One of the oldest games in the world, an early form of bowling was discovered in an ancient tomb in Egypt. The more modern game began in Germany around 400 AD.

What’s the connection between this ancient game and the Highlands Ranch Mansion? For the elite of the Gilded Age, the height of luxury was to have a private home bowling alley. Bowling was one of the few sports at the time where men and women could play together without breaking Victorian social and moral customs. In 1910, owner John Springer had a one-lane bowling alley built in a small building on the east side of the Highlands Ranch Mansion.  The Bowling Alley Contractor was Frank Ford in 1910.   If one looks closely, the metal plate placed into the outside wall of the alley is visible.

While the one-lane wooden alley shows the wear and tear of its history, it’s one of the few remaining private bowling alleys in the Denver metro area. The Mansion’s facility is unique in that it was built in a stand-alone building rather than a basement and features a fireplace and a decorative tower.

Springer was in good company. Henry Ford had a bowling alley installed at his Fair Lane mansion around the same time.

The oldest private bowling alley is thought to be that in the 1846 Roseland Cottage in Connecticut, built for Henry Chandler Bowen – a wealthy silk merchant and newspaperman. The most prestigious bowling alley, however, is the two-laner in the basement of the White House, installed in 1947 for President Harry S. Truman. The most unusual bowling alley is probably the two-lane one at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. For its opening, they used special stuffed penguins as bowling pins.   It’s still possible for enthusiasts to play the ancient game at home. However, today the cost to install a single-lane home bowling alley ranges from $75,000 to $105,000 and up.

Dr. Marvin Beeman basically grew up on and around the Ranch during the Phipps ownership years.  At a recent HRHS program Dr. Beeman was asked if he had any recollections of the bowling alley.  A big smile came on his face as he recounted   “Yes, I bowled there.  It was always a bit hectic in there, the floor was a little bowed”.

In May 2023 the 113-year-old Highlands Ranch Mansion bowling alley was cleaned, rehabilitated and opened for historic tour visitors. The Metro District partnered on this rehabilitation project with the Highlands Ranch Park & Recreation Foundation, which enhances community projects and helps support historic preservation at the Mansion. Susie Appleby, Mansion Volunteer Coordinator and Historian, spoke enthusiastically at the Ribbon Cutting.  “I actually had a fascinating moment during research on the bowling alley.  I found a 1910 article from the Littleton Independent that Contractor Frank Ford had been hired to build a bowling alley for John Springer.  It is exciting to say that it is now 113 years old!”  Gary Herbella, Foundation Board President and Mansion Docent stated “we have a good insight into the Mansion and history–this project was dear to our hearts!.  During Mansion tours we point out the single lane bowling alley and NOW we can SHOW the bowling alley!”

The next time you visit the Mansion, be sure to see the bowling alley from the outside, and the inside.  Look closely to find the metal plaque built into the wall, and remember to say “thank you” to Frank Ford and John Springer for their foresight into bringing this treasure to the beautiful Mansion.

Written by Marian Robinson, HRHS