High on a bluff barely 30 minutes from downtown Denver sits Cherokee Castle, a massive home modeled after a 15th century Scottish castle. The stunning edifice reigns over a storied domain of Colorado history and a nature preserve that honors the late Tweet Kimball, a delightfully eccentric international traveler, philanthropist, equestrian, award-winning cattlewoman and legendary hostess.
Now open to the public, for 55 years Cherokee Castle was home to Mildred Montague Genevieve Kimball, dubbed “Tweet” by her father, a Southern cattle rancher.
Though she came from wealth, Tweet won her Cherokee Ranch estate in 1954 when she divorced her diplomat husband (the first of four), who said there wasn’t room on the same side of the Mississippi for the two of them, so he would buy her any place she chose in the West. She seized his offer, claiming the castle – perfect for displaying her extensive collections of art and antiques – as well as two adjoining pioneer homesteads, and lived happily in Colorado without him, ultimately amassing some 4,500 acres as Cherokee Ranch.
A fervent environmentalist and Anglophile, Tweet created the Cherokee Castle and Ranch Foundation a few years before her death in 1999 to ensure that most of her land would be designated a wildlife preserve in perpetuity, along with preserving her 10,000 square-foot castle and all its treasures, comprised of priceless antiques and one of the nation’s rarest art and book collections.
Tweet knew the castle and ranch would require upkeep and maintenance, so she quietly included in her will a provision that 1,100 acres of her beloved “Summer Pasture” could be sold with the proceeds going to her foundation.
Soon after her death at age 84, Koelbel and Company, Colorado’s longest continually operating family-owned real estate firm, bought the cherished land now known as The Keep, a custom-home community. Koelbel set aside 745 acres as open space and limited the remaining land to just 64 sizable estate sites with stringent development guidelines that honor Tweet’s values.
Tweet loved entertaining as much as she loved her castle and ranch. For more than half a century, she welcomed a stream of international dignitaries to mingle with members of her Colorado community. To welcome her foreign guests, Tweet’s beloved butler, John Lake, would hoist the flag of a visitor’s home country.
One night when the castle staff was preparing to welcome a group of British art conservators, a blizzard blew in and the group called to say they couldn’t make it through the storm. But a determined Tweet sent John Lake down Cherokee Mountain to collect the guests at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel. It was 10 PM before they arrived at the castle and 2 AM by the time John ferried them home, entertaining them with stories of Tweet and castle life along the way.
A sampling of her guests includes Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands; Nepal’s crown prince (later king); both Princess Alexandra and Princess Anne of the British Empire; economist/Nobel Prize Winner Milton Friedman; actors Christopher Plummer and Tammie Grimes, who married in the Castle; Winthrop Rockefeller; Colorado governors Roy Romer and Richard Lamm; Denver’s Dan Ritchie, legendary businessman and civic leader; and ambassadors from various countries.
A more permanent guest for some years was Tweet’s mother, also named Mildred. The two were very close. The elder Mrs. Kimball lived in a castle suite surrounded by generations’ worth of memorabilia including a portrait by renowned artist Peter Cook of Tweet’s father, Richard Huntington Kimball, a West Point graduate.
Today, public and private events at are slated at Cherokee Castle, from weddings and other celebrations to fundraisers/commemorations of Tweet’s storied life on the ranch.
Buz Koelbel, president & CEO of Koelbel and Company, said it’s an honor to carry on Tweet’s legacy in a way that he feels would make her proud. To that end, a portion of the sale of every residential property in The Keep goes to the Cherokee Castle and Ranch Foundation to help assure its operations in perpetuity.
In exchange, The Keep homeowners enjoy special access to the beautiful Cherokee Ranch and castle.