Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tea at Glen Eryie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Our Red Hat group has the tradition of dressing up and going for tea for our December gathering. The short drive was like driving into a Christmas card with the snow on the mountains, and the rocks of the Garden of the Gods plus the bluest of skies.

This year our tea was at Glen Eryie Castle the former home of General Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs and now home to the Navigators – a Christian group.

We had taken a tour prior to tea so we had entered the building into the entry hall that had a glowing fireplace.

The plaster ceiling in the entry way was done by Italian craftsmen.

Our server poured us our 1st cup of tea Рeither the Glen Eryie special blended Black tea or the Herbal Roobios Cr̬me au Caramel tea. Then came the warm Brie cheese in a small chafing dish with a cranberry / orange chutney that we put onto small heart shaped Lavosh crackers.

This was a tea so we were not really served a meal but the next ‘course’ was several small portions, served to each guest on one plate - a salmon pinwheel; mixed mini veggies on puff pastry; fruit salad with poppy seed dressing and a tiny artichoke bite.

And of course, there was then a dessert plate served family style – white chocolate peppermint bark; Italian pizelles cookies; nutty filo fingers; a Glen chocolate from Patsy’s (a popular chocolate shop in downtown Colorado Springs) and Queen Anne’s currant cake.

The food was fine, the tea tasty and it was a nice affair in elegant surroundings and would recommend it as a place to go and then say been there, done that. Cost with the tour was $32.95 (the tip was included because we were a group of 8). Will I ever go back? Probably on the right occassion!!

Glen Eryie Castle – Home of General Palmer / now the Navigators

General Palmer moved from Delaware to Colorado and was the ‘founder’ of Colorado Springs. He was the 2nd youngest General in the Civil War (Custer being the youngest!)

The General made his money from starting the Rio Grande Railroad from Denver to Santa Fe. There was a railroad war between the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe RR but General Palmer continued operating his RR in CO moving the gold from the mountains around Colorado Springs.

He married and the couple had 3 daughters and built the family home in a little valley on the west side of Colorado Springs and at the north end of the Garden of the Gods.

He always wanted a castle and went to Europe for many of the furnishings, 20 of the 21 fireplaces and even bought a whole 800-year-old church, just for the red roof tiles. Only a few remain on the castle to this day, which makes them over 900 years old. – Amazing.

His wife had heart problems and the doctors advised that she move to sea level. Eventually she and the girls moved to England where she died at age 44. She never returned to the Castle to live.

One of the daughters did tho’. She had TB and the altitude and clear, clean air of Colorado was what was needed for her to heal. Actually that is still true today. Through the years there have been many tuberculosis hospitals and sanitariums in and around the city.

The General also built the Antlers hotel in, what is now, downtown. In the late 1890’s the hotel burned down which led the General into installing several inventive fire protection units in the castle. 1 being metal doors that pulled down to separate 2 of the wings. Another was water pipes and fire hoses hidden behind paneling and in separate closets.

These wooden panels cover a lot of the walls throughout their home. Notice how they go from large at the bottom to smaller at the top. That is to create the illusion of higher ceilings.

He was pretty advanced and innovative. He was putting in electricity the same time New York City was. After he had a telephone installed, he was annoyed that he could not hear very well when there were many people around, so he put in a ‘phone booth” - the 1st one ever.

He didn’t want anyone downstairs to hear folks walking around upstairs, so the wooden floors are covered with felt and then a second layer of wood.
The arches into the servant’s quarters are lower so there was no confusion, for guests, on which hallway or staircase to use.
This shower in his room has vertical pipes all around so he could be surrounded by warm water and still works today.

When he was in his late 60’ he was thrown from a horse and was paralyzed from the 3rd rib down. He wanted to have a reunion of all the men that were under him during the war. Since he was not able to travel it was held at the Antlers. 250 were able to attend in the 1900’s. He died a few years later at the age of 70.
Great Room
The castle sold 4 times. One of the earlier owners sold all the furnishings except for a few chandeliers in the Great Room. Only the Generals bed was recovered in an antique store in Pueblo, CO.

Every castle has its dragon and this one is in the fireplace in the great room.

This loft was used to project movies onto a screen at the front of the room.

The building is also a bed and breakfast where guests can stay in any of the rooms including the Generals, the daughter’s rooms and the room his doctor lived in while he tended to his patient, after the riding accident.
In 1953 the final sale was to the Navigators a Christian based group whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus. They have restored the castle and hold conferences, marriage retreats and many meetings and parties as well as weddings in the castle and on the grounds.

During the holiday season the Castle hosts Madrigal dinners and performances in the Great Room. It looks very elegant and would be a great way to start celebrating the Christmas season.