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AROUND TOWN: Great-granddaughter of Julie Penrose relives her family's Broadmoor history

August 16, 2017 Updated: September 26, 2017 at 11:04 am
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photo - Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps with the formal portrait of her great-grandmother Julie Penrose in Penrose House.
081417 Photo by Linda Navarro
Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps with the formal portrait of her great-grandmother Julie Penrose in Penrose House. 081417 Photo by Linda Navarro 

The statuesque woman stood quietly, gazing out at beautiful grounds and gardens, remembering happy childhood times playing at one of Colorado Springs' most famous mansions, El Pomar.

"I am very emotional to be here," said a startled Baroness Sybille Michele Emilie Marie Ghislaine de Selys Longchamps, genteel great-granddaughter of Julie Penrose. El Pomar was the home of Julie and her husband, Broadmoor hotelier Spencer Penrose, where Lady Longchamps and her brothers had frolicked on the lawn and at the nearby hotel. She had last been there in 1955, and this visit was a bit of an early birthday trip. She turns 76 on Aug. 28.

At a luncheon in her honor Aug. 14 at history-filled El Pomar, now Penrose House, Lady Longchamps had a catch in her voice as she told host Bill Hybl and the El Pomar Foundation how very special it was that the spirit of the hotel and El Pomar have remained the same over the decades, carrying out the essence of that Penrose legacy.

Fittingly, she and Broadmoor President/CEO Jack Damioli were delivered to the front door of the estate in a 1937 Cadillac limousine that had once ferried her great-grandmother. The following day, she saw more of the family's collection of vehicles during a tour of the Penrose Heritage Museum.

The baroness, who lives in Belgium and Provence, France, delighted in sharing memories of the Penroses and their Tutt family partners with R. Thayer Tutt Jr., each learning tidbits of history they hadn't heard before. Tutt also brought her a book with the families' history.

The baroness laughed as she recalled her great-grandmother needing bodyguards as she was driven around Colorado Springs because people knew she was wealthy and had donated great sums to so many local entities, including a hospital.

She loved her life. "She loved music. She loved European art and had two Renoirs. She loved jewelry and she wore it," the baroness said.

Julie Penrose had come to Colorado Springs in 1900 with her first husband, attorney James McMillan, who had tuberculosis and died a year later. They had two children, Jimmie and Gladys, and lived at 30 W. Dale St., now the Fine Arts Center, which the baroness hoped to visit.

Julie later met and married real estate investor, hotelier and wealthy mine owner Spencer Penrose, and in 1916 they bought their home, El Pomar.

Spencer died in 1939, and in 1944 Julie moved to the seventh floor of The Broadmoor to what is still the three-bedroom Julie Penrose Suite she decorated, donating El Pomar to the Sisters of Charity for a spiritual retreat. It was only one of many valuable donations made through the couple's El Pomar Foundation, set up in 1937.

The foundation bought El Pomar from the sisters in 1992, renamed it Penrose House, and it became a conference center used by nonprofits. The estate is on the National Register of Historic Places.

When Julie died in 1957, she was interred with Spencer in the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun above the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The zoo and the shrine were two of the many Penrose projects, and the baroness visited several of them.

Julie's daughter Gladys was the mother of Lady Longchamps' mother, Pauline Julie Caroline Marie Ghislaine Cornet of Ways-Ruart. Pauline Chapel in The Broadmoor, built by Julie and Spencer, bears her name.

Lady Longchamps married industrialist Jacques Pol Pascal Marie Ghislain Boël. They divorced, and she married Sir Michael Anthony Rathborne Cayzer, Baron Rotherwick of Tylney, who died in 1990.

She has one daughter, Belgian sculptor/artist Delphine Boël, and two grandchildren. The baroness told luncheon guests she wasn't pleased her daughter became an artist, saying she had instead wanted her to get "her education." Eyes twinkling, she said she wonders if artists are a bit crazy. Delphine earned her bachelor's degree from London's Chelsea School of Art and Design. Lady Longchamps brought several books from her daughter's European art exhibits for the El Pomar library.

The very private baroness and her daughter became public figures when Delphine, born in 1968, went to court in later years seeking to be acknowledged as the biological daughter of Belgium's married King (then Prince) Albert II, who abdicated in 2013 to his son, Philippe. Belgian court reports indicated that DNA tests had shown Delphine was not the daughter of Lady Longchamps' first husband, although she carries his name. Flanders News.BE reported an August court ruling that she should be considered Boël's daughter because she was raised by her mother and Boël, who was reported to have later disinherited her. Speculation about Delphine's parentage and a possible relationship between her mother and Albert had started as gossip and innuendo in 1999, but a king could not be forced to take a paternity test, news reports said. Delphine is continuing her court case.

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