Read The Current Issue
Neighborhood: Hidden Ranch
Most people don’t know this in-town neighborhood exists, and that’s just fine with its residents.
By Mark Huffman • Photograph by Tuck Fauntleroy
Hidden Ranch is just off one of Wyoming’s busiest stretches of highway but has managed to live up to its name. Today the subdivision, a loop with one extension, is a mix of small original homes from the 1990s and larger additions of recent years. With only one entrance—it connects to West Broadway via Stellaria Lane, across from Jackson Whole Grocer—it’s also an unusually quiet place for the Town of Jackson, with no through traffic.
“Hidden Ranch is a great name for it because most people don’t know it’s there,” says associate broker Carol Linton of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates. “It’s a unique location.”
At the end of the 1980s the developer, John Horn, aimed to make a place where members of Jackson Hole’s middle class could own a home. As with Rafter J Ranch a few years earlier, Hidden Ranch was driven by a housing shortage that seems to have begun with the arrival of the first white people. Horn wanted Hidden Ranch to be even more working class than it has turned out to be. “He originally wanted to do smaller lots to make them more affordable,” says Gannett Horn, a nephew of John’s who still manages Horn family property in the area.
What John Horn envisioned was something like the Crabtree Lane neighborhood, another Horn family development, also a loop with a single entrance. What Horn finally got when Hidden Ranch was approved in 1992 was a subdivision with fifty-five lots on about 20.4 acres. The lots range from 0.17 acre up to about a half-acre, most around Hidden Ranch Loop and with a few more on Hidden Ranch Lane, an offshoot that goes up the adjacent mountain. Flat Creek runs along the western edge of much of the property.
All the land remained in federal hands until 1909, when Luella Wort, the mother of John and Jess (who built The Wort Hotel), filed for an 80-acre homestead that included part of the land. In 1924 Stephen Leek, a photographer, rancher, and conservationist, filed his own 80-acre claim for land that became the rest of Hidden Ranch. Leek and Luella’s husband, Charles, were half brothers.
In 1946 the land went to the Horn family, who also ranched elsewhere in South Park during the 1950s. Maurice and Josie Horn, John’s parents, were community stalwarts, and after Josie was widowed she continued being a smart investor: She owned real estate around the valley and was for a while owner of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. She was also a community booster, donating the land for Powderhorn Park and working as an early supporter of the Grand Teton Music Festival and other good causes.
Josie and her husband lived in a place at Hidden Ranch that they called Powderhorn, a house built originally by well-known Jackson Hole contractor Jack Kranenberg. It’s a tribute to wood art, combining Old West cabin with Austrian chalet. “The main house has hand-hewn beams in it, made with an ax,” Gannett Horn says. “You can see the marks the ax left. It’s amazing.” Linton says a new owner redid Powderhorn but didn’t change much. “It’s beautifully restored,” she says.
The big parcel was mostly a place for the Horn family to live, with construction of their home starting in 1950. Surrounding this house was “a big grassy open space that John exercised horses on,” Gannett says of his uncle. “Around the place they sprinkled some cabins salvaged from abandoned older ranches, including one from the Bar BC.” Three transported cabins, smaller than 700 square feet each, still stand in Hidden Ranch in a testament to recycled housing. Another is still there, but with a big addition.
During the 1950s the Horns operated a guest ranch on the property, with Josie in charge, her grandson, Gannett, says. It was low key, providing mostly a chance to rent one of the little cabins. The business continued until about 1990. Josie died in 1997 at age 89.
When John Horn subdivided the land, the prices reflected the era: In November 1992, just months after Hidden Ranch was approved, one lot was on the market for $66,500. By 1999 a lot was advertised at $169,000. Houses show a similar trend: In late 1993 a three-bedroom, two-bath house was marketed at $247,000, and in early 1995 the price was $179,500 for a 1,136-square-foot home with two bedrooms and two baths. Houses advertised last year included a 2,180-square-foot, four-bedroom place for $753,000, and a three-bedroom house with 2,327 square feet for $815,000. Some have since then been advertised for $1.4 million, and more. There’s a spec house being built that’s priced at $2 million. The old Horn place, 3,400 square feet, was sold last winter for $1.4 million, cash.
Linton says the area is mostly home to local people who live in the houses they own. She calls Hidden Ranch “a great little neighborhood.” Seventeen-year resident Ari Goldstein agrees. He lives there with his wife, Jenn Sparks, and their daughter. “It is a hidden niche,” he says. “It’s out of town, but not out of town.” He likes his view—though he catches a little noise and light pollution by being slightly up the hillside—and appreciates the bike path connecting to town, the closeness of the middle school, and the general feeling of living in an “enclave.”
Goldstein, whose first job in Jackson in the 1990s was at Pearl Street Bagels, is now an investment advisor at Beddow Capital Management. He’d like to claim financial genius for his investment, but said he and Sparks “kind of got lucky and were able to trade up” during a good time in the real estate market. He says his Hidden Ranch home has nearly tripled in value since 2001, when he moved in, and has “turned into a retirement plan for us.”