Penrose House Conference Center
Penrose House Conference Center, once known as El Pomar, was the home of Spencer and Julie Penrose in Colorado Springs, Colorado from 1916-1944. Currently it is owned and operated by El Pomar Foundation, the nonprofit created by the Penroses in 1937 with the mission to enhance, encourage and promote the current and future wellbeing of the people of Colorado. Today it is used as a conference center for other nonprofit entities, but is open for guided tours on Mondays.
Backstory and Context
Pioneer William F. Dixon, the first to settle in Cheyenne Canon, claimed the land in 1862 for what would be the Dixon Ranch and orchard. He built irrigation ditches for his farm and orchard and raised cattle. A portion of his property that had been apple orchards became the El Pomar estate. In 1909 or 1910, Grace Goodyear Depew built a Spanish style single-story house named El Pomar, Spanish for 'the apple orchard.' In April 1910, Grace married Captain Howard Ashton Potter. Mr. Potter lived in another house on the estate when the couple's relationship became strained and he died in 1913. Grace Potter died in 1914. Author Julian Street called it the "house of houses" in Colorado Springs, not knowing one in the country that "fits its setting better than this one, or which is more perfect thing from every point of view."1
Spencer and Julie Penrose purchased El Pomar, the Potter's wine cellar collection, and house furnishings in 1916 for $75,000 (equivalent to $1,650,688 in 2016) near The Broadmoor, a resort that they had built following a European vacation. They added second and third floors to the house.The estate buildings included the main house, gate lodge, carriage house, gardener's cottage, chauffeur's cottage, and a tea house. James Bell, who had been president of the National Association of Gardeners, was superintendent of El Pomar until his death in 1920.
In 1944, following her husband's death in 1939, Julie Penrose moved out of El Pomar and into a penthouse suite at The Broadmoor. She donated the estate to The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, who used it as a spiritual retreat center for almost 50 years. Named the Julie Penrose Center, it was the first Catholic retreat center for women west of the Mississippi. It was administered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.
In 1992, the Sisters of Charity sold the home to El Pomar Foundation, who preserves and maintains the home today.
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