Glen Eyrie castle is the home of the Navigators, a Christian ministry group, near the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It is a beautiful Tudor style castle surrounded by beautiful green grounds. Be Advised: This page has 800KB of images. With a 56K modem it will take 3-4 mins. for the page to load into your web browser.

 

Glen Eyrie Castle

Article by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

Main Castle Tower
Main Castle Tower
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

Glen Eyrie castle is the home of the Navigators, a Christian ministry group, near the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It is a beautiful Tudor style castle surrounded by beautiful green grounds. It was once the home of William Jackson Palmer. Palmer founded the Colorado Springs area and was married to Mary Lincoln Mellen Palmer, whom he affectionately called Queen. He built this beautiful castle for her since she was English. She never lived to see it but many Americans have seen it and have delighted in taking tours and attending teas there.

William Jackson Palmer was born in 1836 to a Quaker family. His family moved to Pennsylvania when he was five. While there he worked at the Hemfell Railroad as a boy of seventeen. This was to determine his life and future as he fell in love with the idea of railroads and what they could accomplish for America and its citizens. He borrowed money from an uncle at the age of 19 so he could study railroads in England. There were very few in America at this time.

Castle and Valley of the Eagle's Nest
Castle and Valley of the Eagle's Nest
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

He toured England, France, Wales and Scotland while studying in Europe. He wrote articles for several scientific magazines mainly about mining. The Welsh are masters of mining and it was there that he studied and wrote. He observed that these miners never came outside of the mines as it would be fatal to them. They were so used to working miles down in the earth that the light would have blinded them. It became so hot in the mines that the men took cooling off periods of ten minutes every hour in ice rooms deep in the copper and tin mines.

Another view of the castle
Another view of the castle
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

After he came back home to America he worked with the Pennsylvania railroads more and observed that the trains were now burning coal instead of wood and now could go approximately thirty miles an hour! He was amazed, astounded and happy about this progression in railroad technology. He became a secretary for the railroad at 19 years of age. His primary question was 'how do you make the railroads advance?'

Palmer was a dedicated Republican and worked in the campaign for the election of Abraham Lincoln for President in 1860. He invited politically savvy people to lecture at events to raise funds for Lincoln's election. He realized this was the only way to get a man elected to the Presidency. He realized the Republicans and Lincoln stood for human rights and the abolition of slavery. He was successful in his efforts and Lincoln was elected President in 1860.

Main event hall
Main event hall
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

Palmer served in the Civil War after war started in April of 1861. He would become the second youngest Brigadier General only after General Custer. He coordinated an elite troupe to protect President Lincoln and the generals. This was comprised of 75,000 volunteer cavalrymen. These men were all educated and of the aristocratic class. All of his men took a vow to not drink liquor while serving under Palmer. This troupe became known as the 'Anderson Troupe' and was the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment.

Exterior of the Castle with Autumn colors
Exterior of the Castle with Autumn colors
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Becoming a soldier was a difficult change for a young Quaker man but he believed solemnly in the beliefs of Lincoln and he wanted to keep the union together. The idea of the south seceding greatly disturbed Palmer. He was fond of saying 'If you don't have to fight no one has to die.' He believed in arriving first with his regiment at a battle so others from the enemy side could not arrive. No battle would ensue if this was the case. Fortification of the area took place after arrival. He started as a captain then was promoted to colonel then to general in his Civil War military career.

After the war he surveyed for the Kansas Pacific railroad in Kansas territory. This took Palmer to Colorado and namely the Pikes Peak region in Colorado City. Palmer founded Colorado Springs first known as the Fountain Colony. Shortly after this he met his wife, Queen, on a train with her father. They married shortly thereafter. He was 34 and Queen was 19. He aimed to build her a castle in a beautiful valley near the Garden of the Gods which he named the Valley of the Eagle's Nest or Glen Eyrie. It was 2000 acres.

Carriage House
Carriage House
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

He hired landscape consultant, John Blair, to ride thru the valley and lay out landscape plans for it. Palmer and Queen moved there to the house in the glen in 1872. Nine years later more landscaping was added. Three daughters were born to Palmer in the years shortly thereafter. Elsie was born in 1873, Dorothy in 1880 and Margie in 1881. At nearly the same time he started a new railroad, the Denver and Rio Grande, in partnership with William Bell who founded Manitou Springs. He wanted to develop an employee owned railroad that was not government subsidized. Things were looking very happy for Palmer and his new family.

Valley of the Eagle's Nest
Valley of the Eagle's Nest
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

He built a school on the grounds of Glen Eyrie for his daughter, Elsie, as he feared she would be kidnapped. Queen developed and taught in Colorado Springs' first public school. He also made his glen into a hunting reserve which Palmer regularly rode thru on his horse. He built an elaborate heated stable for his horses too. His animals were precious to him. He also loved dogs and had many of them during his time at the Glen. The carriage house was the original building on the glen's grounds. It housed 6 to 8 horses and one of those horses cost $7500.00. Even after they were no longer able to pull carriages or carry Palmer he did not sell them to the glue factories but kept them until their deaths in the heated carriage house.

At 44 years of age before the castle was complete Queen had a heart attack. She moved back east then to England for a more hospitable climate for her health. She took her three daughters with her. This left Palmer lonely and sad without his family. In 1898 she died in England.

Elsie's School House
Elsie's School House
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

She died shortly thereafter and the girls came back to Glen Eyrie. In 1903 construction of the castle was started. Palmer and the girls went to Europe to buy fireplaces, tiling and other fixtures for the castle. By 1906 the castle was completed. It had 65 rooms and elaborate quarters for the family and their servants. The servants even had an elaborate shower, a first for its day. Every Christmas Palmer invited the children of Colorado Springs to Glen Eyrie for an annual celebration. He insured that each one received the present he or she wished for.

Yet another view of the Castle
Yet another view of the Castle
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

The castle also had innovations unique for its time. Among these were an elaborate interior fire protection system, a pollution control system for the interior fireplaces and electric lights.

Colorado's first creamery was also developed and built on Glen Eyrie by Palmer. Palmer was friends with Louis Pasteur and realized the danger of disease from contaminated milk. Palmer was also fascinated by the weather and made an in depth study of it. He placed weather monitoring devices of the red rock formations in the glen. They still remain there today. He also developed and founded the Colorado School of Mines. It was originally located in Woodland Park and later moved to Golden where it remains.

Medieval Fireplace with an antique set of armor.
Medieval Fireplace with an antique set of armor.
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

In 1906 Palmer was paralyzed in a riding accident at the third rib down. Shortly thereafter he finally bought a car since he could no longer ride. He was adverse to this idea but had no alternative. He loved riding his beautiful horses and was distraught he no longer could after the accident. He brought his Pennsylvania regiment to Glen Eyrie for a reunion. 280 of the original 1200 members attended the reunion. In 1909 Palmer died at 72 years of age.

Close up of armor
Close up of armor
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

He benefited many people with his wealth. Before his death at his retirement from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad he shared his fortune with his employees at the railroad. He retired with five million dollars and found six million more in railroad investments he was not aware of. Each railroad employee received at least 2000 dollars.

He also gave money to the Hemfell College for African Americans. He believed they deserved a college education just like any white person. This was monumental at this time in American history. He also founded the Colorado Springs deaf and blind school, Colorado College and the Colorado Gazette Telegraph newspaper in Colorado Springs. Eighteen Colorado Springs reservoirs, hiking /riding trails, libraries and schools were also developed at Palmer's insistence.

Fireplace in Main Event Hall
Fireplace in Main Event Hall
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

Marjorie came back to live in Glen Eyrie until her death. After her death several absentee owners owned Glen Eyrie until 1938. In 1938, Snake, a Texas oilman, bought Glen Eyrie. In 1953 the Navigators purchased Glen Eyrie to be used as a retreat and conference center. Billy Graham nearly bought it also but finally did not. 45,000 people visit Glen Eyrie yearly now. The saying on the door of Glen Eyrie Castle holds true now even as it did in Palmer's lifetime. The saying is 'We should a guest love-While he loves to stay- and when he likes not -give him loving way.'

Water Fountain in exterior courtyard
Water Fountain in exterior courtyard
Photo by Cynthia Mahon-Southern

For more info visit www.gleneyriegroup.org

Bibliography:

Tour at Glen Eyrie

Wilcox, Rhoda Davis. The Man on the Iron Horse. Manitou Springs, CO: Martin Associates, 2000.

More Information

Gleneyrie
820 North 30th Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Reservations 800-944-GLEN (4536)
Sales 877-767-GLEN (4536)
Telephone 719-634-0808