Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Julie Villiers Lewis Penrose, 1870-1956
By Jordyn Kostman, student, Colorado State University
Julie Villiers Lewis was born in 1870, to a prominent and wealthy family in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was Alexander Lewis, who served as Detroit's mayor from 1876-1877. In 1890, she married a wealthy young attorney, James "Jimmy" McMillan, and they had two children, Gladys and Jimmy. McMillan contracted tuberculosis in 1900, and in an attempt to cure him of illness, the McMillans moved to Colorado Springs. Despite the move, James died soon thereafter. Shortly after James's death, their son Jimmy died of appendicitis.
In 1906 Julie remarried to Spencer Penrose. Penrose was a multi-millionaire, making his fortune by investing in the Cripple Creek gold rush in the 1890s. Their honeymoon was a grand tour of Europe, India, and Egypt. Upon returning to Colorado Springs, the couple was determined to recreate the beauty and majesty of what they saw on their honeymoon travels. As a result, they built the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, which was completed in 1918.
Philanthropy was a core value for Julie, and she took interest in implementing cultural amenities into the community of Colorado Springs. She was a great enthusiast of the performing and visual arts. Julie converted her Dale Street home into the Broadmoor Art Academy, which was later named the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in 1926. She also sponsored the Central City Opera House. In efforts to lure opera stars to come to Colorado Springs, she purchased Victorian-era houses, and allowed the performers to stay in them, free of cost.
In 1944, Julie commissioned a local architect to build the Carriage House Museum to house the Penroses' extensive collection of automobiles and horse drawn carriages. The Carriage House Museum remains open to the public today.
The Penroses founded the El Pomar Foundation in 1937. Still active, the El Pomar Foundation supports Colorado nonprofit organizations involved in health services, education, arts and humanities, and civic and community initiatives. Julie also she donated millions of dollars to build the Penrose Hospital. She supported youth through the Boys and Girls Clubs, with frequent visits and monetary donations.
Spencer Penrose died of throat cancer in 1939. Julie mourned Spencer's death for fifteen years. Julie died on January 23, 1956, and she was buried next to her husband at the Will Rogers' shrine, on top of Cheyenne Mountain, outside of Colorado Springs.
"Our History." El Pomar Foundation. https://www.elpomar.org/About-Us/our-historyver2/
Hunt, Elizabeth. "Julie Penrose." Colorado Encyclopedia. http://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/julie-penrose
Rocky Mountain PBS & History Colorado. Colorado Experience 105: Spencer and Julie Penrose. 2013.
Poznanovic, Linda. "Julie Penrose - a Great Friend of Colorado Springs." Western Museum of Mining and Industry. http://www.wmmi.org/julie-penrose