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Tag Archives: Spencer Penrose

Colorado Treasures

Manitou Incline

Manitou Incline full of tourists

People often ask how I find the treasures of information about people for my biographies, along with nuggets of details about Colorado’s colorful history. I have a system, which boils down to “making the rounds” to various hot spots and collections pertaining to my subject. Whenever possible, I begin at the cemetery. By visiting a family plot, I get a sense of dates and family members during the final days of a character’s life. Then I work backwards, visiting libraries, archives, repositories, museums, houses, statues, and monuments.

Until recently, I often visited archives and repositories to look up files and read microfilm. Now, we have the luxury of studying many of these documents online. Although most of us know better than to believe what we read in the newspaper, articles contemporary to the person’s life give us many details about the times in which they lived. The trick is to follow up these leads and road maps to primary evidence and public records to substantiate what we find. In Colorado, the manuscript collections at Denver Public Library and History Colorado’s library allow access to special documents and collections. The Colorado Archives office in the Department of Revenue’s basement is an especially rich assemblage of information.

I am constantly on the lookout for graphic images and photos of the places where my character worked, lived, and played. I have a secret weapon … post cards! My growing collection of vintage post cards contain scenes as they appeared during the lives of my pioneer subjects. Several of these images often appear whenever I give PowerPoint presentations about Colorado history, and also are included in my biographies. They flesh out the scenery as it appeared during Colorado’s early days.

My current work-in-progress is Spencer Penrose: Builder and Benefactor, due for publication from Filter Press later this summer. Penrose built many important buildings and landmarks in the Pikes Peak Region, such as the Broadmoor Hotel, the Pikes Peak Highway, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Manitou Incline, and many other attractions. The El Pomar Foundation, established by Penrose and his wife, Julie, is responsible for millions of dollars in grants donated to non-profit organizations in Colorado. The Penroses were colorful characters who worked hard to improve their growing community, and to make it a better place for its citizens.

Joyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Western history, Writing Life

 

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Outlaws and Desperados

Outlaws and Desperadoes

Spencer Penrose with pal Harry Leonard, outlaws and desperados, in their twilight.

A writer’s life often requires switching gears and topics while awaiting the next step, another round of edits, a transition in story format, publication. My Work In Progress is a biography about Spencer Penrose, a mover and shaker in the early days of the Colorado Springs community at the foot of Pikes Peak. With fortunes made from mining and land development, he built roads and attractions to accommodate tourists, built the Broadmoor Resort Hotel, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Rodeo Arena, and buildings for schools and hospitals. He invested his mining fortune in the El Pomar Foundation, which continues to donate millions of dollars in grants to non-profit groups for good work and causes in the community.

In the late 1800s, Colorado Springs founder, General William Palmer, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in his new city, in order to discourage bad behavior, outlaws and desperados. When Penrose arrived in the city, he was looking for a job and a cold drink. His prospective business partner, Charles Tutt, accommodated both needs by offering him a job, and taking him to the newly established Cheyenne Mountain Club outside the city limits where they could enjoy their favorite libations in the bar. A few weeks later, Penrose was briefly banned from the club for his involvement in a minor brawl, which disrupted the elite club and resulted in broken furniture. If his reputation as a trouble maker followed him to the freewheeling Cripple Creek mining district, it was no doubt overlooked.

By the time he moved back to Colorado Springs, the scrappy investor’s reputation was overshadowed by his shrewd investment sense and knowledge of mining ventures. He married a widow named Julie Lewis McMillan, which further settled and cultivated his behavior in public and his stature as a solid citizen with an adventurous streak and a flair for fun. The mold was set for his place as a colorful and important character in Pikes Peak area history.

Joyce B. Lohse, http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
 

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In With the New

I enjoy the arrival of the New Year. It is an inspiring time of optimism with an empty calendar waiting to be filled with interesting new adventures and quests for historic tidbits and treasures. To celebrate the arrival of 2014, I ordered a banner to use at upcoming events. During the last weekend of July, I will be promoting books and talking history, along with South Park Perils author Christie Wright, at Burro Days in Fairplay. Come see us! Look for the booth with the big red Colorado History sign!

New book sign

New book sign

Currently, I am moving forward on a biography about Colorado Springs builder and promoter, Spencer Penrose, for the popular “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press. The Penrose project is a double-header. I am also hard at work on a presentation piece for the next Pikes Peak Library District history symposium called “Bigwigs and Benefactors of the Pikes Peak Region”, scheduled for June 7, 2014. Working title is “The Penrose Legacy: Ventures, Vogue and Vagary”. During this time of discovery, I cannot wait to see what will happen next or what will appear around the next bend. Penrose was a fascinating character and I embrace the challenge of sharing a fresh viewpoint on his life and times. More details to come.

Looking ahead to fall, my national writers’ group, Women Writing the West, will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with our annual conference taking place in Denver at the Brown Palace Hotel. As hired administrator for WWW since 2002, I will be busier than usual with additional duties as I look forward to participation in and celebration of two decades as a non-profit literary force and presence in the United States. For planning and registration information, go to: http://www.womenwritingthewest.org.

Prospects are excellent for an interesting year, and I anticipate seeing many of my peers and pals along the way. In the meantime, I will be working on the Penrose story, which I look forward to sharing upon completion.

Happy New Year!
Joyce and Don

Events in 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014 – Porter Place, Denver – “Baby Doe Tabor” –
1 p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2014 – D.A.R., Aurora – “Eliza Routt: Colorado’s Original First Lady” – Tin Cup at Aurora Hills Golf Course, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 – Columbine Genealogical Society, Littleton – “A New Age Family History Tour” – 1 p.m.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 – Pikes Peak Library District History Symposium – “Bigwigs and Benefactors” – at East Library, Colorado Springs – will feature Joyce Lohse’s Spencer Penrose presentation – pre-registration is required for this free all-day public program.

July 26-27, 2014 – Burro Days in Fairplay – Author booth with Christie Wright – last weekend in July – come see us and talk Colorado history!

October 17-19, 2014 — Women Writing the West Conference – Denver – 20th Anniversary Celebration – Brown Palace Hotel

Brown Palace Lobby

Ceiling in the Brown Palace Lobby

 

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Old Faces and New Places

Shrine of the Sun

Shrine of the Sun

In the early stages of writing a biography, ideas sometimes percolate on the back burner and germinate slowly through the seasons. Ideas grow as the creative cells divide. Sometimes I find myself in a locale that calls to me while I decide my next move. Usually, the place I seek is a cemetery. When I see the final destination of a person’s journey, I can visualize and speculate about the life which brought them there. Sometimes, I find inspiration, a hint of what brought them to this spot, or a familiar and surprising landmark when paths intersect.

View

View of the Eastern Plains from the Shrine

This past week, I drove an hour south of Denver to my former home, Colorado Springs, for a book launch. Pikes Peak Library District published another fine compilation, Doctors, Disease and Dying in the Pikes Peak Region, which included my chapter about Dr. Justina Ford. Before the event, I visited the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, high above Colorado Springs and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. On a crisp, clear fall day, the view was expansive, dizzying and breathtaking. I had the place to myself.

Mural at shrine

Familiar history through art at Shrine of the Sun

I was thrilled and watchful as I climbed the narrow staircase of cool stone outside the majestic tower made entirely of rock and mortar, except for the metal of the inside staircase, rails, and doors. In the entrance, I spied a familiar face. Was that General William Palmer on that painted mural, welcoming travelers on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad? I was back home now, on familiar turf, encountering an old friend from Colorado history. Was the clanking sound I heard above an uneasy spirit, or another pilgrim in this fortress? No, it was just a flagpole rope, caught by the wind, batting the metal flagpole. Perhaps the sound was demanding my attention, urging me forward.

This grand and glorious place, created by Builder of the West, Spencer Penrose, was built as a shrine to his entertainer and philosopher pal, Will Rogers, after his death in a 1935 airplane crash. The shrine also contains a chapel where the Penrose’s cremains were buried later. This enchanting haven could definitely qualify as the starting point for a new story and writing adventure.

Joyce Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

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