John C. Shaffer
I finished researching all the names on the Pioneer Monument. My plan was to start on the buildings of Civic Center but, instead I decided to research the names on the Greek Theatre located in Civic Center. The memorial claims: “…the names of civic benefactors who by gifts of material character have added to the beauty or the distinction of this city”.
THE COLONNADE OF CIVIC BENEFACTORS, John C. Shaffer name is top, left.
The first name listed is John C. Shaffer. Shaffer was born in Baltimore in 1852. He moved to Chicago in 1874, becoming a successful businessman involved in city transit systems. He started with Richmond, Indiana, then moved on to successes in Indianapolis and finally Chicago. In 1901 he branched out into newspapers, buying the Chicago Evening Post. When he visited one of his two sons, Kent, in Denver he got interested in Denver’s newspapers. John C. bought the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Times and the Denver Republican in 1913. A year later purchased 2,660 acres of land southwest of Denver.
While in Chicago, Shaffer bought the Chicago Evening Post in 1901. In 1905 he was President of the Parmelee Transfer Company. In 1911 he partnered with John G. Shedd of Chicago aquarium fame to start Chicago Motor Transportation Company. This was the first attempt at bus service in Chicago.
The ranch that John and his wife, Virginia, bought was named after their two sons, Kent and Carroll. The portmanteau, KenCaryl, is a combination of both son’s names. The ranch raised award winning Herford cattle. The Manor House was built on the highest point on the property. It still exists overlooking KenCaryl, a Manville planned community that was started in 1971.
Ironically, Shaffer had an interest in cars, owning at one time, seventeen. He belonged to the Chicago Automobile Club. But, he never learned to drive, he was driven to his ranch by a driver.
John C. Shaffer was an affluent man. He knew Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Warren Harding. He supported the Chicago Civic Opera and the Symphony Orchestra. In 1922 he received the medal of “Legion of Honor” from the French Government for his work in journalism. He later had contact with Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had another house in Santa Barbara, California, and one in Evanston, Illinois.
The Manor House at KenCaryl was designed by prolific Denver architect Frank Edbrooke. It still overlooks the former ranch. The 9,000 square foot Georgian style house had 20 rooms, 6 baths and cost $100,000 to build in 1914. There were other buildings at the ranch including a barn and associated buildings that is on the Jefferson County Historical Commission. When I drove to KenCaryl recently the barn was a hub of activity, numerous equestrians were hovering around the barn and corrals. The equestrian center offers many activities, including horse boarding and riding lessons.
Even though Shaffer had the good timing to sell his Denver newspapers to the Scripps-Howard chain in 1926 he did not weather the Depression well. In 1933 he had to give up the Ranch. He continued to borrow from the “3 B’s”, Boettcher, Bonfils and Bennett. He donated the house in Evanston to Northwestern University with the agreement he could lived there till death took him.
The Manor House, KenCaryl, now an event center.
Close up of the list of benefactors.
The ownership of the ranch passed to William L. Allen of the Sheffield Steel Company of Kansas City. Then to Joseph Minissale who was involved in real estate. Before it went to John’s Mansville, A.T. “Cap” McDonald, an oilman, owned the ranch.
Chicago Automobile Club, The Automobile, Vol II, Issues 1-27
Bulletin of International Railway Congress, Vol 19, pg 2090
Automotive Topics, Vol 23, 10/21/1911, pg 126