Perennially ranked one of the top resorts in the United States, the Broadmoor opened just southwest of Colorado Springs in 1918. Built on the site of a failed casino complex and upscale suburban development at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, the Broadmoor has grown over the decades into a sprawling resort of roughly 3,000 acres and nearly 800 rooms. Now owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, the Broadmoor’s accommodations, restaurants, and other resort activities annually receive the highest ratings from AAA, Forbes Travel Guide, and other travel publications.
Corn Brooms and Dairy Cows
In the 1860s, when Colorado City served as a supply town for mining ventures in the mountains and Colorado Springs had not yet been founded, the area that is now the Broadmoor was part of a 720-acre corn and wheat farm owned by Burton C. Myers. Myers used his corn to make brooms that he sold in Colorado City.
In 1881 recent transplant William Wilcox acquired the Myers farm and 880 additional acres. Wilcox had moved from Philadelphia to Colorado Springs to recover from tuberculosis. He was the son of a paper and cement maker, but he bought the land to establish a dairy farm. Wilcox bought twenty cows and built an icehouse and cottages for the milkers and a large sixteen-room house for his family. He called his venture the Broadmoor Dairy Farm; the source of the name is unknown.
By 1885, Wilcox’s farm was struggling, and he was in search of a buyer or business partner. Luck brought him Count James Pourtales, a wealthy Prussian who was in Colorado Springs to woo his future wife. Pourtales apparently expected to invest $25,000 and quickly turn the farm’s fortunes around. Instead, he ended up spending several years and tens of thousands of dollars on the project. He increased the farm’s size to 2,400 acres, acquired Cheyenne Creek water rights, built new barns, and bought 200 new cows.
After 1887, when Colorado Springs land values started rising with the completion of the Colorado Midland Railway, Pourtales decided to use some of his land for development and speculation. In 1888 he established the Cheyenne Lake, Land and Improvement Company. With 320 acres and $12,000 in capital he built Cheyenne Lake, marked a series of streets radiating out from the lake, and planted 2,000 trees.
After sorting out some problems with the lake, the trees, and transportation from downtown Colorado Springs, in 1889 Pourtales combined all his local holdings, including the Broadmoor Dairy Farm, into a new venture called the Broadmoor Land and Investment Company. He platted the 2,400-acre development—an upscale suburb called Broadmoor City—and to entice buyers he promised to build an elegant casino beside the lake.
In July 1891, the Broadmoor Casino opened on the east side of Cheyenne Lake. A white two-story Georgian-style building, it included dining rooms, ballrooms, game and billiard rooms, a bar, and a reading room. It was successful, but few people bought lots in the Broadmoor City development; by 1915, only about a dozen houses had been built. The Panic of 1893 doomed Pourtales’s plans for the area. In the wake of the panic, he had to turn over all his Broadmoor property to the London and New York Investment Company, which had given him a loan several years earlier.
Over the next fifteen years, the London and New York Investment Company leased the Broadmoor Casino as well as a small hotel on the west side of the lake. In 1897 the original casino burned down and was replaced by a smaller structure designed by local architect Thomas MacLaren.
In 1909 the estate of Cripple Creek millionaire Winfield Scott Stratton bought all the Broadmoor land with the intention of using part of it for the Myron Stratton Home for orphans and the elderly poor. The old hotel was leased to a girls’ school in 1913–14 and operated as a hotel in 1915.
Building the Broadmoor
In 1916 the history of the Broadmoor area took a decisive turn. Early that year, Spencer Penrose, who had made a fortune in Cripple Creek gold and Utah copper, moved with his wife, Julia, into the El Pomar villa west of Cheyenne Lake. Penrose was interested in acquiring or developing a high-class hotel in Colorado Springs, but his overtures to the Antlers Hotel downtown had been rebuffed. He turned to the old Broadmoor site as an alternative. In April, Penrose, C. M. MacNeill, and A. E. Carlton bought the 18-acre hotel and casino site, as well as 400 additional acres, for $90,000. They began planning a million-dollar hotel beside Cheyenne Lake.
To design the hotel, Penrose and his partners hired Frederick J. Sterner, known for his work on the Antlers Hotel, William Jackson Palmer’s Glen Eyrie castle, and the Daniels & Fisher Tower in Denver. Soon, however, Sterner’s plans were deemed too elaborate, and he was dismissed. In his place the developers brought in Warren and Wetmore, a New York firm whose work included Grand Central Station and the Biltmore and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in New York. The new architects kept Sterner’s basic idea of a grand Italianate building covered in pink stucco (the pink shade was supposedly Penrose’s choice) on the east side of Cheyenne Lake.
The former casino that had occupied the hotel site was moved south to become the golf course clubhouse, and construction on the hotel began in 1917. Meanwhile, Penrose acquired 800 more acres of land near the hotel, including the Horns on Cheyenne Mountain, and hired the Olmsted Brothers firm to design the resort’s grounds. After being designed and built at a cost of more than $2 million, the Broadmoor opened to the public in June 1918.
The Penrose Years
Penrose’s Broadmoor opened just as automobile tourism was becoming popular in the United States. It succeeded where previous ventures in the area had failed, in part because Penrose was committed to enhancing the resort and developing new attractions nearby. In the mid-1920s, he built Cheyenne Mountain Road, Cheyenne Mountain Lodge, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. He also acquired the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, which complemented the auto road he had already built to the summit.
In 1932 Penrose maneuvered to get sole ownership of the Broadmoor, which he had originally developed with two partners. The hotel suffered during the Great Depression, and even had to close during the winter of 1935–36, but it survived. By the late 1930s, Penrose was expanding again, adding the Broadmoor Ice Palace, Will Rogers Stadium, and the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun as nearby attractions.
After Penrose died in 1939, ownership of the hotel transferred to the Penroses’ recently established nonprofit, the El Pomar Foundation. Charles Tutt Jr., the son of Penrose’s boyhood friend and business partner, became the president of the hotel. Tutt and his sons continued to run the hotel through the El Pomar Foundation until 1988.
As the post–World War II American economy boomed and leisure travel increased, the Broadmoor prospered and expanded. In 1959 the resort opened a small ski area—Ski Broadmoor, on the lower slopes of Cheyenne Mountain—that operated until the 1980s. In 1961 the hotel added both the International Center, a conference and entertainment building that included an English-style pub called the Golden Bee, and Broadmoor South, a nine-story 144-room structure, with the world-class Penrose Room restaurant on the top floor. Broadmoor West opened across Cheyenne Lake from the main building in 1976, bringing the growing hotel’s room total to 560. In addition to increasing its accommodations, the resort also developed an impressive figure skating program and added two golf courses in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1988 the El Pomar Foundation sold the Broadmoor and related properties (including the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway) to Edward Gaylord and the Oklahoma Publishing Company. Over the next two decades, the new owners invested about $450 million in expansions and renovations at the hotel. In 1995 the Broadmoor West Tower opened, increasing the number of rooms to 700, and in 2001–2 the main building was closed for an extensive renovation. In the early 2000s, the Broadmoor complex added new condominiums and townhouses, an events center, and retail space.
In 2011 the Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz acquired the Broadmoor, making him the hotel’s third owner since Spencer Penrose. Since then, he has invested more than $130 million in several large projects at the property. A 2014 expansion and renovation of Broadmoor West added three floors and thirty-one rooms and made the 1970s-era exterior blend in better with the rest of the resort. In addition, through its acquisition of Seven Falls and development of properties on Cheyenne Mountain and in Pike National Forest, the Broadmoor has introduced the Wilderness Experience, offering luxury accommodations and adventures in rustic settings.
The main Broadmoor complex now has nearly 800 rooms, a handful of well-regarded restaurants, three golf courses, and a variety of tennis courts and swimming pools. In 2016 the resort received five diamonds from AAA for the fortieth year in a row, making it the only hotel in North America to receive AAA’s top rating each year since the awards started.