Deaths, sales, clearing bring end to lengthy saga of Arveson Shrine on W. Pikes Peak
Formerly a place where anyone seeking spiritual solace was welcome, the quarter-acre site at 3540 W. Pikes Peak Ave. (technically consisting of two parcels) has been cleared of nearly all those trappings since the property changed hands in September 2016.
From 1969 until that sale (and a resale in March), it had been owned by the Rose Arveson Simmons Shrine, Inc.
This name may be misleading, because the “corporation” essentially consisted of the two daughters of Rose Arveson, who believed her to be a saint after her death in 1963. The daughters, Pauline and Dorothy, created an outdoor shrine on the property and opened it free to anyone seeking spiritual solace.
According to previous interviews with neighbors, the site had gone downhill in recent years. Pauline died in 2008 and Dorothy in 2011. Bill Schwartz (unrelated), who had been a member of their corporation board, was still living in the single-family house in January 2013, when City Code Enforce-ment followed up on complaints - with nasty smells a big part of them - and found him sick and surrounded by dead and neglected animals.
The house was condemned. Schwartz died about two years later.
An interview in spring 2016 with Colorado Springs Code Enforcement Officer Tom Wasinger reported an awkward legal situation, in which no one truly owned the property. The corporation had expired, and there was no identifiable next of kin. In the meantime, the city agency would check the property and cut the weeds occasionally, Wasinger said.
The person who bought the property in September 2016, Bryan Ketcham, was able to obtain the property through a county tax sale (a process that includes paying back taxes). He did not respond to a letter that the Westside Pioneer mailed to him in early February, asking for an interview.
During Ketcham's roughly five months of ownership, the property was cleared of the buildings that had been on it, along with all that was left of the shrine, except for the sign by the uphill driveway from Pikes Peak Avenue that says “Welcome to all faiths.”
The name and intent of the new owner were not known at press time. The real-estate agent handling the sale declined to provide details about it. But the corner location (Pikes Peak and 36th Street) is zoned R5, which would allow multifamily development.
During the shrine's active years, countless numbers of people visited, leaving behind handwritten prayers, appeals or messages. A tabloid in the 1980s quoted people claiming the site had produced miracles in their lives.
Multiple sources have told the story of the shrine, how Dorothy and Pauline insisted that roses laid on their mother's tomb had come back to life. A 1996 Denver West Word article stated that rose petals were stored on site and distributed free to people to help with their healing.
The name, “Saint Rose Arveson Shrine” formerly appeared on a metal archway over the dirt driveway from Pikes Peak Avenue. Near it was a statue of Jesus Christ.
A sign painted on a vertical board advised visitors that they were “welcome at all times” and that “electronic alarm systems tell us your presence and location” (though none were evident in 2013).
The shrine was centered 100 or so feet up the driveway, around a large painting on wood of what was probably Rose Arveson. The painting stood behind plexiglass, above a gathering of faux flowers and ivy. Beside it was a plastic box where people would leave messages. In 2013, dozens of messages were in the box, one dating back as far as 1992.
One message that was there in 2013 read: “Rick - AIDs - Please pray for a peaceful and comfortable passing.” Another asked for prayerful help in keeping someone from “the kids he is hanging with.”
Previously, a double plaque had been on display, titled “Our Mother,” which gave a loving memoriam to the shrine's namesake. But the plaque was gone in 2013.
Here is the initial part of the plaque wording: “Rose Ella Scott Arveson Simmons, November 8, 1897-August 18, 1963. So sweet like a rose she was - kind and innocent as the petals, graceful as the stems. The love and joy she gave to others were like the shimmering leaves, sparkling in the sunlight. Her love for God - beyond words or comprehension.”
Westside Pioneer article