photo - Jessica Patterson leads a yoga class in the historic Ponderosa Lodge, May, 29, 2011, before the third day of the MeadowGrass Music Festival at La Foret in Black Forest. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Jessica Patterson leads a yoga class in the historic Ponderosa Lodge, May, 29, 2011, before the third day of the MeadowGrass Music Festival at La Foret in Black Forest. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

If you've played a slot machine or a game of poker in Cripple Creek lately, you've helped restore a magnificent 1928 lodge in Black Forest to its original glory.

"This means this structure will be here 100 years from now, as a resource for the community," said Larry McCulloch, executive director of La Foret Conference and Retreat Center.

The stalwart Ponderosa Lodge is a focal building on the 400-acre site that's owned by the progressive United Church of Christ.

The congregation leases the accommodations to various Protestant, Catholic and nondenominational churches, Jewish synagogues and other religious groups for services, retreats, meetings and activities.

The property also hosts such public events as weddings, reunions, music festivals, conferences and overnight camps in nine cabins and six yurts.

"I love this place more than anything in the world," said Gavin Lucas, a youth ministry volunteer with Faith United Church of Christ near Loveland.

Lucas, who remembers coming to the Ponderosa Lodge as a child for summer camp, was running a Pioneer Camp this past week for children from the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ.

"It's awesome we can hold camp in a beautiful 1920s building where kids can feel the history," Lucas said.

 

But the grand old lodge has been decaying from normal wear-and-tear, McCulloch said.

A $200,000 grant awarded in 2015 from the History Colorado State Historical Fund, from which some gaming taxes are disbursed, and a matching $83,000 from supporters, paid for the recently completed five-month facelift.

Among the improvements: hoisting the foundation for repairs, replacing rotten pine logs and a roof ridge, refurbishing hardwood floors, fixing chinking, the material that is slathered between the logs, turning a storage room into a functional space and drainage work.

"The supreme compliment is you don't notice the work," McCulloch said, while pointing out the repairs.

Ponderosa Lodge at La Foret in Aug. 1928  

Originally built in 1928 as a summer home for Colorado Springs philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor, who died in 1942, McCulloch said precise care was taken to match the color of the old logs with the new and the chemical composition of the chinking. Even the original curtains have been refurbished and rehung.

Colorado architect Jules Jacques Benois Benedict, a leader in his field in the first half of the 20th century, designed the lodge in a Colorado Alpine style.

Features include thick pine logs inside and out, a large wrought iron wagon wheel and buffalo silhouette chandelier from 1920s craftsmen, other iron light fixtures from the period, thick wooden stairs and railings, taxidermy on the walls and long chain ropes that help support balconies.

"This is one the best preserved, least modified structures in his architectural portfolio," McCulloch said.

The lodge, along with the Taylor Memorial Chapel, built on the site by noteworthy Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem for Taylor's private worship, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lodge is also on the Colorado Register of Historic Properties.

The State Historical Fund, which supplied the grant for the work, was created in 1990, when Colorado lawmakers legalized limited stakes gaming in Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City. A portion of gaming tax revenues is designated for preserving, protecting, rehabbing or purchasing properties that are of historical significance throughout the state.

From its front door and inside windows, the Ponderosa Lodge frames views of Pikes Peak. Songbirds erase any noise from traffic on nearby Shoup Road, in the serene, heavily forested setting.

"Our tagline is we provide sanctuary for all to consider the transcendent issues in life," McCulloch said. "That's what we do."

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