Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Glen Eyrie Castle & General William Jackson Palmer ~ Julie Lence


Original Glen Eyrie Castle

Last month, I wrote about General William Jackson Palmer and how he founded Colorado Springs. There is so much General Palmer did for Colorado Springs and Colorado that one blog would go on for pages, so I condensed that blog and I return today with another of the General’s accomplishments.

William Jackson Palmer
Military Wiki 

While living in Colorado Springs, Palmer built a grand home for himself and his wife (nicknamed Queen) in the 1870’s. Situated just north of Garden of the Gods at the mouth of a canyon, Glen Eyrie was originally a clapboard home of twenty rooms. While in residence, Palmer’s wife taught school at Colorado Springs’ first school, but more often than not, the Palmers were not in residence; she because of her health and he because of his work. Suffering a heart attack wile pregnant with their second child, Mrs. Palmer gave birth at the home then spent most of her time on the East Coast or in England. She permanently left Glen Eyrie and Colorado Springs in 1885 and passed away 1894.    

Queen Palmer

With his daughters coming to live with him after his wife’s passing, Palmer sold his Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1901 for 6 million and retired in Colorado Springs, where he donated several plots of land to the city while forging ahead with plans to renovate Glen Eyrie. He hired architect Frederick J. Sterner and engineer Edmond Van Dienst to help with the project, which took near two years to quarry stone from the estate’s lands and transform the clapboard house into a stone castle. With 67 rooms and 20 fireplaces, the interior was paneled in oak, with the main floor boasting several parlors, a solarium, a dining room, and a kitchen that had ice storage and a walk-in refrigerator. Bedroom suites for Palmer and his daughters occupied the second level, as well as guest suites and servants quarters. The third floor held more bedrooms, a sitting room, and access to the tower, but the belle of the castle was Book Hall. Large enough to hold 300 people, Book Hall boasted a large fireplace and a balcony where an orchestra could perform. Beneath the hall were billiards rooms and a bowling alley.      

Renovated Glen Eyrie

Sadly, Palmer only enjoyed his renovated home for a handful of years. Paralyzed from a horse riding accident in 1906, he passed away 3 years later. His daughters wanted to donate the castle to the city, but city leaders declined because they feared the cost to maintain the property and home would be too high. For the next 40 years, Glen Eyrie saw many owners, though the house was rarely occupied, to include a group of businessmen who wanted to turn the property into a golf resort, complete with a tavern and luxury houses. World War 1 saw them changing their plans and operating the castle as a tea room. Alexander S. Cochran bought the property in 1918, closed the castle because of the high expense to maintain and let it go to ruin. He did build a ‘pink home’ on the property for a vacation house, and passed away at the start of the Great Depression. The property sat on the market until Texas oilman George W. Strake bought it in 1938.  He expanded the pink house, opened the castle for parties and used some of the land for ranching, and in 1953 listed Glen Eyrie for sale at a price of $500,000, which caught Dawson Trotman’s attention.

Dawson Trotman
Find a Grave

A Christian evangelist and founder of the Navigators ministry, Trotman was planning to move from Los Angeles to Colorado and hoped to split the cost of Glen Eyrie with fellow evangelist Billy Graham. Discovering Christians were interested in the property, Strake lowered the sale price. With Graham backing out of the deal, Trotman quickly raised the down payment with the help of his Navigators ministry and Glen Eyrie became their home in September 1953, and remains so today. The Navigators use the property as a home for their publishing firm, NavPress and as a Christian conference center. The property came with a lake in the Rampart Range area and now houses the Eagle Lake Camps, a Christian summer program. With the exception of the kitchen and the removal of the bowling alley to incorporate a dining area, the main part of the castle is unaltered. The castle and grounds are open to visitors for afternoon tea (reservations required) a tour of the castle, and an overnight stay within the castle, the pink house or the lodges the Navigators built.       


Throughout Colorado Springs and Colorado, General Palmer isn’t just known for Glen Eyrie Castle and the high school named after him. Palmer was responsible for bring the narrow gauge railroads to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain, for providing land and funding for Colorado College, for forming Colorado Coal and Iron Company’s steel mill in south Pueblo and laying out a second town, Bessemer, which is now incorporated into Pueblo. He also founded the General Palmer Hotel in 1898 in Durango, Colorado. Originally named the Palace Hotel, the hotel is still in use today, and in 1962 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  

Glen Eyrie Castle
Trip Advisor
Glen Eyrie Castle East View
Trip Advisor

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