Golden History Moment

This is a bit beyond my usual territory, but I’ve always been interested in the El Rancho restaurant, just off I-70. I was also intrigued by “The TeePees.” I didn’t know where they were, but I kept coming across postcards showing them. The old postcards identified both as being in Golden, Colorado. I recently learned that the two businesses were right across the road from each other.

My neighbor, John McEncroe, spent a lot of his youth at El Rancho–because his family owned it! I asked him to relate some of his memories, and he was kind enough to write the following:

El Rancho Colorado Restaurant – Click to enlarge

by John McEncroe

El Rancho restaurant was built in 1948 by the Jahnkes as a trading post and café. It was purchased by Ray Zipprich (my maternal grandfather) in 1954. In 1958 our family moved from Milwaukee to Kittredge so that my father, Paul McEncroe, could take over management (and in 1965, ownership) of the restaurant.

The TeePees – Click to enlarge

In the early 1960s, there were only 2 commercial buildings at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 40 and Highway 74. Although El Rancho was certainly an attractive building, most people referred to “turning at the TeePees,” when trying to explain to people how to find Evergreen. My recollection is that “The TeePees” burned down in ~ 1962 (it was never rebuilt), and as such, El Rancho became the sole remaining business in the area, and capitalized on its newly found, and fortuitous designation, as a landmark. By the late 1960s (under my father’s vision) it had earned the reputation as one of two great restaurants (the other being “The Fort”) on the west side of the metro Denver area for special dinner occasions, especially when entertaining out of town guests.

El Rancho’s view of the snowcaps, newly-revealed, courtesy of the Highway Department! – Click to enlarge

Although El Rancho had a view of one or two snowcaps from the main dining room, much of the magnificent view of the snowcaps visible from the bison overlook at Genesee was hidden by a hill about 300’ due west of El Rancho. As construction of I-70 up Mt. Vernon Canyon began in ~ 1969, my father realized that an opportunity existed to open up our view to the west to match that from the top of Genesee, and he let the contractor for I-70 know that they could take as much fill as they wanted, and we wound up with essentially the same view as from the top of Genesee but minus the visible traffic at the bison overlook. In ~ 1973, a few years after I-70 had been built past El Rancho, a high end restaurant chain purchased land near the top of the Genesee exit to build “The Chart House.” My Dad was deeply concerned that it would heavily cut into our business, and was ecstatic when the framing was in place, and it became apparent that their view was to be of the metro Denver area and not the snowcaps.

In 1972, My father told me that I could take over El Rancho when he retired, but knowing that I did not have his love for it, nor his marketing acumen, I said that although I appreciated the offer, I was not interested. In ~ 1985, he decided to start looking for a buyer, and we sold it in 1988 (my Dad had “sweetened the pot” by arranging for a percentage of the proceeds of its sale to my wife Carol and me if we remained involved until it sold).

The restaurant had a couple of owners after the McEncroes, and since 2015 it has operated as a brewpub (but it’s currently closed for remodeling).