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The Broadmoor Hotel – one man’s vision

June marked the 92nd anniversary of the June 29, 1918, opening of The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Since then, The Broadmoor has become the area’s most well-known man-made landmark, second only to Pikes Peak.Robert C. Olson, author of “Speck, the Life and Times of Spencer Penrose,” stated in the book that building the Broadmoor became Penrose’s lifetime passion.Penrose made his multi-million dollar fortune from the gold and copper mines in Cripple Creek, Colo., and Utah.After frequently touring Europe and staying in its finest hotels, he decided to build a world-class hotel in his adopted home of Colorado Springs. But before he started the process, Penrose offered to buy the Antlers Hotel for $87,500, after the hotel went on the market following the death of its owner – Gen. William Palmer.Given that $744,000 had been invested in the construction of the Antlers, Penrose could have low-balled his offer because he was miffed that his friend, Billy Dunning, had been fired as the Antlers’ manager. Or possibly, Penrose might have held a grudge because years earlier he had been ordered to leave the hotel’s premises after riding a horse into the bar.Penrose declined the $200,000 counteroffer for the Antlers and turned to the hotel and casino built outside the city by Prussian entrepreneur Count James Pourtales. It was part of the Pourtales’ Broadmoor Land and Investment Co.Before going bust in the Panic of 1893, Pourtales had accumulated 2,400 acres that he planned to market as Broadmoor City. He had dammed Cheyenne Creek, too, to form a 10-acre lake and then built a small hotel and casino – hoping that it would become an American Monte Carlo.Pourtales coined the name “Broadmoor,” an Anglicization of “Breitmoor,” meaning wide wasteland. In Pourtales’ day, the area was filled with scrub oak, underbrush and cacti.Penrose and his partners Charlie MacNeill and A.E. Carlton purchased the 18 acres occupied by the lake, casino and hotel, as well as an additional 400 acres, for $90,000. They began construction April 13, 1916.The partners issued a press release May 12, 1916, announcing their intent to build “the most wonderful hotel in the west – the most wonderful in the United States” and install Dunning as its manager. They predicted the new hotel would cost $1 million and attract wealthy families who, at the time, were flocking to Coronado Beach and Palm Beach in California.Penrose hired the New York firm of Whitney Warren, designer of New York City’s Grand Central Station and the Ritz and Biltmore hotels, to design his hotel.In total, Penrose and his partners spent $3.1 million in construction and interior decorating by the time the hotel opened.When the 350-room hotel opened in 1918, the ground floor included a barbershop, brokerage office, drug and cigar store, lace and notions store, boudoir shop, photography studio and a doctor’s office.Hollywood celebrities were unavailable for the hotel’s grand opening because they were busy selling war bonds to refinance the debt from World War I. So, Penrose lured John D. Rockefeller Jr. to register as the first guest.However, the smell of new paint proved too much for Rockefeller’s sensitive nose. He fulfilled his obligation by registering as the first guest at the new hotel and then checked in at the Antlers Hotel.Other prominent grand opening guests included William S. Jackson, a mining, railroad and banking magnate and Colorado Supreme Court justice; Oliver Shoup, governor of Colorado; William Lennox, a mining millionaire and Colorado College trustee; Penrose’s business partner Charles L. Tutt Jr.; Verner Z. Reed, who had earned a $1 million commission for brokering the sale of the Independence Mine in Cripple Creek; and James F. Burns, president of the Portland Gold Mining Co.Guests arrived from all directions, some riding the trolley cars that had once traveled Lake Avenue; some in Stanley Steamers; and others in elegant horse-drawn carriages. Activities included golf, horseback riding, hiking and tennis.Flamingos had been trained to stand knee-deep in the lake, which was stocked with 10,000 trout, and look ornamental. Instead, they joined the guests on the veranda and sent them running for their lives.Seals were added for their “wow!” effect, but they invaded the lobby, perhaps to get a taste of the menu, which featured “Broadmoor Trout de Bleu, Braised Sweetbreads aux Perles du Perigord, Boneless Royal Squab and SoufflÈ Glace.”According to Colson, during Penrose’s lifetime, The Broadmoor Hotel was a money loser.It cost from $50,000 to $150,000 a year in operating losses since its opening, thanks to Penrose’s tolerance of “thieves, moochers, spongers and incompetents.” At one time, there were “100 employees and two guests.”The Broadmoor Hotel didn’t become profitable until after Penrose died in 1939.*Additional information for this article was provided by “A Pikes Peak Partnership” by Thomas Noel and Cathleen Norman.

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