#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and the people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.
In its first year, 1937, El Pomar granted to five organizations: the Fountain Valley School, Glockner Hospital, the Boys & Girls Club of The Pikes Peak Region, the Junior League of Colorado Springs (for the Nutrition Camp School), and the Penrose Community School.
The grant to the community school in Penrose, Colorado offers an opportunity to explore the history of the town named for El Pomar Foundation’s founder.
Grantee Spotlight: Penrose Community School
After Spencer Penrose began to accumulate his fortune through mining in Cripple Creek, he soon laid eyes on the area surrounding Beaver Creek, which had been settled by pioneers in the early 1860s and was home to a few hundred individuals by the early 1900s.
Penrose’s interest in business led him to found the “Beaver Land and Irrigation Company,” purchase water rights on Beaver Creek, and build the Schaeffer Dam and Lake McNeil west of present-day Highway 115. While Penrose’s plans for a series of reservoirs never came to fruition, the town of Penrose grew as citizens came to grow agricultural crops. The Kirkwood Memorial Presbyterian Church was built in 1908, and the rest of the downtown area included a mercantile, pharmacy, and lumber mill. With his business partners, Spencer Penrose built a hotel and a railroad in 1909: the “Beaver, Penrose, and Northern.” The train gave residents of Penrose access to Cañon City and Pueblo, and allowed the locally grown produce to be shipped to Denver. In part due to the economic boost brought by Penrose’s business ventures, the Beaver Park area became known as Penrose around this time.
According to “Penrose: Past and Present” by Sherry Johns, the Penrose School District was established in 1908 and the original Penrose School was built in 1916: “Miss Louch was the first teacher in the original school and earned $50 a month. Her desk was a large wooden box with a nail keg for a chair, which she padded with the Montgomery Ward catalog. The first graduating class in 1918 consisted of five young ladies.” This was the school El Pomar Foundation funded in 1937 with a $500 grant for gym equipment. The school was eventually consolidated with Fremont RE-2 School District and while the Penrose School is no longer used, it still stands at 100 Illinois Street. In 1961, El Pomar provided a $25,000 grant toward a new community center gym in Penrose in recognition of the community and its connection to Spencer Penrose.
Today Penrose, Colorado remains unincorporated and is home to around 3,600 people. While many of the original buildings are no longer standing, the hotel built by Penrose and Charles McNeil, Kirkwood Church, and original schoolhouse continue to provide a glimpse into the town’s rich history.
El Pomar in 1961:
In 1961, El Pomar granted $1.17 million through 52 grants, including capital support for the construction of the Charles Tutt library at Colorado College, the cancer wing at Penrose Hospital, Pauline Chapel, and a barn for hoofed animals at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Images from: http://m.sherryjohns.com/-Penrose-History-.html and El Pomar's collection
Spotlight by Corey Baron