COBWEB CORNERS: The top of the mountain
By Mel McFarland
Standing on top of Pikes Peak, the view is spectacular. Too bad Pike never saw it. I also remember standing on the top of another mountain in our area. I had a question about it recently, and I thought you might like to hear the answer too.
There used to be a grand, but small, hotel on the top of Cheyenne Mountain. It was built up there in the 1920s and lasted until the 1950s. There are a number of stories about why it was built. My favorite is that it was built because of Prohibition. Spencer Penrose, who owned it and the Broadmoor Hotel, was known to enjoy a drink now and then. Since alcoholic beverages were going to be illegal, a nice remote place to enjoy it might be handy. The spot on the top of the mountain would be awfully hard to sneak up on!
A hundred years ago there was even a plan to build a cable car ride to the top from about where the zoo is today. This was not the first cable car idea in the area. One had been dreamed up for Pikes Peak before the cog was built. The Mount Manitou Incline opened for business in 1908. Another was built up Red Mountain a few years later. There was also talk of one up Cameron's Cone. First, a very steep and winding road was cut up the front of Cheyenne Mountain. The zoo was added later, and the Will Rogers Shrine came in the 1930s. The top of the mountain gives quite a view, so why not a hotel?
I was on top of the mountain in the 1950s. This was before someone got the idea to put radio and television towers up there. At the hotel, one of the Pikes Peak cog engines was on display. It got moved to the zoo after the 1965 flood heavily damaged the road, and is now at a railroad museum in Golden.
The heavy rains washed away the road above the shrine, and even the radio and TV towers later moved to a higher spot on the mountain. I've talked to repairmen who regularly visit those towers. Now they come up from the back, but it is still a pretty amazing view, east, south, west or north. From the top of Pikes Peak, tourists often ask which one is Cheyenne Mountain. Some are disappointed that it looks fairly small from 14,000 feet. Too bad they can't see the view!