Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

From Wikipedia:

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is the tomb which holds the ashes of Spencer Penrose (1865-1939), a philanthropist who contributed many of the most prominent landmarks in Colorado Springs, including the neighboring Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Broadmoor Hotel. Completed by Penrose in 1937, it takes the form of an 80-foot observation tower on the side of Cheyenne Mountain. It overlooks the Broadmoor Hotel, and from the tower one can see the entire Colorado Springs metropolitan area and Garden of the Gods.

Persuaded not to name the structure after himself, Penrose instead named it in honor of his friend, Will Rogers, the American humorist who died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935, during construction of the tomb.

The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, "an operating legacy of El Pomar Foundation," shelters the tombs of Julie and Spencer Penrose who were founders of El Pomar Foundation. The Foundation's website offers the following information (click on the link above for additional facts):

The Shrine, which stands 114 feet high, was fashioned from a single sheet of granite and completed in 1937. It was constructed entirely without nails and wood, but was bound together by 200,000 pounds of steel and 30 wagonloads of cement. It is a square-sided tower that resembles a medieval castle and boasts a 340-square-foot mural depicting the history of the Pikes Peak region. This mural was painted by renowned Santa Fe artist Randall Davey.

Strange, the twists and turns on life's road (and oftentimes in these Old Wednesday Postcard posts!). It seems that it was a poem that led Spencer Penrose from Philadelphia to Colorado. An article in the Philadelphia Enquirer written by Karla Klein Albertson explains:

. . . One oft-sold motto was a work by Arthur Chapman (1873-1935), a writer and columnist for the Denver Republican, who wrote poetry and novels with cowboy themes. Chapman's most famous poem, "Out Where the West Begins," made many an East Coast gent think about the open range.

Reportedly, a copy hung in the office of the secretary of the interior, and it was widely sold as a framed motto with a scenic background.

It reads in part:

"Out where the handclasp's a little stronger,

"Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

"That's where the West begins . . . "

Philadelphia businessman Spencer Penrose (1865-1939) was so inspired that he ventured out to the Rockies, where he made a fortune in copper and gold mining. He settled at Colorado Springs and built the famous Broadmoor Hotel in 1918. The beautiful resort still stands between the mountains and a reflecting lake, and Chapman's poem has a prominent place in the lobby. . .

Some personal irony applies here. My stepfather's last name was Chapman. I have no idea whether or not he was related to Chapman the poet, but I know he would have enjoyed this story immensely. He was a good man who came into my life when I was in kindergarten and exited (giving me the finger as one of his final gestures in the house) just as I began college. His personality had changed dramatically in the last years with our family and it was ten years later that my mother would learn that he had Alzheimer's. He died sometime around 1985, the year that Joanne Woodward won an Emmy for her role in Do You Remember Love?, a powerful drama about the impact of this horrible disease.

The man who helped raise me was the most beautiful dancer and he played harmonica as well as any pro I've ever heard. His plaintive harmonica strains would be just perfect background for the poem that sent Spencer Penrose on his way West...........

Out Where the West Begins

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,
That’s where the West begins.

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where friendship’s a little truer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
That’s where the West begins;

Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That’s where the West begins;
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And a man makes friends without half trying —
That’s where the West begins.

- Arthur Chapman


distracted by shiny objects said...

You're right, after re-reading your post I could almost hear a harmonica playing. Gotta say, the postcard is very easy on these eyes today:>)

Erin Alberty said...

It's all true, buckaroo. I moved west in 2007, and I haven't looked back. The mountains, the desert, the big sky, the laid-back attitude ... I LOVE THE WEST.

Darlene said...

I was born in Colorado Springs and spent the first 35 years of my life there so I know many stories about Spencer Penrose.

When I was a young woman I was working as a swtichboard operator at the Glockner Hospital when Mrs. Penrose (now a widow) donated a large sum of money to the hospital. The grant was predicated on the hospital being renamed the Glockner-Penrose Hospital. No name change - no money. Needless to say the hospital was renamed.

Incidentally, the Zoo is on the side of Cheyenne Mountain as is the monument pictured on the post card.

Lydia said...

@Distracted- After seeing the snow scenes at your blog I can see why you'd say that about the postcard. Bundle up!

@Erin- Well, buckaroo, I must say that your love for the West is beautifully obvious at your blog. I love seeing it anew through your eyes. :)

@Darlene- How fascinating that it's your girlhood area and you have first-hand stories about the Penroses. What fun to have a story about the naming of the hospital as a follow-up to the postcard. Thanks so much!

Honestly, before looking up info for the postcard I'd never heard of them or the wonders of the area. The Zoo website is really interesting; I spent a little time there yesterday.



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