Editor's note: This July, as Colorado Springs gears up for its 150th birthday on the 31st, our sister paper, The Gazette, has prepared a series of articles on the history of our city. Check back for fascinating glimpses into the people and events that have shaped Colorado Springs into the landmark it is today.
The history of the palatial Broadmoor hotel and resort that became "The grande dame of the Rockies" dates back to Colorado Springs of the 1800s.
Wealthy Prussian Count James M. Pourtales had arrived by train in 1885, intrigued by the rapidly growing town of Brig. Gen. William Jackson Palmer, its nearby mountains and its mining boom area. It was, as well, a sunny, dry site that was a positive to help lung health issues of the countess who would become his wife.
Pourtales, with a gentleman farmer background, purchased part of the 1800 Broadmoor Dairy, securing water rights on Cheyenne and Fountain Creeks. Along a man-made Cheyenne Lake he built the large, Georgian-style Broadmoor Casino in 1891 and adjoining hotel in 1901. It was an entertainment and luxury area outside Palmer's town, which was, as the count pointed out, "a temperance city." In 1897 a kitchen fire destroyed the casino. The hotel remained part of what would become the major resort as a less-expensive Colonial Club, razed in 1962.
Bringing the good life to the area, Pourtales and friends created the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club in 1890, donating land near his Broadmoor and what would also become his dreamed of area of exclusive mansions. An acclaimed amenity of the area was polo.
Soon to arrive, Spencer "Spec" Penrose, Harvard-trained son of a well-connected Philadelphia shipyard family and a bit of a family black sheep, was drawn to the profitable mining area of Cripple Creek, partnering with Philadelphia friend Charles Leaming Tutt. They became incredibly successful at smelting gold camp ore.
The riches brought Penrose a luxurious home on Millionaires' Row on Colorado Springs' Old North End. In that neighborhood he met Julie Villiers Lewis McMillan, and they were married in London in 1906. Traveling the world, the couple pictured building a resort in Colorado Springs. They lived in her home at 30 W. Dale St., and in 1919 she donated it to become the Broadmoor Art Academy, rebuilt over the years as the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. The Penroses had moved in 1916 to a Spanish villa, El Pomar, close by what would become their hotel.
In early 1916 Penrose and Charles MacNeil offered to buy Palmer's upscale Antlers Hotel downtown for $87,500. The offer was rejected, with Palmer's estate countering with $200,000. In "The Broadmoor Story," Penrose admitted to what was already being planned, that they "have now plans for building the best hotel in Colorado at Broadmoor." And they did.
Therein lies a delightful local urban legend. Penrose's Broadmoor has a small raised "a" in its name. As the story goes, flamboyant Penrose wanted to buy the competition, and when his offer was rejected, urban legend has it, he saddled up and rode his horse into the lobby of the Antlers, ordering drinks for himself and his steed. He retaliated by giving his Broadmoor a tiny "a."
Well, not quite. It was just a copyright issue. The Broadmoor brand had been used elsewhere during the 1800s, including the 1880 Broadmoor Dairy. A copyright violation was avoided by raising the little "a," making it unique.
Penrose's pink luxury project, created to be magnificent, was begun in 1916. Everything was top shelf, from the architects Warren & Wetmore of New York City and the European marble, to hydro-thermo therapeutic baths and a huge swimming pool, a Mediterranean design and art collections. A legendary landscaping family from New England designed gardens and walkways. The 18-hole golf course, the resort's first, was considered the best in the country, designed by Scottish-born golf architect Donald Ross.
Opening night, June 29, 1918, lived up to its billing as "a big blowout," bringing a who's who list of 600 luminaries for a formal dinner and dancing to an orchestra brought in by Julie Penrose from New York. It was the first of decades of celebrities and luminaries to be drawn to the hotel. Many of them came to entertain as well.
For the guests and his friends, showman Spencer Penrose reached out to his long variety of interests. One major hobby was automobiles, and in 1912, automobile lover "Spec" had created the Pikes Peak Automobile Company with 20 Pierce-Arrows taking visitors on tours of the area, eventually including up Pikes Peak. In 1935 he bought Gray Line Touring Company and by the 1930s, continuing today, had an exclusive arrangement for visitors and relatives to travel by Cadillac. Thanks to "Spec," his Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has celebrated 100 years.
In 1915 he purchased the Manitou Incline Railway. Add to that, his resort had a stadium and rodeo, more polo, an ice stadium where Olympic and World champions trained and hockey teams played, Ski Broadmoor, Seven Falls, golf championships, tennis camps by the pros, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and pages more.
Spencer Penrose died in 1939, Julie in 1956. Both supported major philanthropies. They are interred above the zoo in the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun.
After their deaths, The Broadmoor was managed by the El Pomar Foundation, a charitable organization entrusted with much of the family fortune. Following the federal Tax Reform Act of 1969, the resort was to be sold. Chosen to continue the Penrose tradition was Edward L. Gaylord, head of The Oklahoma Publishing Company with newspaper, television and radio stations; Nashville's Grand Old Opry and Ryman Auditorium; and oil, hotel and dairy cattle businesses.
Numerous major additions, renovations and changes were made during the Gaylord years starting in 1988. Christy Gaylord Everest said in "The Broadmoor Story," "Our ownership of The Broadmoor was much more than an investment. Stewardship of this wonderful landmark resort was most important to us."
In 2011, Philip Anschutz, who like Ed Gaylord had spent childhood vacations with his family at The Broadmoor, purchased the special hotel. It was an early destiny. When he was 10 years old, he had told his family he would buy the hotel. Like the Gaylord family corporation, the family Anschutz Corporation has owned dozens of businesses over decades., including entertainment, sporting events, oil, railroads, wind energy, telecommunications and real estate. Anschutz purchased The Oklahoma Publishing Company and is owner of The Gazette. The resort is in an Anschutz trust for 100 years.
On June 2, 2018, the Gaylord and Anschutz families celebrated the 100th anniversary of The Broadmoor with hundreds of guests at a glittering formal event much like the Spencer and Julie Penrose festivities of 1918. During the anniversary, Steve Bartolin, chairman of The Broadmoor, and Broadmoor President/CEO Jack Damioli pointed out that it is extremely rare for a business to have only three owners over 100 years. The Broadmoor, they said, "has no corporate brand, just three families passionate about a very special place."
The owners have continued to build on the legacy of Spencer Penrose with 61 years as a Forbes 5-Star Award property and the AAA Five-Diamond Award since 1979.
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