Camp Shady Brook

Deckers, Colorado | C.1900

Photo Credit: Timothy Li

In 1871, twenty-year-old Robert Bandhauer rode by horseback from Missouri to Denver to start a new life. He served on Denver’s first fire department and eventually opened a blacksmith and carriage shop that employed more than 100 men, providing the ironwork for the Tabor Opera House and Denver Stock Yards.

Robert met his beloved wife, Lizzie, while she was working toward a degree in music, specializing in the piano. They married, had seven children, and enjoyed a comfortable life until the United States switched its monetary system to the gold standard. The couple’s savings, which was invested in silver, swiftly depreciated, and the Bandhauers lost everything—except for one another.

In 1894, the family of nine (plus their dog) packed their belongings, including Lizzie’s dismantled baby grand piano, into two horse-drawn wagons and journeyed toward the mountains. They settled forty miles southwest in Daffodil (later renamed Deckers), Colorado, and began setting the scaffolding for what is today known as Camp Shady Brook.

By the dawn of the twentieth century, the family had built a barn, an icehouse, and a handful of guest cabins that they opened to the public, christening their property Shady Brook Farm. Thanks to an increasing number of visitors, the family was able to continue developing their property, which eventually centered around a new dance hall, serving as a hub for community activities and weekly dances. Local miners and lumberjacks ventured to Shady Brook every Saturday, finally providing Lizzie with a venue to play her reconstructed piano. Her placement on the bench also offered an ideal vantage point to scan the room for potential suitors for her five daughters. Eventually, all seven of their children met their spouses in the family dance hall, to the soundtrack of their mother’s piano playing.

Shady Brook Farm was sold in the 1920s and became a dude ranch until being purchased by the YMCA. Just over a century after the Bandhauers’ resettlement, the property was hit twice by forest fire. Almost all of Shady Brook Farm went up in flames.

The YMCA recognized the importance of the farm and its quintessentially American origins. They replaced buildings and restored life to what is now Camp Shady Brook, which serves thousands of kids each summer. The original cabin, the family’s eventual home, and the matchmaking dance hall somehow made it through the fires and remain standing today.

📖 Full Story Page 21

Create an account to comment! Login/Sign Up.


Log in

Need an account? Sign up

Sign up

Already have an account? Log In

Enter your email to reset your password

Enter your new password