Editor's note: This July, as Colorado Springs gears up for its 150th birthday on the 31st, 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.
Spencer Penrose bought so much booze to make the 1920s roar at The Broadmoor that the cost of storing his stash put a pinch in the gold baron's well-filled wallet.
Penrose, a proud tippler who situated the hotel outside Colorado Springs to avoid the town's Puritanical booze laws, began accumulating liquor two full years before Prohibition became the law of the land and a full year before The Broadmoor opened.
Thayer Tutt, great-grandson of Penrose's business partner Charles Tutt, says the booze was so plentiful that some of it is still poured by the glass today.
"It's strong," he remarked.
But those storage fees.
"They were charging 90 cents a barrel per month, and that was an outrage," Thayer Tutt said.
Penrose had so much booze in storage that the monthly rental tab could have bought a nice home in Colorado Springs.
Penrose used his Philadelphia roots to corner the market on local liquor at the same time he battled against the constitutional amendment that sent drinkers across the nation underground.
Fine wines by the case, along with cognac, port, sherry, gin and other delicacies, were obtained from Wagner and Sons — "Purveyors to epicures since 1847" — a high-end distributor in Philadelphia.
Another Tutt heir, Bill Tutt, said Penrose cut Wagner a deal "to take his entire stock and everything he had — wines, whiskey, cordials and madeiras."
Bill Tutt still has some of the lode, handed down through generations: 20 gallons of Hannisville Rye whiskey, big five-gallon wicker demijohns of it, turn-of-the-century gins, mud-encrusted bottles of Napoleon cognac that spent 40 years at the bottom of the ocean in a sunken Spanish galleon.
The prize of the Penrose collection was the mining magnate's favorite: barrel after barrel of fine rye whiskey.
How much did Penrose enjoy the rye? The man who lost an eye in a college rowing accident had two glass eyes made. One was clear and bright. The other prosthetic eye was crafted to appear bloodshot. That way as Penrose suffered through the morning after a night of bacchanalian boozing, at least his eyeballs would match.
By the time the 18th Amendment to the Constitution shut down U.S. liquor sales in 1919, Penrose had assured that he, and much of El Paso County for that matter, would never go without.
"It outlasted Prohibition, and it outlasted him," Thayer Tutt said.
While Penrose's penchant for purchasing booze was enough to draw the ire of the local Anti-Saloon League, Penrose wasn't quiet about it.
After Congress passed a bill by Minnesota Sen. Andrew Volstead that enabled enforcement of Prohibition, Penrose named the camel at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo "Ethel" — a reference to the distinguished senator's wife. Penrose then posed for pictures with the newly named camel, prints of which wound up in Washington.
Bill Tutt said Penrose picked the camel for a reason: "The only thing that can go without water and whiskey for the duration of Prohibition is a camel."
Penrose issued a personal pledge that he would never spend a "dry day." But his supply was more than personal.
Thayer Tutt explained that Penrose found a healthy loophole in the ban on booze. Like the medical marijuana law Coloradans a few generations later would use to get pot, Penrose discovered the medicinal qualities of his barreled rye.
Broadmoor guests got a cure for their ailments delivered straight or on the rocks, he said.
Prohibition ended after Penrose made one of the most unexpected decisions of his life. The rock-ribbed Republican voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a liberal Democrat who pledged that as president he would reopen the taps to America's alcohol trade.
But Penrose's rainy-millennium supply of whiskey remained ample even after he could legally buy more.
After Penrose died in 1939, his house remained packed with Prohibition's legacy. Penrose built the place, south of The Broadmoor, as kind of a Prohibition-proof bunker. Shelves in the library conceal secret staircases that led down to his store of liquor — King Solomon's hangover-causing mines.
When the house was later donated to a straight-laced charity, the liquor from Penrose's house was packed off to The Broadmoor, where it was entombed in a utility room beneath the hotel's outdoor pool.
The legendary liquor cache was almost forgotten when workers stumbled upon it during a 1992 remodel. It was still good.
Now, on the ground floor of the hotel, display cases hold dusty bottles from Penrose's Prohibition stash.
One detail of the display would make Penrose smile.
All the bottles, including the rye whiskey, are empty.
Editor's note: This story originally ran on July 20, 2018. It has been updated to run with The Gazette's series on Colorado Springs' 150th anniversary.