The Devil’s Head Inn on Hill’s Half Acre
An aerial view of the whole complex looking northeast with the north part of the Inn cut at the left edge of picture. Note the two-bay garage and outbuilding on the south side, both still standing today as is the white clapboard family home.
By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of the Hill family collection, Douglas County Historical Research Section (Custodian), Douglas County Libraries
If buildings could talk, what might they say about the east side of Highway 85 at the Daniels Park intersection? Quite a bit actually! Before I-25 passed through Castle Rock, Highway 85 was the road south from Denver and as such, was pockmarked with motels, gas stations and cafes. To the Hill family of Sedalia, their property was in a perfect location to capitalize on streaming auto traffic. So it was that they founded the Devil’s Head Inn and Café (and filling station and pop shop). But let’s dig into the family story first.
Five-year-old Susie Steckman came with her family from Akron, Ohio in 1905 via the Rock Island Line. The motivation: three family members had already died of tuberculosis and Colorado’s climate promised better health. The Steckmans built their log cabin home on 80 acres near East Plum Creek and farmed the land. Many family members were musically inclined and known as fiddling fools. They played together in the Cider Press Band.
The Squire Hill family left Kansas in 1905 to homestead property in Cheyenne Wells. Firstborn son William was a gifted scholar and talented businessman. Friends steered him to politics and he eventually found his way to the U.S. Congress, ultimately serving 18 years in District #2, which included Douglas County. Another son, Thomas, worked many jobs, including one at the Louviers Dynamite Plant and operator of a Castle Rock pool hall, barber shop and later, a candy store.
Howard was the most gregarious and adventuresome of the Squire Hill sons. He kicked around the mountains near Cripple Creek prospecting for gold until 1910, settling later in Douglas County. In 1914, he married Susie Steckman. For another 12 years he farmed various parcels including the Sedalia Bryant Ranch.
Arlow Hill, age 12, early 1940s in front of the pop shop.
Then in 1926, father Squire and wife Molly relocated to Hill’s Half Acre to operate the Devil’s Head Inn. This soon became Howard’s business, and it appears he was at his best when bartending. Howie was also a gifted fiddler and often, with captive audience, the family musical tradition continued.
Susie and Howard had three sons: Harold, Forest and Arlow. Harold worked for Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as a machinist. Forest served during World War II in the Army band, later returning to help manage the inn. Arlow was gifted, like uncle Will and became a Fulbright scholar and then an English professor at Rutgers University.
A pictorial “visit” to the inn might easily be a walk down memory lane for those 60 and older. The doors of the pop shop advertise Chesterfield cigarettes, Dr. Pepper and Grapette drink. Note Arlow, age 12, and Brownie on the steps, Arlow with a mile-wide smile. Though not pictured, there is a roof sign above advertising “Devil’s Head Inn, Dine and Dance.” The ramshackle two-bay garage and utility shed are the only remnants today of those halcyon days in the 1950s. But all things must pass. The inn burned down in 1972. Since the land is zoned commercial, who knows: perhaps something comparable could rise from the ashes?