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John Fielder's house hits the market

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The courtyard at John Fielder's home in Greenwood Village.

After a hard day at the office, John Fielder loved to come home to his Greenwood Village house, sit under the shade provided by many of the trees on the 1.6-acre site along the Highline Canal, and unwind.

“It kept me sane,” said Fielder.

Of course, as most people know, Fielder’s office is the antithesis of some high-rise building along 17th Street. Instead,the office  of Colorado’s best-known nature photographer is the great outdoors, which might be some hidden gem of a mountain stream or Colorado ranches, the subject of one of Fielder’s many coffee-table books, which included text from the late James Meadow, a feature writer at the Rocky Mountain News.

And his “day” typically is 13 weeks traveling and photographing the state, which provided him the time to spend with his family, including his late wife Gigi and two grown daughters.

Fielder’s home priced at more than $1 million

Now, Fielder has decided it is time to sell his Mediterranean-style home on 1.6 acres at 940 E. Sunset Court. The ranch-style home has five bedrooms and four baths and a total of 4,712-square-feet – 2,981-square-feet of living space and a 1,731-square-foot basement. It’s being listed by Barb Fullerton of Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty for $1.199 million.

John Fielder in his backyard

“Anyone who has seen the move, It’s Complicated, (starring Alec Baldwin, Meryl Street and Steve Martin), will recognize this house,” Fullerton said. “It wasn’t in the movie, but it is the same style.”

Fullerton said the first couple to own the house, initially built in 1974, although Fielder put on an addition, hailed from Marseilles. “That’s my understanding,” Fullerton said. “That’s why the house looks like it could be in the French countryside. It’s one of the few houses in Greenwood Village with a red-tile roof.”

Many people might have assumed that Fielder, given his profession, might have called the mountains his home. Indeed, he has built a home 10 miles north of Silverthorne in Summit County in the Ptarmigan Wilderness area, 1,000 feet above the Lower Blue River Valley, which he insists in the most beautiful spot in Colorado – high-praise indeed, from someone whose photos often are as intense and as vibrant as a painting by a master.

His home was his sanctuary, his rock

“I lived here because it was better to be in Denver for business, politics and family reasons,” said Fielder, 59, an ardent environmentalist, while Realtors and others toured his home during an open-house held by Fullerton. Later, Fielder sold and autographed his books, as well as selling never-seen-before photographs that he displayed on his walls. “The house is in the Cherry Creek School District, so it was good for the kids. But I knew when I sold my publishing company three years ago, and with my daughters grown and living in the Washington Park area, I knew I would move to the mountains.”

However, because he still owns a photography gallery in the art district along Santa Fe Boulevard, he probably will buy a small town home, perhaps off 6th Avenue, as he will be driving down from the mountains every week or two to visit the gallery, teach a class, or attend a function.

It was love at first sight when they first saw the home about 25 years ago.

Home spoke to him

About 75 people recently attended an open house in John Fielder's home.

“We had probably looked at 50 homes in Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills,” Fielder said. “We heard from a neighbor that this home had just gone on the market. The person who bought it, thought he could subdivide the land and put another home on the property. But in Greenwood Village you needed at least an acre for each home, and this lot has 1.6-acre. So he bought it and immediately put it back on the market, and we bought it.”

Fielder, a native of North Carolina, made the decision to move to Colorado when he was 14. He discovered Colorado when his art and science teacher, Dolly Hichman, took his class to a cross-country field trip to the Rocky Mountain National Forest. “I told her that I would someday live here, and that was what, 46 years ago,” Fielder said. “I still keep in touch with her. Dolly Hichman is now 93 years old. I saw her not that long ago and we were identifying the genus and species of flowers in the mountains.  She used to pack a bunch of kids in her station wagon, and we would go on a five-week field trip. I often use her as an example in speeches of how a teacher can change your life.”

Once in management at May D&F

After graduating from Duke University, “with a degree in accounting, can you believe it,” he moved to Colorado in 1977 and soon found a job…in retail.

“I worked for May D&F,” the former dominant department store chain in Colorado. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up to the general manager of the Southglenn May D&F, which is now a Macy’s,” Fielder said. “I was at the executive level and it paid well. One day I said to Gigi, “What would you think if I quit my job and turned my nature-photography hobby into a full-time job? She looked at me and said “Are you crazy? I’ll divorce you if you do.”  But he said they later decided to give the nature-photography shot, with the understanding if he couldn’t make any money at it after a year, he would return to the business world.

Hits his stride as a shooter

John Fielder signs books at a recent open house in his home.

But it didn’t take long for his photographs to capture the imagination of consumers and retailers. He published the 1982 Colorado Scenic Calendar and showed it to 130 book and gift stores, and all but one stocked it.  While it sold pretty well, his first break came when he found a venture capitalist to buy half of his publishing company and financed his first coffee table book, Colorado’s Hidden Valleys, which eventually sold 100,000 copies in 1983. “That got me started and led to the publication of my first book and 38 more, as well as several hundred more by other photographers and writers, mostly picture and guide books around the country about up to 35 different states at out peak,” Fielder said. ‘The fine-art print business did not start to work until I had built a reputation.”

He has many fond memories of living in his Greenwood Village house.

Taking photos in his pajamas

“Family of course….riding bikes, pushing strollers, with the kids on the Highline Canal Trail,” Fielder said. But he wouldn’t be a photographer, if some of his recollections didn’t include taking beautiful photos.

And he didn’t have to lug heavy equipment, trek for miles along paths to find the right spot and light, or brave rapids in a raft. “Being up in the mountains, or at ranches, and traveling the state, is my job,” Fielder said. “It’s hard work and very physically demanding. I’m not complaining. I love it. It’s a great way to make a living. And I’m not like some nature photographers who have to spend 90 percent of their time on the road. I could make a living by mostly staying in the state, and I feel very fortunate about that.”

One big difference is at home, he could take photos while wearing his pajamas. The quality didn’t suffer, as a haunting and ethereal photo of the Highline Canal from his back yard, shows.

John Fielder didn't have to go far to take this shot of the Highline Canal, which borders the site of his home in Greenwood Village.