Palmer is celebrated at Glen Eyrie on 100th anniversary of his death
Four local historians - Len Froisland, Delores Gustafson, Donald McGilchrist and Susan Fletcher - talked about aspects of the life of Colorado Springs founder
General William Palmer on the 100th anniversary of his death March 13.
The location was the carriage house at Glen Eyrie, the castle that Palmer had visualized, seen completed in 1904 and lived in until his death in 1909.
The 67-room complex on 900 acres (west of 30th Street, north of the Garden of the Gods) has been owned by the Navigators, a Christian spiritual organization, since 1953.
Froisland pointed out that Palmer wanted Glen Eyrie to have lasting quality. When a question came up about how to deal with certain foundation issues, he issued the instructions: “If you make it so it will last 1,000 years, that will solve your problems.”
Leading the construction effort was his chief engineer Cornelius Van Diest, who had to deal with threats of union labor walkouts and to adjust to ideas from Palmer himself. One of these was roofing tiles. The general had bought an old church in Europe just to obtain the tiles, which he shipped to Van Diest at Glen Eyrie, forcing a change in one of the roofs. But the tiles remain to this day.
As Froisland noted, “we've had a good start on 1,000 years; we've made it to 100.”
Gustafson talked about what she termed Palmer's “softer side.” Explaining that Glen Eyrie also became home to the Mellen family (his wife Queen's in-laws), “we can understand why his house was as big as it was.”
Reading excerpts from saved letters of his, Gustafson noted how “he was always solving problems” for family members. His wry description of pet dogs (he'd owned several himself) in a letter to then-10-year-old Daisy Mellen drew a laugh from the audience of about 75 people: “They rarely die and never resign.”
According to McGil-christ, Palmer seemed “stiff and reserved on the outside, but he was good-hearted and kind.” He saw his city and his railroad (the Denver & Rio Grande) not just as money-makers, but contributions to a better world. Palmer never took a public leadership role in Colorado Springs. “He steered the city, but not in a dictatorial way,” McGilchrist said. As a side note, the speaker observed that Colorado Springs was one of the few western cities of any size that were started without any federal funding assistance.
Fletcher said there was “great depth of grief” in Colorado Springs when Palmer died, at age 72. But, though he was a “national figure” by that time, she said he was a “humble man” who preferred to have his remains cremated rather than to lie in state for the public to see. Referring to a recent news article elsewhere describing futile efforts to “dig up dirt” on Palmer's life, she said, “There's not any dirt; he was great.”
Westside Pioneer article