I have a crush, on General William Jackson Palmer.
He wooed me with his passion for creating a healthy, cultured society. Then seduced me with his sense of familial loyalty to the workers he employed. There’s nothing more to be done, he has my heart.
A decorated Civil War hero who made his fortune in the railroad business, Palmer (1836-1909) left his mark on towns throughout the state of Colorado. But Colorado Springs was special to the General. It was the place he chose to live, the town where he wished to bring his wife “Queen” Mary Lincoln Mellen Palmer, and where he hoped to raise his three girls, Elsie, Dorothy and Marjory.
Last weekend, I had a chance to visit Glen Eyrie (c. 1904), Palmer’s historic residence in Colorado Springs. A staggering 38,000 square feet sited on more than 700 acres, the building has 18 bedrooms and 24 fireplaces. Admittedly, that large of a house for the General and his small family, was a bit…much.
But despite the massive size of the building, the structure’s stories serve to deepen my love of the General. Here’s a taste of the house for you, in words and pictures:
1. The house wasn’t always that large. What Palmer first built, and what “Queen” actually lived in for a short time, was a more modest 22-room house (photo c. 1872-1880). It wasn’t until after Queen’s death in 1894 that Palmer and his daughters transformed the home into a castle in her honor (photo c. 1903).
2. The General built his house for the long haul, and so used materials of a quality that would stand the test of time. The horse stalls of his carriage house are made of mahogany wood; roof tiles and castle windows were reclaimed from an historic English church slated to be demolished.
3. When installing a “rib cage” shower, an exclusive luxury item at the turn of the last century, in his personal bathroom, Palmer bought a second shower for his staff, installing it in the bathroom off of the kitchen.
That last bit is the one that really gets me. Purchasing a top of the line shower for his staff, the same one he himself enjoyed.
So there, I’ve said it. I have a crush. Now, be still my beating heart.
More photos and info about Glen Eyrie are available here.
Pikes Peak Library District, Special Collections, online photograph archives.
The Life and Times of General William Jackson Palmer. Directed by Jim Sawatzki. Palmer Divide Productions, 2004. DVD.