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Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun stands tall 85 years later

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Will Rogers Shine of the Sun sits high above the city on Cheyenne Mountain. And its views are as great as its history. 85 years ago, on September 6th 1937, construction was complete and the monolith was dedicated.

"You can see Pikes Peak, all the way down to Pueblo and we say to Kansas but we aren't really sure if you can see that far," says Thayer Tutt, Vice chairman, and chief investment officer, El Pomar Foundation.

In 1934, Spencer Penrose, who had already built the Pikes Peak Highway, The Broadmoor, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, began constructing the singing shrine as a resting place for him and his wife, Julie. This was after Spencer was diagnosed with throat cancer.

"When Penrose built the shrine he wanted to source all the materials locally," says Tutt. "His architect Charles Thomas told him that Pikes Peak granite was a terrible rock to build a building from."

But they used it anyway. The granite was quarried about 700 feet above the building site and chiseled by hand into large blocks. Cutting edge architecture that 85 years later, has stood the test of time.

"It was built as a feudal-style monument and what we've learned about that is that has to do with how the sunlight hits the building at sunrise and sunset," says Tutt.

Inside, you'll find a whole lot of stairs, murals and photographs. And just about everything is original from 1937 when the monument was completed and dedicated to Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash during construction. Rogers was friends with Spencer and a famous actor and humorous in the 1920s and 30s.

"So you'll notice that many of the rooms in the tower feature framed photographs both from the life of Spencer Penrose and also Will Rogers, says Sarah Woods, curator of historic properties and archives, El Pomar Foundation. "This was actually the idea of the very first employee here at the shrine."

Both Spencer and Julie Penrose are buried in the chapel at the base of the shrine, and their spirit rings through. The El Pomar Foundation was inspired by the couple's philanthropic values, and continues to give to programs across Colorado.

"I think they would be exceptionally proud," says Woods. "I think everyone who works at these organizations is proud to be part of that legacy and there's a reason for that."

This historic monument is 1.4 miles up the Russell Tutt Scenic Highway from the Zoo entrance. They are open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Brynn Carman

Brynn is an anchor on Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Brynn here.


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