Kelly Place originated in the early 1960s in the McElmo Canyon of Colorado. The space started as an “oasis in the desert” and was the retirement home of George Kelly, a prominent horticulturist, and his wife Sue. George was a significant contributor to the horticulture of Colorado and was the first director of the Denver Botanical Gardens. He was also a scout leader who had a lot of young folks come to Kelly Place to learn primitive survival skills. At one point he found that there were numerous ancient Puebloan sites on the land, and soon enough he became an amateur archeologist, digging around, retrieving pottery, and learning about the ancient culture that lived there.
Kelly Place was George and Sue Kelly’s home for 20 years, after which it became a magnetic center for the McElmo Canyon after being sold and transformed into a bed & breakfast and retreat center. For 40 years, Kelly Place was home to road scholar groups, meditation groups, and archaeologists who worked in the canyon of the Ancients and performed excavations. Eventually, in September of 2020, Allison Troxel and Celine Leavitt came to Kelly Place during a pilgrimage journey around the southwest. The pair expected to stay for one night, but Kelly Place had other plans.
“We drove onto this property and saw it was for sale,” they said. “We camped, woke up the next morning, and did a self-guided archaeological tour. By the time we climbed down inside the unrestored kiva, we felt like we had gotten an assignment from the spirits of this place.”
Allison and Celine decided right then to return home to Bozeman, Montana, sell all of their assets, and become “the stewards of this unusual and magical place in great need of attention and care.”
Though a beloved place indeed, the space had been really let go with a lot of deferred maintenance; but people continued visiting Kelly Place because of the incredible location and scenery. Allison and Celine originally thought they would continue on with the bed & breakfast business right away, but there was too much care and attention that the property needed, and it was running inefficiently. The pair took a risk and decided to “come to a full halt.” They started taking apart and rebuilding infrastructure, installing heat pumps, removing any and everything that was old and replacing it all, with help from the local electric co-op. They invested in ecological flooring, ecological paint, upcycled furniture, and more—all with the intention of changing the environment (literally) and lessening their ecological footprint.
“Before pursuing solar, we spent two years addressing efficiency issues,” said Celine. “We got to a point where we had been pouring capital into this place, as well as working day and night without pay. We got a grant to pay for 25% of the solar cost, but we had the rest still to pay—and that’s where CCEF came in.”
After two years of renovating the entire space, they could not afford to renovate out of pocket anymore. Their contractor, Shaw Solar, suggested they get in touch with the Colorado Clean Energy Fund to help with their financing for a 28 kW solar PV system. Because Kelly Place is a woman-owned business located in a rural, underserved community, it was important for CCEF to show support and help serve this area.
“We are so grateful to CCEF,” Celine shared. “They were incredibly responsive, supportive, and helpful. They made it really easy, and with interest rates so high in this economy, we were able to get a good loan.” She shared that CCEF came in at the last minute and really facilitated them being able to complete this project in a sustainable way. “[CCEF] was the magic potion we needed to do this project.”
Allison and Celine expanded the namesake of Kelly Place to Ancient Echoes at Kelly Place, to “reflect the generations of inhabitants seen and unseen that have dwelled here for centuries.” Integrity, efficiency, and sustainability are some of the business’s core values, along with creating beauty and reciprocity with their guests and the land. “People in the canyon see what we’re doing to the place and they’re so happy,” they said. “It was a beloved place that was falling apart. It is having a ripple effect. We have guests come and a common refrain is, ‘Thank you so much for taking care of this place.’”
“Our intent is to create a human refuge,” said Allison. “A place that preserves and protects and promotes that which is human in all of us. Coming to a place and being able to have conditions that get you very in touch with what it is that makes us human and makes us connected—that definitely happens here. Something about the place seems to draw people into common ground. This is definitely a hidden gem.”
Colorado Clean Energy Fund was honored to help finance the solar project for Ancient Echoes, complementing their grant support from the USDA REAP program. To learn more about Ancient Echoes at Kelly Place, visit www.kellyplace.com.