A quiet, hidden wedding destination in Palmer Lake enjoys a favorable reputation thanks to longtime owners Maria and Jess Smith.
The Smiths purchased the property in 1994 and have run The Historic Pinecrest event center since 1999.
Thick logs or honey-colored wood panels frame the three historic buildings of the complex: a lodge with accommodations for up to 20 guests, a chapel and an event center. Built in 1958 as a Methodist youth camp, the property features calm surroundings, beautiful views and picturesque nooks and crannies for wedding photos.
The Smiths’ entrepreneurial mindset and a small inheritance inspired them to “do something with,” the property and its buildings. The facilities had sat vacant since 1975. For a while, the Smiths lived in the lodge with the first two of their four children. Then after their first idea — to run the complex as an assisted living facility — ran into problems with numerous regulations, the pair decided to go in a different direction.
Now the couple, and often their children, along with a few employees pitch in to host around 100 weddings per year at the site. Development over the years has meant the property is now part of a residential neighborhood, although several wooded acres still surround the three large buildings. The lodge’s recent listing on AirBnB has significantly increased weekday rentals, Maria Smith relates.
Palmer Lake, which is reportedly the place where the Rocky Mountain Columbine — the official State Flower of Colorado — was “discovered” in 1820, was platted in 1882 and became a popular tourist destination and resort area. A passenger stop along the nearby railroad line brought vacationers to the area. They enjoyed the mountain scenery and festivals celebrating the flower. The story goes that festivalgoers of the time picked and picked the blooms unaware of, or simply disregarding, the possibilities of its eventual decline. In 1925 a law was enacted to protect the delicate blooms.
Historic Pinecrest’s mountain setting just 20 minutes from both Colorado Springs and Castle Rock is ripe with plenty of current-day photo-ops for guests. But there’s a lot of work involved to keep it a pleasant, functioning destination. The Smiths, as in many traditional family businesses, wear many hats to keep things running smoothly.
In the winter, there’s plenty of snowplowing and shoveling to do around the property. In addition, the Smith children have bussed tables, done yardwork, cleaned the buildings and set up for weddings. Their daughter’s boyfriend currently works part-time at the property.
For a number of years Jess Smith was known as, “the Palmer Lake photographer,” and has photographed over 2,000 weddings in the last 16 years. His wife says his interest in photography is long-running — as a kid growing up in Oregon he made a darkroom in a chicken coop.
Maria Smith herself has helped coordinate innumerable weddings. She expressed enjoyment at being a part of so many different ceremonies, including Pakistani, Korean and Mexican weddings, over the years.
Smith’s own parents were forcibly interned in the 1940s during World War II in the presidential-ordered camps incarcerating people of Japanese descent in the U.S. She is involved with The Japan-America Society of Southern Colorado, “a nonprofit educational and cultural organization promoting increased awareness, education, and understanding between the citizens of Southern Colorado and Japan.”
Business groups and anniversary parties also schedule events at the lodge. For these groups a large-screen television and WiFi are available for powerpoint presentations.
As well, people often reserve the entire 8,000-square-foot lodge, with its large kitchen and two reception rooms, for DIY wedding celebrations. It offers dining seating for 40 people. Rental groups plan and execute their own catering and details. Porches, decks and landscaped grounds are outdoor options for smaller-size wedding ceremonies.
For larger weddings of up to 200 guests, the high-ceilinged chapel and 6,400-square-foot event center are available for rent. For these events, a Pinecrest representative is onsite for the duration of festivities.
Pinecrest’s buildings feature rustic architecture, consisting of expanses of aged, golden wood. A pine ceiling and paneled walls highlight a soaring, one-story stone fireplace in the event center. Large windows let in numerous days of Colorado sunshine. A hardwood floor offers an expansive area for dancing.
The age of the buildings presents some maintenance challenges, such as broken elevator in the lodge for which they’re awaiting parts. Maria Smith credits her husband’s consistent and creative work for “keeping everything together” over the years.
She says he keeps track of everything in the unique buildings and makes sure “it looks nice and it works.”