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Pourtales, Penrose, and the "Broadmoor City" Dream

Tags: Fellowship Penrose Legacy

Garrett Mayberry

Gazing westward from the sun-soaked terrace of The Broadmoor’s main building, you can easily be whisked away to another time and place. Nestled beneath the enduring crags of Cheyenne Mountain, the pink stucco towers, which crown the resort, provide the backdrop of a grand Mediterranean palace of ages past. Below, from the banks of the wind-rippled waters of Cheyenne Lake, you can envision the same vista which inspired Spencer Penrose to build what would be called “the most beautiful hotel in America.”

Today, The Broadmoor stands as perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Penrose legacy and is indelibly linked to the history of El Pomar Foundation, which held a majority interest in the property until 1988. The full story of the hotel, its history, and the scenic Cheyenne Lake at its center, however, extends back before Spencer Penrose’s purchase of the property, his nearby estate, El Pomar, and even his journey westward in 1892. The beginning of the Broadmoor began with a dairy farm, a casino, and a Prussian Count in search of love and fortune.

Spencer Penrose Broadmoor City Dream.jpg

In 1884, Count James Pourtales came to Colorado Springs from Silesia, Prussia, seeking love and entrepreneurial opportunity. Perhaps as a means of staying close to his beautiful bride-to-be, Berthe, Pourtales acquired and successfully revived the Broadmoor Dairy Farm at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. Pourtales, intrigued by the property’s potential, acquired the land in 1888 under the name Cheyenne Lake, Land and Improvement Company. He dreamed of developing a European style resort, “Broadmoor City,” complete with its own casino, hotel and power plant. Cheyenne Creek was diverted to create a lake at the center of the development. After draining away time after time through the sandy soil, the lake was finally lined with clay and filled with water. 

On July 1, 1891, Count Pourtales' casino opened on the east side of his lake, drawing guests from across the country, and a small hotel was built soon thereafter. However, the high rollin’ times did not last. During the Panic of 1893, Pourtales defaulted on a $250,000 loan and lost his majority stake in the casino. Just four years later, the casino caught fire and had to be replaced with a less-grand structure. Count Pourtales and his wife were visiting his native land when he died unexpectedly in 1908. While his absence from the foot of Cheyenne Mountain was final, Pourtales’ impact would linger, through both his impact on the Broadmoor community and a popular German book called American Adventure Lessons Learned from Experience.


After the Count’s death, the property was held by the Myron Stratton estate until 1916, when Spencer Penrose acquired the property and set out to build the finest hotel in America. Construction was overseen by Charles L. Tutt II, son of Penrose's late business partner, and completed in 1918 at a cost of over $2,000,000. To provide lakefront space for the new hotel, the second casino building was moved a short distance away and re-named the “Colonial Club,” where it stood until demolition in 1961. In 1980, the long- independent Broadmoor was one of five suburbs officially annexed by Colorado Springs.

In his 1886 Harvard thesis, Spencer Penrose wrote, “The fact is one great man opens and prepares the way for many others. Thus, the influence of great men is continually multiplied and increased.” The next time you visit Colorado Springs, take a moment to inspect the roads you travel on, and who may have paved the way. You might be surprised to notice a Pourtales Road and a Berthe Circle, an El Pomar Road and a Tutt Boulevard. These signposts of history stand firmly in memory of a place and paths forged by great men and women who came before us: a Prussian Count and his wife; a Tutt-Penrose partnership with a golden touch; and the nascent struggles and fortuitous birth of “Broadmoor City,” a dream whose realization has defined a neighborhood and city for more than a century.