David Johnston, the Highlands Ranch Historical Society historian, remembers Highlands Ranch in the 1970s as an empty area south of County Line Road with miles and miles of grassy fields.
“I picked up cans on a dirt road that doesn't exist anymore,” he said.
His interest in the history of Highlands Ranch, along with raising his 11-year-old daughter in the unincorporated Douglas County community, are what inspired his first book, titled “Images of America Highlands Ranch.”
It will be released to the public on Aug. 1.
The book is part of Arcadia Publishing's “Images of America” series, described as an “ambitious collection of chronicles that accurately capture the essence of what gives each American small town, neighborhood, and downtown its unique flavor.”
The 127-page book tells the story of Highlands Ranch from the first homestead owners in 1859 to the current happenings, including the closing of Town Center's Tattered Cover in 2015.
The book is dedicated to “everyone who takes part in making Highlands Ranch history,” Johnston wrote, “including all who have lived, worked, visited or taken part in an event.”
The cover is a sepia-toned photo of the Highlands Ranch Mansion and more than 200 black-and-white photos fill the pages.
The Highlands Ranch Metro District, the Highlands Ranch Mansion and the Douglas County History Research Center contributed most photos, but Johnston took recent ones with his iPhone 6.
The format, he said, makes for an easy read.
“This book is ideal for someone who wants to catch up on Highlands Ranch history, but doesn't necessarily want to spend a lot of time on it,” Johnston said.
For the past year, Johnston a director of software engineering by day — spent weekends and nights perfecting his book. Each chapter has a different focus, including early homesteads, mansion and ranch history, the development of a planned community, outdoor activities and the building of that town feel.
“I think my favorite thing was tying it all together and making a cohesive view of Highlands Ranch history,” he said.
Johnston had help from historical society members, including board member Nancy Linsenbigler.
“This book is a first,” she said. “We are all really proud that we could put together — in one place — the history of Highlands Ranch clear up to present day.”