Review: Hiwan Homestead Historical Museum

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I discovered that many people are like me in that they live in an area for years and never get around to visiting the local museums, or any other local attractions. I have been a Colorado resident for 17 years, and this is the first time that I have taken the time to visit this must-see attraction in Evergreen, Colorado. If you are from Colorado or visiting from another state, this is a museum well worth a visit. I enjoy museums that center around local history as they tell much of the story of how a community came to be.

History Of The Home

Hiwan Homested Historical Museum, a 17-room log structure, in Evergreen, Colorado began as a one-room mountain cabin, and, over a twenty-year period in the early 1900s, Scottish immigrant, Jock Spence, turned it in to the rustic mansion that it is today. John “Jock” Spence came to Evergreen in the late 1880′s. He was a builder, a carpenter, and a mason. Some of the buildings he constructed such as the Evergreen Conference Center, some Evans Ranch homes and Greystone remain intact throughout the Evergreen area.

The Families

A civil war widow, Mary Neosho Williams, lived in the home until her death in 1914. Her daughter, Dr. Josepha Douglas, the first female physician in Colorado, lived in the home with her husband, Episcopal Priest Charles Winfred Douglas until the late 1930s, when the home was sold to Oklahoma businessman Darst Buchanan.

Father and Dr. Douglas’s son Frederic H. Douglas, known as “Eric”, his wife Freda and their three children spent 12 summers living in one of the small homes behind the mansion. Eric, an avid Native American art collector, left much of his collection in the mansion.

Unique Aspects

Embedded into a fireplace mantle in one of the bedrooms are numerous tiles crafted by Hopi artisans. While the pieces have been verified by Native American art experts as Hopi art, they are unique and no similar pieces are known to exist. Eric also painted his own Native American inspired art on one wall of the main dining room.

On the top floor is the most interesting room in the home. Father Douglas had a sanctuary where he conducted religious services for small groups. The octagonal room, replete with European flags adorning the ceiling, seems too large to be part of the home. Beautiful handcrafted, dark paneling surrounds pews, a church organ, and an altar.

The home when viewed from the outside does not seem to contain the space needed to accommodate an indoor chapel, large dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, classrooms, and a octagon room containing a two story tall fireplace over which hangs a portrait of Father Douglas. You really have to experience it to understand how a superior craftsman like Jock Spence put it all together.


The name, Hiwan, sounds, to me, as if it is from a Native American language, but, surprisingly, it is not. It is an Anglo-Saxon word that refers to the amount of land that one man can plow in one day. It can also refer to “members of a family household.” Ruth Buchanan, wife of oilman Darst Buchanan who purchased the property in the late 1930s, first used the term to give the ranch a new name.

The Buchanans lived on the property until the early 1970s when the home was converted to a museum. At one point the Buchanans had as much as 15,000 acres of land adjacent to the home. They used it as a working cattle ranch until the late 1960s.

Following the Buchanan’s deaths, the county purchased the main home and its surrounding buildings. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public year-round. In addition to tours and events, there are numerous educational activities for adults and children.

Make this fascinating and educational experience part of your next road trip. It will be well worth your time, as you will learn not only about the local history of Evergreen and its people but a little more about the American experience as well.

About Bloice Davison

Bloice C. Davison, III blogs, travels occasionally, and takes pictures. He has experience in the telecommunications, banking, retailing and outside sales businesses. He is a former fly-fishing guide and fly-fishing instructor for the Orvis Company. He served as an Aircraft Maintenance Specialist in the United States Air Force. A 1988 graduate of Virginia Tech, he also has a BS in statistics from the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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