Man wants to turn former John Denver home into peace retreat
The Aspen Times
“I’m looking for people who are willing to invest in peace, nothing more, nothing less
When Willie Hoevers visited the home that John Denver built outside Aspen, “I could sense that his spirit was there,” he told listeners of his radio show.
Hoevers was with two potential buyers who were shown the estate, located in the exclusive Starwood subdivision, by Aspen broker Carol Dopkin. The property is listed for $10.75 million and has been on the market since the summer.
The asking price is fairly in line with Aspen-area real estate. And, like most people, it’s out of line with Hoevers’ price range.
But he has a vision for its future use, and his inspiration hails from the singer-songwriter who built one of the first homes in Starwood in the early 1970s, at the height of Denver’s fame. Denver was an advocate for world peace, environmental issues and other causes.
“This would be an ideal place for global peace talks,” Hoevers said. “I would call it the Global Retreat for Peace.”
Hoevers envisions the property, which consists of a six-bedroom main home and a five-bedroom guesthouse on separately deeded lots with their own driveways, as a place where “presidents, heads of state, whoever is in the position to negotiate these things,” would gather.
A Dillon resident, Hoevers hosts a weekly show on American Veterans Radio. On Jan. 11, he told listeners of his visit to Denver’s home and how he’s starting a campaign to raise funds to acquire the property.
“I’m looking for people who are willing to invest in peace. Nothing more, nothing less,” he said. “And I’m looking for investors who are willing to take that step.”
Hoevers said he was moved when he visited Denver’s home, one that includes a studio where he recorded some of his music.
“I could just picture John or Annie (Denver’s ex-wife) and the kids there. … It was the thrill of my life,” he told listeners.
Dopkin said she likes the idea, but no offers have been made for the property, which is prohibited from being used for commercial purposes.
Hoevers said that’s not his intention, and the location would strictly serve as a venue for discussions about peace.
“A tourist attraction would never work,” said Hoevers, a bass player who has participated in concerts dedicated to Denver’s memory. Hoevers said Denver was the reason he moved to Colorado. “It’s ideal for what I want to do, a great place for background talks, people meeting, whatever it is to bring peace around the world. And I want everybody to understand I’m trying to preserve the property.”
Dopkin, who was a friend of Denver’s, said, “He just wants to make it a private retreat for people who want to make the world a better place.”
Survivors of Denver sold the estate in February 1999 to New York-based entity DBZ Trust. The main home sold for $2.38 million and the guesthouse brought in $1.3 million.
Dopkin said the current owners spend about two weeks a year there and no longer desire to own it.
“They love the property and they’ve maintained it beautifully and very respectfully,” said Dopkin, who also created a YouTube video about the estate.
Starwood originally wasn’t a private neighborhood, but the throngs of fans who wanted to get a glimpse of Denver’s home prompted the entertainer to turn it into a gated community.
Denver died in 1997 after an aircraft he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, California. He was 53.
The John Denver Sanctuary is located by the Rio Grande Park on the banks of the Roaring Fork River in Aspen, and other efforts have been made to memorialize him, including a woman’s movement to name one of Mount Sopris’ peaks after Denver. The effort, which gained a mix of criticism and support, fizzled after the organizer failed to send the petition and application to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.