Discover the Lucas Homestead at Castlewood Canyon State Park
Take a walk back in time on the Homestead trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park. The Homestead parking lot on the park’s east side is near the middle of the Lucas family’s original 160-acre homestead. At the bottom of the hill is the most dramatic evidence of their lives here—the skeleton of a concrete house. Yes, concrete!
Irish immigrants Patrick Lucas and Margaret McCardle met and married in Arizona in the 1880s. They moved to Colorado in 1893, perhaps lured by the promise of irrigation water from the newly constructed Castlewood Dam. After filing homestead papers on this site, the Lucases built a wooden home. The Lucas family had grown to include eight children by 1910, so it’s no wonder they built a larger home. Patrick may have gotten the idea to use concrete when he was in Illinois, where it was more commonly used in home building.
For a glimpse of what life was like on the Lucas Homestead, take the self-guided trail, about two-thirds of a mile round-trip, which heads south from the house. Stop at the numbered markers along the way and imagine the purpose of the structure you see. (The trail brochure may be downloaded HERE.)
A few yards from the house, at marker 2, is a wooden structure in the trees and scrub oak to the right of the trail. This was the livestock-loading chute. Find a large, iron ring, or “eye,” in the grass about 20 feet in front of the chute. Horses were probably tied to this ring to prevent them from straying off to graze while cattle were being loaded.
Just past the chute, walk up the slight incline on your right at marker 3. The concrete floor has rectangular troughs and curved troughs on each side with bolts and wood visible on one side. This may have been the milking parlor in a larger barn. Milking parlors had to be kept clean and troughs made it easier to “muck out” the parlor after each milking. The Lucas boys probably did the milking, being extra careful in winter to avoid swishing tails coated with frozen dirt!
In the days before refrigerators, how did the Lucases keep the milk fresh? A bit farther down the trail, at marker 4, is the answer. Those low concrete walls were part of a spring house. A trough in the middle of the structure directed water from a spring uphill from the spring house and milk jugs would be placed in the cool water each morning to keep the milk fresh. An outlet downhill allowed the water to flow out of the spring house, ensuring there was always clean, fresh water.
Continue down the hill to a large concrete structure at marker 5. This looks big enough to be a barn, but there are no bolts sticking up from the low walls, so there may never have been a roof over it. Maybe it was a silage pit to sweeten hay before feeding it to the stock or to sweeten manure before spreading it on the fields? “Sweetening” means letting the hay or manure ripen and decompose before using it.
Can you spot a bedspring near the south wall of this structure? There are stories that Patrick Lucas would tie three old bedsprings together, stretch them across the road as a tollgate, and charge 25 cents for cars to cross his property!
Now walk back toward the spring house until you see, on your right, marker 6. Beyond it is one of the most remarkable, and mysterious, structures on the homestead—a concrete, six-foot-high, L-shaped wall embedded with beautiful rocks. Notice the bolts on the top of this fancy wall. Those suggest something was nailed to the top to create a roof over the two-sided structure, creating a shelter. Milk cows are valuable property and dairy farmers today play music for their cows and paint barns and milking parlors in pleasant colors. Do you think the Lucases built this wall to please their cows and give them a particularly fine shelter?
The tour of the Lucas homestead ends here, but, for a longer hike, continue down the Homestead trail to the junction with Inner Canyon trail or, after crossing Cherry Creek, the Rimrock trail.
To get to the Lucas Homestead, drive west on Highway 86 from Franktown about one-quarter mile and then south on Castlewood Canyon Road for two miles. The Homestead parking lot is just past the park’s self-service pass dispenser.
postscript: Patrick Lucas died in the concrete house in 1936 and Margaret moved to Denver in 1941. The concrete house was never lived in again. Fire swept the property in the late 1950s/early 1960s.
Story written by Linda Pohle. Pohle is a freelance writer and volunteer at Castlewood Canyon State Park.