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Celebrating 80 Years - The Wild Side of the Penrose Legacy, 1943, Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society

Tags: #Celebrating80Years Penrose Legacy

Spencer Penrose with Tessie the elephant

#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.

If you had been a guest at Spencer Penrose’s Broadmoor Hotel in the 1920s, your stay may have been a little more “wild” than expected. When you got into bed at night you might have been kept up by the howling coyotes kept west of the Golf Club. Enjoying a meal on the West Terrace, you would have had to fend off flamingos, seals, and monkeys looking to steal a bite. And if you had played a round on the famous Broadmoor golf course fifteen years later, you might have seen Spencer Penrose himself enjoying a round with his favorite caddie—Tessie, the 45-year old elephant.

Spencer Penrose was enamored with animals and channeled this passion into the creation of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. El Pomar’s third-largest grant recipient to date, the Zoo continues to operate on the mountain west of the Broadmoor, providing world-class recreation, education, and conservation efforts from 6,800 feet above sea level.


Grantee Spotlight:

Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society

After receiving a grizzly bear as a gift in 1916, Spencer Penrose pursued his passion for exotic animals by acquiring a wide array of wildlife, which he kept at the Broadmoor Hotel and his Turkey Creek Ranch south of Colorado Springs. 

After an unfortunate incident involving a Broadmoor guest and a monkey in 1926, Spencer began to move his menagerie to the side of Cheyenne Mountain, and in 1938 announced the creation of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Heavily advertised by Penrose as “the highest zoo in the world,” the attraction drew 11,000 guests in July 1938 alone. Spencer devoted himself to the Zoo’s success, riding up the mountain on horseback to bottle-feed baby antelopes, and manage details including the animals’ menus, cages, and schedules. He visited zoos across the country and the world in search of improvements and personally handled the buying, selling, and trading of his animals. As Penrose aged, he transferred responsibility of the Zoo to Charles L. Tutt, Jr, son of his original business partner, Charles Tutt.

Pianist Victor Borge plays for a reticulated giraffe at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Since its establishment in 1938, the Zoo has expanded significantly, adding dozens of exhibits over the years and evolving into a leader in both conservation and education. Welcoming hundreds of thousands of guests each year and now home to the largest reticulated giraffe herd at any zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo preserves Spencer’s legacy in its simultaneous commitment to provide a world class recreational experience while also working for the good of the animals and communities it serves.

El Pomar has proudly supported this Penrose legacy since the Foundation’s endowment. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society has received more than $25 million in El Pomar grants, making it the Foundation’s third-largest grant recipient to date.


El Pomar in 1943:

In 1943 the Foundation granted $199,000 to 21 organizations, with new recipients including the Civic Music Association and the University of Colorado Foundation. 




Images courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society

Spotlight by Corey Baron