Two miles up Rabbit Ears Pass sits a 437-acre subdivision that has enough dedicated open space to go almost unnoticed.
The subdivision is called the Timbers Preserve, and at one time it was planned to be the site of more than 400 residential and lodging units that would cover most of the pristine wooded area. Now, 90 percent of the land is dedicated to a wildlife preserve, common area and recreation.
The number of units was scaled down to about 100, 43 of which are condos clustered in The Timbers condominium building. Otherwise, the Timbers Preserve is comprised of 30 homes scattered over 70 acres -- 50 of which are dedicated open space -- known as the Timbers Village, and two visitor lodges, Sky Valley Lodge and Aspen View Lodge.
According to an information packet about the preserve, development was scaled back for two reasons: First, that much of the land would require extensive earth-moving to make building possible, and second, because the property owners wanted to keep the area pristine.
One of the developers who came to the property, before it was dubbed the Timbers, was former Steamboat educator Dwight Corder. After cashing in on a family inheritance from IBM stocks in the 1960s, Corder decided to follow his dream of building a school called Buckingham Academy, recalled Jack Lawler, the architect for that project.
Corder contacted Lawler, who at the time worked for a Denver architectural firm. He asked Lawler to design several buildings on the property, including an athletic building and three dormitories, Lawler said. One of those dorms burned down and the other two now serve as lodges of sorts.
One, Sky Valley Lodge, is now a bed and breakfast. Its almost identical twin, the 14-bedroom, 14-bathroom Aspen View Lodge, is being spruced up and renovated into a lodge for family and corporate getaways, said Fred Luhm, owner of Mountain Castles Inc., the company managing the lodge.
Mason and Morse Realtor Ed Ryan owned the former athletics building and worked with homebuyers to renovate it into four townhomes and a single-family unit. In the past month, Ryan traded that building for the Aspen View Lodge.
"I thought I needed a project," Ryan said.
Lawler designed the lodge with heavy timbers, steel and large windows in every room.
"Dwight came to see us in our office in late 1960s, and we were very enthusiastic, because it was a big jump for us," Lawler said.
Lawler said Corder soon got the idea to start a commercial business on Rabbit Ears Pass, as well.
"Originally, all we talked about was the school," Lawler said. "Then I think he got more intrigued by the commercial space."
After the completion of the school, Corder commissioned construction of a tennis center and the Timbers condominiums. The construction included the renovation of an old gas station that served motorists on the old U.S. Highway 40 route that ran through the Timbers Preserve, Lawler said.
The tennis center became a popular destination, even after the demise of the school in the early 1970s, Lawler said.
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