On 01 June 2007 I received the
Dear Kim and Roger,
Dear Mary Jane,
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the Estemere website though I found quite a few inaccuracies. The first is the name. It was usually spelled “Estamere,” though the other spelling was not unusual.
Sometime around 1935 the estate was purchased by the three Vessey children, Blanche (Vessey) Adams, Clarence Vessey, and Ellen (Vessey) Palmer, for the use of all three families as a summer retreat. It also afforded a home for Grandma and Grandpa Vessey (Frank and Lucartha “Lucy” Leichliter Vessey) who were unable to pay the taxes on their homestead farm in Kansas in the dust bowl era and lost it to the government.
The purchase price (rumored to me) was $5,000, which was split three ways and well mortgaged. The entire main house was furnished with invaluable furniture, wallpaper and carpeting. It was rumored on the night of the closing of the estate, a truck backed up to the main building and several valuable pieces of furniture disappeared.
We were always told that it was built by General Palmer but this may have been just a story. The stones comprising the main outside wall were supposed to have come by mule wagon all the way from Castle Rock some 25 miles to the north. The front gate and stairs were lit by gas lamps (inoperative in our day). There were two fountains, both in bad repair. Carroll (Adams) finally got the one nearest the house sealed up and running but the second one across the main drive was in bad shape never restored.
My father (Oliver Adams) was the businessman of the three families and dreamed up many ways of producing income to carry on the running expenses and upkeep of this quite expensive undertaking.
In the very beginning, the horse stable and carriage house were converted into three dormitories and a large auditorium. Clarence Vessey purchased the beds and mattresses from a hotel remodeling in Colorado Springs to furnish these large rooms which made it possible to accommodate approximately 75 youngsters. These children were from the Methodist (?) summer camp, also located in Palmer Lake, as overflow for their facilities. These arrangements went on for several summers and were a main source of income.
This number of occupants required sanitary facilities, which my brother Carroll built next to the carriage house and close by the rear kitchen door. Included were joint showers that were quite primitive when anyone flushed a toilet! The water was heated by wood stove.
One summer my father contracted with newspapers throughout Kansas and Nebraska to award, as prizes to news carriers entered in subscription contests, a trip to Colorado for an entire week using the Estamere as headquarters. A highlight for the winners was a hike from Manitou to the top of Pike’s Peak and back down again. It became my chore to escort them on this hike several times one summer. This contract lasted only one year, as the numbers involved were not large enough to pay much. I am in possession of a short movie depicting this operation.
For several years the main house and the cottage were used as a board and room house. My sisters served as waitresses and housemaids for several years. I remember we had a five-gallon ice cream freezer that was turned by manual strength each Saturday in preparation for Sunday dinner. My father named the estate “The Garden of Eden” and it was so advertised. They had to drop this descriptive name when guests started showing up in the belief that it was a nudist camp!
One of the pleasant diversions for our tourist guests was horseback riding. We did not stable the horses ourselves but rented them elsewhere. I spent the summer of 1936 escorting elderly (I thought) people several miles up the canyon road that ran adjacent to the estate.
Upkeep and maintenance was a big item at the Estamere. For example, one summer my main chore was to paint the wooden shake shingles of the entire mansion roof. This had not been done for decades and literally drank up the red paint that was purchased in 25-gallon cans. The paint was applied with a brush that was more like a broom. One of my fondest memories is of hanging with a rope around my waist, working my way down the tower room roof as it grew progressively steeper until almost vertical. All the while my mother was hanging out a window worrying about me!
From the beginning, my grandparents (Frank and Lucy Vessey) were year round caretakers. The place was isolated by snow all winter. They first lived in the cottage; next in a small house we built out past the tennis court, and finally in one wing of the main house by the billiard room as the other apartments were rented out. Their heat was either one of the fireplaces or a pot bellied stove. Cooking was on a coal stove, of course.
Inasmuch as the family of Clarence Vessey was a little older than the rest of us kids and lived nearby in Colorado Springs, they spend only short times at the Estamere. The Palmers only son was in college (I believe) and I never saw him there. His parents were there only a week or so each summer. So it was mainly an Adams invasion each summer—usually us 4 younger kids and parents.
My sisters, Olive and Donna Ruth, usually occupied the round tower room. The ceiling in this room was quite unique. It appeared as though you were in a well looking upward with flowers painted around the entire room with and the sky above. A small room, which probably was a “widow’s walk” at one time, was adjacent to the tallest tower and had been enclosed with windows on three sides. This approximately 4 feet by 10 feet room was always mine.
There was on the property an old rusted-out horse drawn lawn mower—a monstrous machine. We could use this, of course, but relied on manpower to push a hand mower over the approximately one acre of grass inside the walls. The dandelions outnumbered the grass and made for a spectacular yellow lawn. Then there was the tennis court to weed, wet down, roll and line with lime.
I don’t remember when the families sold the Estamere; it must have been after the beginning of WWII as I vaguely remember taking my son Frank Jr. (born 1943) there as an infant. It was always rumored to me (no one ever told me anything about finances!) that the entire Estate was sold for $5,000, same as the purchase price! [$5000 in 1935 would be $75,000 in 2007 dollars.] I’m not sure if this is anywhere near correct but I do know the price was not much more than that.
Attached are some pictures I took of the Estamere on a
visit about 1985. [No pictures were attached.] At the time it was being
used as an art gallery. It was closed when I arrived but to all appearances
it had had extensive remodeling and seemed to be in excellent shape. By all
means you should drive down to see this beautiful estate. It was a big part
of the Adams family for a number of years.
On 01 June Mary Jane also sent the following:
Thank you for your message. I didn't receive if the first time you sent it, so I thought I would try again. The letter I sent you about Estemere was actually from my dad's brother Frank. I haven't received the information from Dad's sister Rowena yet. Dad wrote a sort of autobiography once that included a lot of information about how our family came in possession of Estemere. I haven't been able to locate my copy, but my sister has one and I trying to get it transcribed into Word so all our family can enjoy it. Also, my son now has a VCR-DVD player than can convert video tape to DVD's so I am going to send him the Estemere tape. I will ask around and try to find some photos of the estate. The only ones I have now are of relatives taken in Palmer Lake that don't show the house. So I am in the process of getting together all the memorabilia I can dig up from my aunt, uncle and cousins.
Uncle Frank did give permission to print his remembrances on your website. You can reach him directly at: Frank Adams email@example.com if you want to ask him any questions. Since my information is all second hand, I don't think it would help much to post my e-mail address, at least at this time.
My older sister, Carol, is driving to Colorado with her husband. She remembers much more about Estemere than I do and drove by it once a few years ago. I'm sorry that I will miss meeting you and Kim. I know all my relatives that remember Estemere are happy to hear that it is being lovingly cared for.
Thank you again. I will send you more information as I receive it.
Mary Jane Adams
On 02 June Mary Jane sent the following:
I am attaching an old family photo from
about 1902. The people are from left to right: Frank Vessey, Lily Blanche
(my grandmother), baby Harold, Clarence Irving, Lucartha (Lucy) and Ellen
Vessey. Lucy had three other children who all died in infancy. Such was
the sad fact of childbearing in the 19th century. I don't think this would
add anything to your website, but I thought you might like to see an earlier
picture of the family.
On 02 June Mary Jane also sent the following:
Yes, if you like, you may post this photo,
but you might want to wait until I send you the text that explains the
family's relationship to Estemere. I got it from Rowena Adams Miller's
collection, so she should get the credit. Lily Blanche ( known as Blanche)
Vessey Adams is Rowena's mother. Here is another old one from Rowena's
On 21 June Mary Jane sent the following:
Here is the memoir written by Carroll O. Adams:
In the summer of 1935 there were no tours to run. Dad had found a new project, entirely new and different. This was the Estemere Lodge. In traveling to Colorado in February 1935, Dad met an old friend he had known in McPherson College. It was through him that Dad learned of the old mansion lying idle at Palmer Lake, Colorado. This English style mansion, with many rooms and odd towers and windows was a frame building erected in 1885 by a wealthy, but adventurous, English doctor in which to retire. It rested against the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, at the divide between the waters of the Arkansas and the South Platte Rivers, overlooking the flat foothills prairies with their many isolated tower-like buttes. From the Estemere one butte had the appearance of a huge elephant and was known as Elephant Rock. The grounds about the lodge consisted of six and a half acres surrounded on the downhill sides by a sturdy stone wall topped with an old English type of iron picket fence. The roadways were lined with alternating maple and ash trees, now grown to form archways over the roads. It had been a home of splendor. The interior was still furnished with carpeting, oil paintings, and lovely furniture, speaking again of the money and time spent originally in making this home a showplace of lovely living in the early frontier days. There was a huge stable and carriage house and a small house on the corner of the property for the servants. The place had changed hands several times in the past twenty or thirty years, but always served as a residence of the rich.
In 1925, it had been purchased by McPherson College of McPherson, Kansas, and converted into a summer school. The large bedrooms had extra beds placed in them. The huge stables had been renovated, a cement floor put in, and half the building made into an auditorium which would seat about 250 people. At one end was a moderate-sized stage. The other half had been divided into three large classrooms. A nice tennis court had been made on the site of the former flower gardens. Otherwise, few changes were made. The two fountains, each with a cherub holding a fish from whose mouth water flowed, the bedroom with the dome top painted with stars, and the game room with the felt-covered card table all remained as in the days of horse-drawn transportation and cap and ball pistols.
The Kansas Legislature did not like the idea of a large group of students leaving for Colorado to do their studying each summer. They passed a law making it impossible for colleges to give credit for schoolwork done outside the state, so since the summer of 1931 the place had stood idle and empty.
Dad envisioned the place as a summer home for the Adams’ tribe and for all of our relatives. Uncle Clarence lived in Colorado Springs, twenty-five miles to the south, where he was the secretary of the Y.M.C.A. Uncle Rodney lived in Oklahoma City, where he was the Y.M.C.A.'s physical director. He and Aunt Ellen usually spent their summer vacations in Colorado because Rodney liked to fish.
Dad also saw the place as one where a steady summer tourist trade could be cultivated; a place to which he might run tours for those who wanted a vacation of rest and quiet in the Colorado mountains. Behind the Estemere were mountains full of trails for hiking and riding, and fishing streams. Of course, Dad didn’t know there were no fish there and didn’t care because he never fished. Another thing that Dad couldn’t resist was the fact that the place could be bought for $5000, an insignificant fraction of its original cost.
Since Dad couldn’t financially swing the deal himself, he invited Uncle Clarence and Uncle Rodney to go into it with him. In May of 1935 the three agreed to buy the place, paying $1500 down and agreeing to pay $500 a year. As soon as school was over in 1935, we journeyed to Palmer Lake. We found the place was crowded with work projects. There were leaking roofs to fix and all the buildings needed painting. The lawn needed attention and the lawn mowers wouldn’t work. The plumbing was a maze of antiquated pipes. This resulted in much digging and pipe repairing. Everybody worked. Dad was busy finding customers.
Our biggest customer turned out to be the Pine Crest Methodist Camp across the creek about a mile. They held conferences there all summer and always had an overflow of guests. The Estemere was very handy as a place to send this overflow. These guests turned out to be our main source of steady revenue. We built a cottage on one end of the place for families wishing to stay a week or so. Dad arranged for the World Herald yearly summer subscription contest winners to come to the Estemere by bus for their annual trip. An occasional church conference was guided there by Dad for their meetings. Thus the place was made to pay expenses, including the payments of the principal, and all three partners and their families had a place where they and all their friends and relatives could spend their vacations. The Estemere never was a big money maker. It just made expenses and that was about all.
And, finally, here are two links to the 1935 video showing Estemere and other points of interest in the Palmer Lake area. The video runs about 22 minutes. It should open in Windows Media Player. The first file is 220 MB in size. There is also a mini-version (18 MB) that will download much faster, but at lower resolution. You will need a High-Speed Internet connection to download these files. Click here:
Winnie Metzler (see the "Visitors" page) was kind enough to donate the following photos of her family (taken around Estemere in 1941) to the Estemere History Collection. Winnie's birthdate is 02 February 1913. (Note: Winnie passed away in 2004.)
In addition, Winnie donated the following undated postcards: