The Briarhurst Manor
Enjoy A Landmark Restaurant
a few minutes drive west of Colorado Springs, The Briarhurst
Manor is located in the tiny valley of Manitou Springs. The
stately Victorian Manor House was built in 1876 by the founder
of Manitou Springs, Dr. William Bell, of London England.
The finely grained pink sandstone Tudor Manor displays the
architecture and landscaping of an English Country House,
complete with the bubbling Fountain Creek passing through
the estate and offers an unrivaled view of Pikes Peak. The
Briarhurst Manor is listed on the National Historic Registry
in Washington, D.C. Today you can visit a true glimpse of
the old west at this beautifully preserved fairytale mansion.
Born in 1840 in Ireland into London Society, Dr. William
Bell's upbringing and education was that befitting a "gentleman"
of his time. His father, also a physician, had a practice
that "doctored Royals." It was assumed William would join
him. The Briarhurst Manor and Dr. William Bell became part
of western history and the Pikes Peak Region by a quirk of
In 1867 at the age of 27, Bell left London for St. Louis,
Missouri to attend a series of lectures on the medical principles
of homeopathy (those theories later developed into modern
immunization.) In 1867, shortly after the Civil War, St. Louis
was a chaotic "Gateway to the West." His sense of adventure
heightened, watching an endless stream of humanity and wagon
trains depart on the arduous journey west.
By the end of the medical lectures, Bell decided to stay
in America for awhile and applied with the Kansas and Pacific
Railroad for a survey and mapping expedition. The position
of doctor was filled, but a photographer was needed. Bell
took a crash course in photography, purchased equipment and
was hired by the railroad. Leading the survey was General
William J. Palmer. The friendship that formed between the
men became a life-long bond. They shared a vision of building
a corporate empire and formed a business partnership. Both
were astute businessmen and complimented each other. They
founded the Denver & Rio Grand Railroad.
America's economic environment provided unheard of opportunity
for prosperity, attracting eager European investors to the
riches of the "new world." The narrow gauge D&RG RR extended
a spur into Manitou Springs. An aggressive marketing campaign
with brochures and pamphlets promoted the health benefits
and ease of travel. The resort became so successful, it was
called the "Saratoga of the West."
With his business ventures firmly in place, Bell returned
to England in the spring of 1872 to marry Cara Scovell, a
childhood sweetheart. By July, the newlyweds arrived in Colorado
and that fall, began construction of their new home on the
banks of Fountain Creek. They called it Briarhurst Manor.
Under Cara's direction, Briarhurst Manor became the social
center of the community hosting the internationally famous
of the day. In cultural contrast, on occasion, a tribe of
friendly Utes camped on the Briarhurst estate grounds while
preparing to go into the Garden of the Gods, "a holy place
Easterners and investors from England arrived in a steady
stream and an entire community sprang up around the fashionable
health resort. The town was designed like a European Spa with
luxury hotels, parks and shops. The hotels provided entertainment,
hiring the popular bands of the day for dances. Wealthy visitors
often brought their families and household staff and stayed
for months at a time.
In 1876, Colorado became a state. Bell and Palmer found
life brisk with the demands of their 30 or so businesses.
Briarhurst remained a refuge for Bell. Although his business
interests carried him through the southwest, and on numerous
trips back to England, he could count on returning to Cara,
his four children and the tranquility of Manitou, but even
that was not without excitement.
One winter night in 1886, while William was away on business,
Cara awoke to a bedroom filled with smoke. Burning embers
escaped from a fireplace in the Briarhurst. She woke the children
and servants. Cara stayed in the burning house and with the
help of the gardener, Ferdinand Schneider, they rescued William's
prized oil painting by Thomas Moran, the "Mount of the Holy
Cross." The family escaped safely, but lost all of their belonging
and "went home" to England. They returned the following spring,
to begin reconstruction of a second, more elaborate Briarhurst
Manor, compete with schoolroom, conservatory, cloister and
a library with a special alcove to display the "Mount of the
By the close of the century, William Bell's thoughts were
turning more to retirement and his homeland. By 1890, Bell
liquidated many of his holdings in the United States, and
entrusted the Briarhurst Estate to the capable hands of Ferdinand
and Amalia Schneider, both long term employees. They lived
on the estate grounds, in the gardener's cottage. The Bell
family moved back to England.
In March 1909, Bell was called back to America on a sad
mission. His partner, General Palmer, had died following an
extended struggle with spinal paralysis resulting from a riding
William and Cara paid a last visit to Briarhurst and their
Manitou resort in March 1920. Dr. Bell announced to the newspaper
reporters that this would be his last trip, saying he was
no longer able to take the long sea voyage back and forth
to England. On June 6, 1921, William Bell died at the age
of 81 of a heart condition. Cara, his "magnificent distraction"
lived until 1938, to the age of 85.