Friday, June 13, 2014

Road Trip - Shrine of the Sun

On a whim, Hubby and I decided to go for a drive one sunny Sunday afternoon. We wondered our destination, when we saw it! We knew where we were headed - The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun!

aerial view of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo website
The Shrine of the Sun is located high up on the side of Cheyenne Mountain outside of Colorado Springs, with an expansive view.

This medieval looking tower (the grands call it The Castle) was built by Spencer Penrose, a philanthropist who made his money in the gold fields of Cripple Creek and copper ore from Utah. Spencer Penrose and his wife, Julie, helped to make Colorado Springs what it is today.

The Shrine was completed in 1937 after 3yrs of construction. No wood or nails were used in the construction but 200,000 lbs of steel and 30 wagon loads of cement were. And all the stones used came from a single boulder of Pikes Peak Granite. Penrose named the tower after Will Rogers, a very good friend of his, after Rogers was killed in a plane crash in 1935.

looking up at cathedral ceiling in Historical Room
The first floor is a wondrous room with a cathedral ceiling. The entire room is painted in a mural depicting the early history of the region and is aptly named the "Historical Room". And the sound in this room is incredible! The resonance of any note can be felt in one's soul. I would love to hear music in this room.

All the doors are made of ornate steel

The floors above the "Historical Room" are filled with a photographic tribute to Will Rogers. The Shrine rises 114 ft above the mountain. The climb up the narrow stairway to the top is not for the squeamish. Nor is standing on the upper balcony. Whew! Talk about vertigo.....

looking northeast at Colorado Springs
Around the base of the tower is a walkway with large granite stones serving as a guard rail. Atop these stones are plaques which point to various landmarks.

The lower level contains the chapel where the remains of Spencer and Julie Penrose reside. The chapel has several 15th and 16th century art objects in it. 

There is an eclectic collection of  statuary on the grounds. Proof that the Penroses strove to bring culture to the Pikes Peak region. Another balcony is situated off of the chapel entrance. 

looking north towards the Garden of the Gods
And if y'all are wondering, No! neither Hubby nor I were up to the challenge of venturing too far up or out. In fact driving up the road to the Shrine was almost too much for your intrepid reporter.

And speaking of the road, it now bears the name Russell Tutt Scenic Highway. But it was once known as the Wonder Road. Probably because it was a wonder it was built, the way it perches on the side of the mountain!

The piece de resistance is the Westminster chimes located in the tower. They can be heard throughout the valley below, chiming the hour and quarter hour. In a newspaper article from 1937, lights were said to have come on and gone off before/after the chimes rang out. The Shrine was fondly called the Singing Tower.

In the Visitors center is a scale model of The Shrine along with bits of memorabilia and history. If anyone is ever in this area, be sure to put this on your 'must see' list! I highly recommend it!


Aine O'Brien said...

What an amazing place! I would love to see it. Thanks for sharing.

the dogs' mother said...

Colorado is full of surprises!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

How magical! I've never heard of this before.

JenJen said...

Hey! I am so glad that you and the Hubs made it up there. :) The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (if you're a zoo person) is really cool as well. But beware there is a lot of walking up hill. The zoo was started by Penrose as well; people kept giving him exotic animals and he had nowhere to put them.
The tower from afar reminds me of something out of Lord of the Rings.:) We live in an interesting area for sure!