Preserving the heritage of the land.

February 24, 2020

With every step of planning the Independence Homes community, we’ve focused on preserving what came before, conserving valuable resources, and leaving a smaller footprint so that all our residents can enjoy more, while using less. We’re configuring new homes on acres of open space while maintaining and restoring as much of the original property as possible in order to create a true conservation community that honors the rich history of the land. While this is a challenging task, we continue to draw inspiration from what came before to guide our path forward.

Here’s what we know about the land’s past.

The 1,000 acres that now makes up our Independence Homes community first belonged to the Bentley family, originally from the Dakotas and long before they were divided into north and south states. Sometime around 1870, the family made the long journey to Colorado to homestead the land, thanks to the recent passing of the federal Homestead Act of 1862 which granted a portion of public land (usually 160 acres) to any US citizen willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years. In a way, the Bentleys came in search of their own kind of independence—the freedom to start a new life for themselves here in Colorado. And to a large degree, this is what influenced the name we chose for this special new community.

Independence Homes in Elizabeth, CO

How their legacy began.

It started with a simple two-room cabin the family built themselves, by hand, from timber salvaged from the property. Once complete, they settled into their new Western life ranching cattle and farming wheat. They also ran a metal shop on the property, as well as Elbert County’s first telegraph station. In the early 1900s, the family upgraded their accommodations, ordering a Queen Ann Victorian-style kit home from Radford and Harris Brothers made from locally sourced lumber The house was shipped in parts to the local train station in Elizabeth, which required the Bentleys to make the 16-mile round-trip nearly 100 times (yes, you read that right) with a team of horses, picking up all they could carry home and then returning for another haul.

With no power tools available back then, the kit home, just like the original cabin, was constructed by hand. The family lived in this same house from about 1908 until the early 1960s, making a living off of —and living in harmony with—the land they called home for over a century.

Our role in the Bentley’s story.

When Craft Companies acquired the property, both of the historic homes were still standing, however in dilapidated condition. We set out to restore both to as close to their original condition as possible. To do this, we’ve partnered with local Elbert County workers who are restoring it by hand, piece-by-piece, using hand spades to dig out the foundation and rebuild it one nail at a time. To ensure the integrity of the restoration, we’re using historical oils and other antiquated materials to repair both the interior and exterior, as opposed to modern day chippers, sprayers and the like.

To further ensure the authenticity of our preservation efforts, we’re going to great lengths to replicate the specific, original detailing of the original buildings. For example, we brought in a color consultant specializing in period home restoration to select appropriate paint colors for the restoration of both the cabin and the kit home. We’re adhering to the highest levels of craftsmanship as well, repurposing wood found on the property to replace missing pieces of siding or railing—rather than purchasing new, inauthentic materials.

In order to honor the history of the land with our new construction, we’re drawing inspiration from both the color palette and architectural style of the Bentley’s historic homes to create our updated, modern farmhouse style for the houses that will make up our Independence Homes community.

Another notable influence carried over from the past is the kit home’s oversized front porch, which influenced the design guidelines for expansive front porches on all new homes at Independence—far larger than porches a buyer might find anywhere else in Colorado. We believe that by incorporating these inviting, welcoming outdoor spaces for people to gather, residents will be drawn to the front of their homes—creating a more vibrant, energetic community where kids can play together in the yard and neighbors can have more interaction with one another. The large porches also help to activate the front elevations of each home, creating a dramatically different feeling in Independence Homes than you’ll find in other Colorado residential communities.

A symbol of the past, reimagined for the future.

In addition to restoring the original homestead outpost, we’re investing considerable efforts and resources to repurpose the other historic buildings on the property, including the old farmhouse, barn and silo, which will all become part of a new, central community space called Homestead Park. A tribute to the early Bentley ranch, the original buildings are being transformed into innovative and useful amenities that will bring neighbors and families together to play, relax and reconnect, creating a truly unified new community designed to thrive long into the future.

Independence Homes historic community