COBWEB CORNERS: Spencer Penrose's spectacular mountain roadBy Mel McFarland
In early July 1924, plans for a spectacular mountain road were announced by Spencer Penrose. It would be a toll road, climbing Cheyenne Mountain.
The first bids to come in were rejected as too expensive. Negotiations worked down the cost, and finally a contractor was selected.
At the top, a stone building was to include a cafe, lounge and dance floor with a grand stage. Large windows would give the viewer a look from far to the plains up to Pike's Peak and on down toward the Spanish Peaks. The spot, some 9,400 feet above sea level, was 3,200 feet higher than the Broadmoor below.
The initial plan was to start from the old Stage Road, but a compromise changed the route to the east face of the mountain. The top of this part of the mountain features the "Horns" - two large rock formations that feature in the legend of the mountain being a giant lizard.
The original idea for a road up Cheyenne Mountain came from Col. L.T. Ginger, who also purchased some of the land. The suggestion surfaced several times after that, as did a plan for a cable railway up from the Broadmoor, but it took Spencer Penrose to get it going.
Construction on the road started in mid-September 1924. It opened the following summer. The idea of building the Shrine of the Sun came along during the road's construction. The building of the zoo was also added to the plans as work continued.
The pavilion at the top was expanded to include hotel rooms. A zoo display and one of the retired cog locomotives from Pike's Peak were put in place a couple years later. It was said that the spot was used for parties during Prohibition, since it was virtually impossible to sneak up to the spot. The hotel closed in the early 1960s, and the flooding in 1965 heavily damaged the road.
The summit was being used by then for transmission towers for local radio and television stations, and a new, circuitous road was built up the west side of the mountain. Eventually all the remnants of the original buildings were removed, and the towers moved south to the actual summit of the mountain.
The Broadmoor Hotel now has plans for an exclusive set of rooms on the old site, with special vehicles to transport the guests up the mountain, but I hear it will not be open to the public.
(Posted 6/27/14; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)