Cranmer, George E.
(1884 – 1975)
A Colorado native, George Cranmer loved the outdoors because of his family’s ranching activity, which later defined his career. After graduating from Princeton in 1907, he worked in his family’s ranching business and partnered in a brokerage firm. He liquidated his holdings in the firm the year before the crash of the stock market in 1929, not because of any foresight but because of a disagreement with his partner. He’d acquired enough wealth to retire at age 44.
He entered into politics, chairing Ben Stapleton’s successful bid for becoming mayor of Denver and in 1935 was named Manager of Parks and Improvements. The mountain parks system – conceived by John Brisben Walker and Mayor Robert Speer – was implemented in 1913 with passage of a mill levy.
In the position as Manager of Parks and Improvements, he was responsible for the construction of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. He was known for getting things done, one who sometimes sought out unconventional means to accomplish his goals, and one who didn’t always follow protocol. He utilized the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) to dynamite and clear the rocks between the imposing red rock formations that created the outdoor theatre with natural acoustics and a seating capacity of more than 9,500. The construction project took 12 years.
Between 1935 and 1947 Cranmer approached his job to oversee the 8,600 acres in the Denver Mountain Parks system aggressively, developing not only Red Rocks but also the Winter Park ski area in 1940 and Genesee Park’s buffalo pasture. He was instrumental in developing the Valley Highway (now I-25 through Denver), routing of the Boulder Turnpike, and acquiring land for Stapleton Airport.
He was referred to as "The Pericles of Denver."
In addition to the C.C.C. he utilized Depression-era entities such as the P.W.A. (Public Works Administration) and the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) as well as the National Park Service for the construction of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, shelters and trails. He also used volunteers to build the early trails. After Cranmer left office in 1947, the mill levy for parks and recreation was reduced and later dropped altogether. In 1982 the budget was cut in half and staffing was reduced to just 9 people. Since 2002 Winter Park Resort has been operated by a Canadian company.
Many of the parks that comprise the Denver Mountain Parks system lie within Jefferson County and specifically within the 80439 ZIP code. Evergreen Lake and Evergreen Golf Course are among the 24 developed properties.
Cranmer loved Evergreen, building a home – a “soddy” – along Upper Bear Creek (just beyond Yankee Creek) in 1922. He was frequently seen skating on Evergreen Lake and even entertained Robert Frost and his family in his Evergreen home in 1931. The ranch was sold in 1943 and later became known as Singin’ River Ranch.
His obituary labeled him “a doer not a procrastinator or an apologist for what couldn’t be done. At times he was ornery and arbitrary, sometimes even irascible. But his interest was the commonweal and there arose no doubt about his priorities. He always felt money would come through for public projects if the idea were inspiring enough.”
Cranmer was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1977 and in the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 1998.