News Column

Pioneers exhibit offers unique look at Penrose-Tutt partnership

July 5, 2014

By Carol Mcgraw, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

July 05--Where in the world is Spencer Penrose's bloodshot prosthetic eyeball?

It's with the artifacts in the unique exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum called "The Midas Touch: the Penrose & Tutt Partnership." The exhibit opened on June 28 and runs through December.

As the name implies, the history lesson is a little more involved than looking at the glass eye worn by one of Colorado Springs' iconic figures.

"It's an American story of starting over in the west, creating roots in a community and transforming that community," says Leah Davis Witherow, museum history curator.

It's a story of gold and copper empires and a partnership between Spencer Penrose and Charles Tutt Sr., which resulted in a boon for the region including the Pikes Peak Highway, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, The Broadmoor Hotel, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Will Rogers Shrine.

While many have heard of Penrose, the adventurer and entrepreneur, the Tutt family's part in the history of Colorado Springs is lesser known, Witherow said.

In fact, it was Tutt who talked Penrose into coming to Colorado Springs in the first place.

The idea for this exhibit, which includes artifacts that have never been on public view -- was envisioned 15 years ago by Tutt's great grandson, R. Thayer Tutt Jr., who is now president and chief investment officer for El Pomar Foundation. In the mid-1990s the foundation had hired UC Denver Professor Thomas J. Noel and Cathleen Norman to write a history called "A Pikes Peak Partnership: the Penroses and the Tutts."

"I thought it would make a great exhibit," Tutt said. And later Dr. Darryl Thatcher, a member of the Pioneers Museum Board got the project going."

Tutt says he inherited from his father, the late Russell Tutt,the job of keeping alive the family history

He and Witherow worked together on the exhibit. It took about a year of planning and gathering of items.

"I have never met anyone with so much enthusiasm for history as she has," Tutt said.

Witherow said it was fascinating to search through a treasure trove of historic items at the Tutt home in the El Pomar vault, at the Broadmoor Carriage Museum holdings The Broadmoor hotel archives.

"The Tutt family is very conscientious about their history and have done a great job as caretakers of their own and the community's history," she said.

Tutt said his great grandfather, Charles Tutt Sr., and Penrose grew up together in Philadelphia a block apart. Both were sons of doctors.

Penrose attended Harvard while Tutt worked his way west to Colorado Springs in 1884. Penrose also came west, working in copper mines in Arizona and a farm in New Mexico. Dick Penrose, a geologist and brother of Spencer, told him that his friend Charles was in Colorado Springs, so he travelled there in 1892.

Tutt owned the COD Mine in Cripple Creek and sold half its interest to Penrose and even loaned him the $500 to make the purchase. They sold it four years later for $250,000 to a French syndicate, the highest paid for a Cripple Creek mine at that time. They bought and sold other mines, created or bought ore transporting systems and a network of smelters and mills in the region.

But as Cripple Creek lost steam, they turned to Utah.

Penrose and Tutt, along with mill expert Charles MacNeill, Dick Penrose and mining engineer Daniel Jackling founded the Utah Copper Company in 1903. Gold and silver had been exhausted at the site called Bingham Canyon near Salt Lake City, but Jackling proposed that they could mine the low-grade copper ore through his pioneering quarry-style open pit mining.

The result was one of the largest copper pits and largest smelters in the world. They later sold the mine to Kennecott Copper Company, which was owned by the Guggenheims.

Eventually, Tutt parted ways with Penrose for health reasons. He died in 1909 of a heart attack on the front steps of New York'sWaldorf Astoria Hotel while attending a Kennecott board meeting. Penrose remained on the Kennecott board until his death in 1939.

Penrose, who did not have children, embraced his old friend's son, Charles Jr., as family member and mentored him in the business. Charles Jr. helped run the empire while Penrose was travelling in Europe and Asia.

Through the years various members of the Tutt family have help guide the El Pomar Foundation. The foundation, now chaired by William Hybl, was started by the Penroses with $21 million in 1937. When Penrose's wife Julie died in 1956, the bulk of the estate went to the foundation. It remains one of the largest philanthropies in Colorado, with assets exceeding $570 million. Tutt said.

It has supported such community entities such as Fountain Valley School, Penrose Library, Penrose Hospital, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado College, Pikes Peak Center, World Arena, and numerous non-profits only in Colorado, as Penrose had insisted.

More information about the Penrose-Tutt partnership is detailed in the Pioneers' Museum exhibit, which includes mining tools, stock certificates, family china, a dress worn by Julie Penrose, photos of Charles Tutt Sr.'s yacht, a giant piece of smelted copper, a goat cart belonging to Josephine Thayer Tutt, old photos of the mines and Asian furniture.

And, of course, the glass eye.

Witherow says there will be several special events and speakers in conjunction to the exhibit.

"We are lucky we live here where there is such a fabulous history and artifacts still around to tell the story," she said.


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Source: Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)

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