A Colorado Castle

04 Aug

Last Monday, I had the good fortunate to visit Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs for a private tour. Our guide was Len Froisland, 25-year historian for the castle. Women Writing the West members Dianne Hartshorn, who portrays Queen Palmer around C. Springs, and publisher Doris Baker of Filter Press completed our group.

General William Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, originally built Glen Eyrie in 1872 when he married his wife, Mary Lincoln Mellon, known as “Queen”, a nickname since childhood. The house was restored in 1881, and again, beginning in 1902, when it took on the appearance of a stone castle. Palmer’s instruction to architects was to build a home that would endure for a thousand years. After one hundred years, the house has done very well. Currently, it is owned by the Navigators, a Christian organization, which maintains and utilizes the property as a retreat and conference center, with facilities open to the public for afternoon tea, bed and breakfast, and tours.

The house is remarkable. Inside, custom woodwork was used to decorate throughout. Special attention was given to fire prevention after Palmer’s Antlers Hotel burned in 1898. Palmer was extremely innovative in his attention to detail and his desire to create a self-sufficient compound for himself and his family. A power station, creamery, and greenhouses were built close at hand without disturbing the sprawling lawns, staggering vistas, and striking rock formations on the grounds tucked against the Rocky Mountain foothills. Scottish landscape artist, John Blair, designed the layout with beautiful landscape treatments, pathways and rock bridges. A school house was built in the early 1880’s to provide the children with private schooling, guarding them from possible kidnap during the raging railroad wars while rivals struggled to dominate transportation routes through the mountains.

During reconstruction of his home, William Palmer traveled throughout Europe with his daughters collecting artifacts and decorations to complete the mansion. Although most of those items are gone now, they have been replaced with similar furnishings. Many of his collected touches, such as Dutch tiles around fireplaces and fixtures, still exist. Queen died at the young age of 44 in 1894, before the castle was rebuilt, although the plan implemented some of her original ideas. William Palmer suffered a horseback riding accident in 1906 which left him paralyzed. He continued living life as best he could in the sprawling mansion until his death in 1909.

For more information, refer to:

General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer
by Joyce B. Lohse
Filter Press, 2009, “A Now You Know Bio”


Posted by on August 4, 2009 in Western history


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5 responses to “A Colorado Castle

  1. D Baker

    August 4, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Len Froisland is a treasure. The man knows Glen Eyrie’s every detail. It was a fascinating morning. I continue to learn and marvel at the far-reaching influence of General Palmer. Insider tip: Glen Eyrie is a great place to see Big Horn Sheep up close. Thanks, Joyce, for letting me tag along.

    • joyce4books

      August 7, 2009 at 8:32 am

      Doris — I am so glad that you shared the experience. Your support of the Palmer story for the “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press is much appreciated. Those who wish to find out about the series can go to — Joyce

  2. Ann Parker

    August 6, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Oh my gosh… I was just there last week myself! I stayed overnight last Friday. I also was curious about Glen Eyrie, but in an earlier phase (circa 1880, before the rebuild). It is an amazing place.

    • joyce4books

      August 7, 2009 at 8:30 am

      Hello Ann — Lucky you! Maybe you can tell me about the upstairs rooms, as none were open while we were there. Will I see you in Leadville tomorrow? A photo of the first Glen Eyrie house appears in my Palmer biography. William Palmer and Queen lived in a hotel, then a tent, and above the barn until it was completed. A friend described tea with them as prepared “in a picnic way.” What a beautiful estate it is. How fortunate that it has been restored and maintained beautifully. — Joyce


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