” Dick said. “People loved the historic Beaver Brook Trail, Buffalo Bill’s Pahaska Lodge, and the views. We square-danced at the Lighted Lantern and enjoyed jazz and steak dinners at the Robin’s Nest.” You could hear the country western bands for miles coming from Sam’s Cowhide Corners (now Crystal Rose).

Scott Coors, son of Bill and Phyllis, watched the extreme proliferation of antenna towers without any permission of residents while growing up in Panorama Estates. After going away to college and career, Coors returned in 2002 and purchased an extraordinary new home with metro area views with his partner Dr. David Hurt. “I love my community and want to see it remain a healthy and vibrant treasure of the foothills,” Coors said.

Panorama homes

Dr. Ron and Gretchen Larson have lived in Panorama since 1977. They sold their original home with a spectacular view in 2004 and built their solar dream home on one of the few remaining vacant lots. “We like the neighborhood and native terrain,” said Larson who helped establish the Solar Energy Research Institute and continues to be deeply involved with energy efficiency from renewable sources. Coffee entrepreneur Bill Boyers and JeffCo Transportation Director Zeek Zebauers are neighbors.

Panorama Estates home

Organized: The homeowner association maintains the water laterals for $110 per family annually. Traditions: Spring clean up, Summer picnic, Christmas party. Many residents serve the community as elected directors of local fire and water districts.

Real Estate Values: $450,000 to $3 million.

Schools: Ralston Elementary, Bell Middle School and Golden High School.

Amenities: Views, wildlife, Mt. Vernon Country Club.

Plus: Average home ownership in the “established neighborhood” is 27 years.

Minus: Shopping requires driving 8 miles to Evergreen, Golden, or Lakewood; Jefferson County allowed four antenna towers of the 1950s to grow to forty+ towers for more then thousand antennas by the 1990s. All (except two rezoned by JeffCo Commissioners in the early 1980s) stand on residential-zoned lots.

Dick & Marge Over
Dick and Marge Over

Dick Over, 83, is Panorama Estate’s primary watchdog, booster, and cheerful community servant. He enlisted at age 19 in the 10th Mountain Division ski troop that trained near Aspen and fought in Italy during World War II. Over, along with Bill Coors, Bruce Benson, Pete Bates, and others met every week for 12 years to create the Lookout Mountain Water District. Over enjoyed an enthusiastic career in photography and design of mining equipment, installation of X-Ray machines, and directing audio/visual productions. Since retiring, Over has presented the history and spirit of the 10th Mountain Division to hundreds of community groups and classrooms. He is now helping to plan the final reunion of 10th retirees this August.

“We knew the Johnsons who lived in the rock house on TV Hill. We assumed the antennas close by were not dangerous and would give us good reception,” Over said. “We trusted government to protect us then.” The antenna resort was not considered a problem until the EPA studied the area in 1986, after development of more than 1,300 homes on Lookout Mountain.

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