Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Businessman Spencer Penrose ~ Julie Lence


Spencer Penrose
courtesy of Wikipedia

One of the most notable buildings in Colorado Springs is the Broadmoor Hotel, a 5 Star resort that sits below Pikes Peak. Complete with its own pond and golf course, the hotel has hosted major golf tournaments as well as local banquets thanks to its founder, Spencer Penrose. The 5th of seven sons, Penrose was born November 2, 1865 in Philadelphia. His father, Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose was a doctor and founded Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His mother, Sarah Hannah Boies, favored the simple life. Spencer and his siblings attended Harvard, but unlike his brothers who graduated with high honors, Spencer graduated at the bottom of his class. He didn’t have the academic drive to become doctors or lawyers that brothers did. Rather, the west and frontier life beckoned him and after graduating, he made his way to Las Cruces, New Mexico where he opened several business and sold them for just enough to cut his losses and move on to something else. In 1892, his brother, Richard and childhood friend, Charles L. Tutt (who was a real estate developer in Colorado Springs), informed him of a potential gold rush in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Penrose made his way to Colorado, where Tutt loaned him the money to buy a ½ stake in Tutt’s Cripple Creek real estate business, to include the Cash on Delivery Mine. The mine was one of the most successful in Cripple Creek, thus solidifying Penrose and Tutt’s partnership that took them to a new business of ore processing in Old Colorado City.     


courtesy Colorado Springs 

To become successful in ore processing, Penrose and Tutt sold their Cash on Delivery Mine, formed a new company, Colorado-Philadelphia Reduction Company, and brought in partner Charles Mather MacNeill. MacNeill was considered an expert in ore processing and in 1899, the three met with success; their plant was treating over 3 million worth of ore from Cripple Creek annually. The trio’s partnership continued (and enabled them to create a mining, milling, and real estate empire) and took them to Bingham Canyon, Utah where they followed the advice of Daniel C. Jackling regarding success in mining copper deposit. A survey of the canyon’s ore deposit revealed the deposit contained 2 percent of copper that could efficiently be extracted from the ore. Penrose formed the Utah Copper Company in 1903 and worked with a new team to design a mill to extract the copper at a rate that was considered extremely fast, but the gamble paid off and Penrose and his team mined and milled more copper than imaginable. His success in Utah led him to invest in copper mining in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.


Julie Penrose
El Pomar Foundation

Having made a sizeable fortune in the mining industry, Penrose returned to Colorado Springs. It was here that he met widow Julie Villiers McMillan. The two became friends and later married April 1906 in London, England, despite Penrose claiming he would always remain a bachelor. Spencer and Julie honeymooned throughout Europe. Their stay in grand hotels inspired Spencer to build his own in Colorado Springs. Before that occurred, Spencer and Julie bought and renovated a home near a close friend, to include adding two stories, marble tiles, carved wood panels and crystal chandeliers, and hiring the Olmsted Brothers to design the grounds around the home. (Today, the home is known as the Penrose House, is on the National Register of Historic Places and free for conferences and other such gatherings.)           


Broadmoor Hotel
Colorado Artifctual

Penrose again partnered with Tutt and the two came up with a plan to build a road to the top of Pikes Peak in an effort to promote tourism. The road cost $283,000 and was completed in August of 1916. That same year Penrose organized the first car race to the top of the peak. (The Broadmoor Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb still runs today, on the last Sunday in June, and competitors are by invitation only). While working on the road to the top of the peak, Penrose also wanted to build his hotel, or rather, purchase the Antler’s Hotel from Colorado Springs founder William Jackson Palmer and rebuild it. But Palmer wouldn’t sell and Penrose ended up buying a site outside city boundaries for $90,000. He hired several architects to design the hotel of his dreams, and after careful consideration, went on to choose a design from the Warren and Wetmore Firm, who are known for their work on Grand Central terminal in New York City. Ground was broken in April 1917 and in June 1918, the Broadmoor hosted its opening ceremony.      

Will Rogers Shrine

 The Broadmoor hotel wasn’t Spencer’s only claim to fame for Colorado Springs. He and Julie were avid supporters to several civic events, including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Will Rogers Shrine and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, not to mention the Glockner-Penrose Hospital, which was the 1st hospital in Colorado Springs and is now known as Penrose-St. Francis Health Services. Spencer and Julie also founded the El Pomar Foundation to promote the current and future well-being of the people of Colorado. The organization is still in existence today, supporting the Penrose-St. Francis Health Services and operating The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun and the Penrose Heritage Museum. Spencer Penrose passed two years after founding the El Pomar Foundation. Julie served as president of the organization until her passing in 1956. Both are entombed at the Will Rogers Shrine of the sun. Spencer was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2001.     

Penrose House
El Pomar Foundation 

Bingham Canyon Copper Pit
SAH Archipedia



1 comment:

Shanna Hatfield said...

So fascinating, Julie. Thanks for sharing about the hotel's history with us!