Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
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Shrine of the Sun
Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
|Location||4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd., Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|Area||1.3 acres (0.53 ha)|
|Architect||Thomas, Charles E.; Davey, Randall|
|Architectural style||Early Republic, Romanesque|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||November 03, 1994|
Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, also known as Will Rogers Shrine or 5EP2175, is the tomb which holds the ashes of Spencer Penrose (1865–1939), a philanthropist who contributed many of the most prominent landmarks in Colorado Springs, including the neighboring Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Broadmoor Hotel. Completed by Penrose in 1937, it takes the form of an 80-foot observation tower on the side of Cheyenne Mountain. It overlooks the Broadmoor Hotel, and from the tower one can see the entire Colorado Springs metropolitan area and Garden of the Gods.
Persuaded not to name the structure after himself, Penrose instead named it in honor of his friend, Will Rogers, the American humorist who died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935, during construction of the tomb.
The shrine is open, weather permitting, every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. The price of admission is included in the cost of tickets to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Design of the shrine was commissioned by local architect Charles E. Thomas and construction included 5000 cubic yards of Cheyenne Mountain granite, quarried from a single stone, and is anchored 28 feet into solid rock. The shrine was built without using wood or nails, being secured with 200,000 pounds of steel, and construction included the use of approximately 30 wagon loads of cement. Five stories tall the elevation of the top deck, at 8,136 feet, is 1,336 above the zoo. In front of the shrine, in the 10-acre courtyard, is a bust of Will Rogers that was commissioned to Paris artist Jo Davidson.
The first floor is called the "Historical Room" and contains murals by New Mexico artist Randall Davey that depicts early development of the Pikes Peak region. The murals were restored in 1993 by Eric Bransby and includes:
- Native American scenes
- Zebulon Pikes travels
- Gold discoveries in Cripple Creek
- Activities of the founder of Colorado Springs General William Palmer
The next three floors contain a photographic history of Will Rogers from his early childhood days in Oklahoma through his time on stage, screen and radio. The last mural is of Will and Wiley Post taken just prior to the fatal crash.
The lower floor contains the chapel, pews and an altar, and 15th and 16th century European art objects. The remains of Spencer and Julie Penrose are interred in the chapel along with two long time friends and colleagues, Larry Leonard and Horace Devereaux. The shrine has a set of Westminster chimes that can be heard every quarter hour throughout the valley and was dedicated on September 6, 1937.