Our History

Cripple Creek, Colorado "Boom Days" - March 1894 Bela Kadish, Spencer Penrose, Edward Newhouse, and Chas L. Tutt, Sr.


Spencer "Spec" Penrose is born in Philadelphia. Arrives in Colorado Springs in 1892 and invests in a mining venture with friend Charles Tutt.  As business partners in Cripple Creek, they promote the mining district and profit from its mining and real estate. Proceeds from their C.O.D. mine in Cripple Creek finance milling interests in Colorado City.  

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Julie McMillan is the daughter of Alexander Lewis, prominent businessman and mayor of Detroit. She moves to Colorado Springs and later marries Spencer in 1906. Philanthropy is a key value for Julie. She becomes a founder of the Broadmoor Art Academy and Central City Opera

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Cripple Creek Gold and Utah Copper

Penrose's great wealth evolved in part from his prescient purchase of property in Bingham Canyon, Utah. Metallurgist Daniel Jackling proposed the investment after discovering a large body of low-grade copper in the canyon. Jackling believed the ore could be mined profitably at an incredible rate of 2,000 tons per day using a new metallurgical technique developed by one of Penrose’s engineers in Cripple Creek.


Spencer constructs the Pikes Peak Highway as an alternative to the Cog Railway. The next year, he establishes the  Pikes Peak International Hill Climb which becomes the second oldest motor sports race in America.


Courtesy of Pikes Peak Library District

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Spencer and Julie purchase their home, Penrose House. The home was built in 1910 on what was once the Dixon  apple orchard, and named El Pomar which is a colloquial word for apple orchard in Catalan.


Penrose purchased the 40 acre site of the Broadmoor Casino and Hotel and adjoining 450 acres for $90,000 in 1916. Intent on creating a resort to equal the opulance they experienced in Europe, the Penroses set out to build the most beautiful resort in the world.  Master golf course architecht Donald Ross was hired and the Broadmoor Hotel opened in the summer.


Julie Penrose is a great enthusiast of both the performing and visual arts. She offers their original home on Dale Street to establish the Broadmoor Art Academy, which became the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in 1936.


Penrose opens the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo 

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1937     El Pomar Foundation 

Spencer Penrose was a visionary and entrepreneur, his wife a patroness of the arts and philanthropist. With their combined initial gift of $21 million, together they established El Pomar Foundation, a living legacy that would contribute to the future of Colorado. The mission of the Foundation honors the Penrose's values and vision for their home...

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to enhance, encourage and promote the current and future well-being of the people of Colorado


Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun

Built in 1937, the Shrine stands 114 feet high and was fashioned from Cheyenne Mountain granite quarried 700 feet away from the building site.

An old world chapel sits in the lower level where the Penroses are interred. Baroque art and two 15th century prayer benches, anniversary gifts to Mr. and Mrs. Penrose from the Duke and Duchess of France, line the walls. Click here to learn more about the Shrine.

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1941 Carriage Museum

Julie commissions a local Bauhaus architect to build the first El Pomar Carriage Museum to house the couple's extensive collection of vehicles, horse drawn carriages, and western memorabilia. Today, Penrose Heritage Museum remains free and open to the public and features the "Pikes Peak Hill Climb Experience", including the official race care and memorabillia collection of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Julie also donates the El Pomar estate to the Sisters of Charity and moves into the Broadmoor Hotel.


1989 Awards for Excellence

The Foundation launches its first community stewardship program to recognize top performing nonprofits from around the state. Since its inception in 1989, the Awards for Excellence program has provided more than $6.5 million in grant support to more than 500 nonprofit organizations throughout Colorado.

1991 Fellowship

The first Fellowship class joins El Pomar. With nearly 300 alumni, the El Pomar Fellowship is designed to develop Colorado's next generation of leaders.

1992 Penrose House

El Pomar Foundation purchases the Penroses' former estate and transforms it into a nonprofit conference and education center. Penrose House is made available to charitable organizations throughout Colorado free-of-charge for strategic planning, seminars and trainings.

Beaumont Hotel, Ouray, Colorado

2003 Regional Partnerships

The Regional Partnerships program is established to broaden the Foundation’s impact and support  to rural communities. 



10,000 grants made by Trustees since 1937

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$725 million assets

$570 million grant dollars approved

$127 million in programs

$1.4 billion impact to the state of Colorado