Claremont (aka The Trianon) was fashioned after the Grand Trianon at Versailles, bringing the taste and elegance of a French country manor to the Broadmoor neighborhood.
The original name of the estate means “clear view of the mountains.” Fabulously wealthy, Charles and Virginia Baldwin, were intent on creating a showplace summer residence that would be the envy of their contemporaries. Virginia Hobart, wealthy heiress to the Comstock Lode and other enterprises, had wed scholar and polo-enthusiast, Charles Baldwin, in 1896. She financed the construction of their dream home, while he had an intense interest in creating a sanctuary extraordinaire.
The Baldwins dispatched prominent local architect Thomas MacLaren to France, where he spent a year studying the Palais du Grand Trianon at Versailles, the 17th-century retreat of King Louis XIV. MacLaren patterned his grand masterpiece after the palace, and by 1907 the 22,000-square-foot Claremont had been completed for $200,000 on acreage below Cheyenne Mountain. It included a pond, carriage house, fountains, formal gardens and surrounding ornamental walls. Details of the exterior boasted columns, Terra cotta balustrades, ornamental ironwork, high French windows and semi-nude statuary. The estate was an immediate sensation!
The Baldwins typically summered in Colorado Springs, spending the rest of the year elsewhere, mainly in California. They relished entertaining, and the mansion was built for this purpose, as well to highly impress their guests. Guests would enter through iron gates from what is now Hutton Lane, traveling down a long shaded driveway past the pond and through manicured formal gardens. Ahead would be a clear view of the opulent, gleaming Terra cotta structure complete with white marble terraces. The west entrance was decorated with four life-sized figurines mounted on square pedestals. Servants greeting guests were dressed as liveried English footmen.
Huge glass doors, reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, led into the Terrace Room (also called the Grand Salon), where festivities commenced. The ladies salon and library were located on either side of this stunning heart of the home. Rumor has it that Charles Baldwin frequently had difficulty sleeping, so he spent a great deal of time collecting books and employing his extensive library. Charles, who had a passion for rare books and works of art, encouraged guests and servants alike to access this cavernous, wood-paneled, two-story treasury. Entrance to the library was easily accessed through hidden doors on both the first and second floors.
The centerpiece of the large dining room was an ornate, gold-on-bronze chandelier with 108 candle brackets, purchased from or gifted by Czar Nicholas II of Russia. One can only imagine the sight of glittering candlelight reflected in the infinity mirrors as a fire blazed in one of many marble fireplaces found throughout the major rooms of the estate. Each fireplace was crafted of different colored marble, ranging from creamy white to pink to earth tones. Although the home was eventually electrified, the dining room chandelier remains in its original non-electric state.
Also on the main floor was a dramatic circular, domed rotunda, located just inside the back entrance. It soared up to white plaster relief moldings and a dramatic patterned skylight. Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin occupied separate bedrooms (as was the custom of wealthy couples) connected by a large bathroom with pink marble fireplace with matching sunken marble bathtub. Several smaller salons, guest bedrooms, the kitchen, and a butler’s pantry completed the first floor. Built-in armoires, cabinets, shelves, drawers, and a walk-in silver safe provided much-needed storage for the opulent possessions of the privileged.
Upstairs, additional guest bedrooms, and servant’s quarters were located. The lower level of the home sported the gentlemen’s recreation areas including billiard and smoking rooms — the equivalent of today’s “man caves.”
Charles Baldwin died in 1934, and in 1949 Virginia Baldwin married Prince Zourab Tchkotoua of (alleged) Russian royal lineage, thus becoming a princess. That same year she sold Claremont for $250,000. For the next 20 years, the estate changed hands several times, and all the contents including furniture, artwork, books, and accoutrements were sold or donated. Fortunately, most of the home’s architectural treasures remain intact, including original floors and ceilings, paneling, woodwork, light fixtures, hardware, fireplaces and ironwork. The house itself remains a stunning work of art.
In 1967 the estate and grounds were purchased by The Colorado Springs School, a private, nonprofit college prep school which has become an admirable steward of this prized estate, maintaining its beauty and integrity for future generations. Group tours with a suggested donation are available by appointment only through css.org.