Many newcomers to Colorado Springs might think of Banning Lewis Ranch as a sprawling subdivision on the eastern edge of the city. Originally, it was a large cattle ranch of more than 30,000 acres. While a good portion of the original acreage is now occupied by housing, there is still some open land used for cattle grazing.
The land that became Banning Lewis Ranch was once inhabited by Kiowa, Arapahoe and Southern Cheyenne, according to a transcript by Walter Dennis, who grew up on the ranch. It was also a wintering ground for buffalo. Dennis said that arrowheads, buffalo horns and .45 shells could still be found on the property.
In 1864, Dennis wrote that some cavalrymen from H Company, First Colorado Calvary stopped for their noon meal on property that would become Banning Lewis Ranch. Their horses were turned loose with a guard. While the soldiers were eating, a band of Southern Cheyenne overcame the guard and stole their horses. The men had to walk 15 miles to Old Colorado City.
Banning Lewis Ranch came about as the result of the union of two ranching families.
In 1916, the brother of Ruth Banning, a Colorado Springs native and graduate of Wellesley College, died, leaving her the family ranch and the family's coal and ice business. The ranch was located along I-25 South, where Al Kaly Shrine Mule Team is now located. Raymond Lewis, a graduate of Colorado College, owned a ranch at Fowler. Dennis' father, great grandfather and great uncle worked at the Fowler Ranch. Raymond was friends with Will Rogers and spent time at Rogers' California ranch. Ruth Banning and Raymond Lewis were married in 1921 when Raymond was managing the Banning ranch.
Banning Lewis Ranch began in 1922 when Ruth Banning purchased 10 prize-wining heifers from the National Western Stock Show in Denver. In 1924, she sold the Banning ranch and the ice and coal company and entered into a partnership with her husband, which they called the Banning-Lewis Ranches. They moved operations to the newly purchased Ord Ranch 10 miles east of Colorado Springs and lived at the Broadmoor Hotel while their house at the ranch was being built. They-gradually purchased numerous surrounding properties until the ranch grew to about 36,000 acres.
The ranch became famous for Colorado Domino Type Herefords; ranch owners from all over the continental U.S. as well as Alaska and Mexico purchased Banning-Lewis cattle for their own breeding operations. They even sold some of their award winning cattle to John Wayne for his ranch in Arizona. Lewis played polo and was involved in the War Department's Remount Horse Breeding Plan. Raymond and Ruth Lewis were also active in the soil conservation program.
Dennis told of the cowboys who worked the ranch and their horses. They all lived in houses on the ranch, and Dennis wrote that growing up they were a close knit group and everyone seemed like family to him. In addition to the ranch crew, there was a separate farm crew for raising crops. Dennis said that at some seasons of the year there was work seven days a week, all day long.
He recalled a time when his father was trying to drive two cows into a corral. The first one went in OK. The other cow turned back and started down the fence. His father ran into her and she turned his horse over. The horse fell into the fence with his father on it, and his father was badly cut; but, he bandaged himself up and then went back after the escaping cow. This time he got her into the corral.
On another memorable occasion, his father was helping move cattle from one pasture to another and they had to cross a highway. His father was on horseback, stopping traffic. One driver kept inching up even as his father continued motioning for him to stop. Finally, his father's horse, Joker, a black, part Morgan, took action to ensure that the driver got the message. Joker kicked the car's grille with both his back feet.
In a similar situation on another cattle drive, a long-haired automobile driver kept inching toward the cattle. Finally, one of the cowboys reached into the car's open window, grabbed the driver by his long hair and told him to stop.
Ruth Lewis had many civic accomplishments, which included serving on the Colorado Springs District 11 School Board and the city council and being the first woman elected to the board of the American Hereford Association. She also helped organize the Girl Scouts in the Colorado Springs area.
Finally in 2007, residential construction started and the first homeowners moved into the area in January 2008. However, the owner of the property back then was Banning Lewis Ranch Co.; they eventually filed bankruptcy.
Cision PR Webb reported that on July 21, 2007, Capital Pacific, Classic Homes, John Laing Homes and Todays Homes had model homes under construction at Banning Lewis Ranch. In February 2009, John Laing filed for bankruptcy. In February 2009, the bankruptcy was changed to liquidation.
In 1988, when Colorado Springs annexed the ranch, the city increased its size by 25 percent, making it the largest annexation in the state at that time. According to the provisions of that annexation, developers were required to pay for police and fire stations and other infrastructure.
In 2018, the annexation agreement was revised to make it easier on developers The new agreement allowed developers to pay separate impact fees for police and fire stations based on the acreage of the proposed development. In the 1988 agreement, the developers were required to pay 100 percent of the cost of traffic control devices. Under the new agreement, the city will furnish traffic control devices. Under the 1988 agreement, the developer had to pay all costs for street construction. Under the new agreement, developers could be eligible for cost recovery from the city for street construction. Construction of a wastewater treatment plant is no longer required.
A large portion of the original Banning Lewis-ranch property along Marksheffel Road and Woodman Road consists of subdivisions. However, another-large section of the property on both sides of Highway 24 between Constitution Boulevard and Falcon is open pasture land. This land is leased by Clough Cattle and Fence Co. for cattle grazing.
Editor's note: Information for this article is, in part, from Banning Lewis Ranches, Records, Special Collections in the 1905 Carnegie Library; Pikes Peak Library District, including an undated typewritten manuscript by Walter Dennis and general description of the records. Information also was garnered from an article in the February 2011 issue of The New Falcon Herald by Kathleen Wallace titled “Banning Lewis Ranch – the development years,” along with and public records of the city of Colorado Springs.