History of Weddings at Blue Skies Inn and more...
Blue Skies Inn is the site of many Colorado weddings and elopements. Located on a portion of the historic Briarhurst estate, our carriage house was built by Dr. William Bell, founder of Manitou Springs, Colorado.
The exteriors of our B&B buildings mirror the Gothic Revival architecture and board-and-batten siding of the carriage house, built in 1873, which is the oldest standing structure in Manitou Springs.
Madeline Hyacinthe Schneider was the first bride to marry on the historic Briarhurst estate. She was the youngest daughter of her father Ferdinand, who was the gardener here over a hundred years ago.
Madeline's wedding in 1915 was held outdoors in the garden, as many of ours are. The chimney in the background is on the mansion that now houses the Craftwood Inn, a nearby restaurant.
We still enjoy Ferdinand's flowers and trees, so we named and decorated the Ferdinand's Garden Suite in his honor.
Ferdinand's great-great-granddaughter, Elaine, wed at our B&B in June 2006! We made her a bouquet much like her great-grandmother's, shown above. Click here to see more of Elaine's wedding.
Blue Skies Inn has been the site of Colorado weddings since September 1998 when the first wedding cake was served in the front garden courtyard. Pastor Bill Cole officiated in the Secret Garden on an October day in 1999. Since that time, there have been many, many couples who chose to have an elegant Pikes Peak Wedding.
Elopements and wedding packages are only one facet of the history of Blue Skies Inn.
At first glance, it may seem as though the inn was authored solely by Sally Thurston, owner, licensed general contractor and artist. In 1995, Sally had resolved to return to Colorado after spending the previous thirty years on the East coast.
It was while Sally was scouting out potential studio space for her work as a commercial artist, that she was drawn back repeatedly to an appealing little barn on an overgrown two-acre site along Fountain Creek in the little resort town of Manitou Springs.
But Sally was only the catalyst needed bring about the latest transformation of the land that now hosts Blue Skies Inn. She was by no means the first person to envision this land as a perfect site for accommodations. She wasn't even the first Blue Sky person to perceive that.
The Blue Sky People
Before Europeans arrived in Colorado, the massive red rock formations at the base of Pikes Peak now known as "The Garden of the Gods" were cherished by the Ute tribe as a holy site and as a place where the scattered families of the Ute could congregate. Further up the pass that led around the south side of Pikes Peak were natural mineral springs that the Utes believed had curative powers.
Rather than camp on sacred ground, the mountain people lodged some distance away from the Garden of the Gods, downstream from the healing springs. They chose this site and the ridge line between us and the Balanced Rock, amid the streamside cottonwoods and willows along Fountain Creek.
With an abundance of deer and other game inhabiting the scrub-oak hillsides, Ute families set up housekeeping at a convenient, yet respectful, distance from their ceremonial sites. Today, the Blue Skies Innkeepers occasionally find arrowhead flakes and stone tools left behind by the Ute habitation.
Ute territory began here at the base of Pikes Peak on the edge of the Great Plains where the atmosphere thins so visibly that visiting plains tribesmen could not help but notice the crystalline mountain panorama and the startling and vivid clarity of the sky.
Thus the Utes were known to their neighbors as "The Blue Sky People." Such was the effect of Colorado's intensely blue skies that other tribes who lived in Colorado were also referred to as The Blue Sky People, including the Arapahoe.
Another name for that tribe was Blue Cloud Men, a very poetic term. Many people who lived here have been in awe of Colorado's intensely blue skies.
The Balanced Rock is on the ridgeline between Blue Skies Inn and the Garden of the Gods.
The Briarhurst Estate
The first Europeans to explore the rugged beauty of our area were fur trappers. They named the creek that rushed from the Ute trail around Pikes Peak the Fountaine qui Bouille (the Fountain that Boils) in honor of the many natural mineral springs tributary to the stream. Today Fountain Creek passes through the south side of the Blue Skies Inn property.
The advent of railroads to the Pikes Peak area brought the inevitable surveyors, two of whom were so struck by the beauty of Ute holy grounds in 1859 that they named them "The Garden of the Gods."
Soon afterwards, the Ute campgrounds along Fountain Creek were claimed by Dr. William Bell as a perfect site for a small town founded as a health resort featuring pure mountain air and the healing waters of the natural mineral springs.
The town that Dr. Bell founded here was ultimately named "Manitou Springs." Exercising a Founding Father's privilege, Dr. Bell platted out a ten-acre estate for himself just three blocks east of downtown on the far side of Fountain Creek from Manitou Avenue. He called his estate "Briarhurst" and in 1873 built a magnificent manor house and carriage house.
That mansion survived the intervening years well and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Dr. Bell's Carriage House, which is (we think) the oldest structure in Manitou Springs, still stands at Blue Skies Inn Bed and Breakfast.
The eastern portion of the Briarhurst estate which hosted this charming English Barn -- a splendid example of the Gothic Revival architecture popular at the end of the Victorian era -- was split off from the manor house portion of the Briarhurst estate some years ago.
The Carriage House was being used as a storage shed as part of the Buffalo Bill Wax Museum when Sally first discovered the property in 1995.
Our Personal History
Sally's conception of Blue Skies Inn has much to do with her own personal history. In 1873, the same year our Carriage House was built, Sally's great-grandmother, Frances Sarah Howard, crossed the plains from Missouri as a child in a covered wagon. It is in her grandmother's honor that Sally proudly displays "Colorado Pioneer" plates on all her vehicles.
In 1967 marriage and career carried Sally away from Colorado back to the east coast. For the next three decades, she studied and worked as an artist/craftsman, increasing her knowledge of ceramics, painting, and hand-painting tile.
In addition, she spent seventeen years painstakingly remodeling a 400 square foot cottage into a 4000 square foot house. As it turned out, she would find a use for all the skills she learned during the time she spent away from Colorado.
Always longing for the mountains, in 1995 Sally resolved to return to Colorado with hopes of continuing her career as an artist/craftsman. Her search for property with a house and adequate studio space kept bringing her back to a site housing the old Buffalo Bill Wax Museum in a 9000 square foot concrete building. There was something about the property that called to her. Not only was there more than enough studio space, but the scrub-oak hillside seemed perfect for the creation of something uniquely hers. Perhaps a bed and breakfast...
The creation of Blue Skies Inn called upon all the skills that Sally had accumulated over the previous decades. She designed three new buildings with exteriors to match the board-and-batten siding and Gothic Revival architectural style of the Briarhurst Carriage House.
Upon being informed that she needed a general contractor to supervise construction, Sally visited to El Paso County Regional Planning Department to take the contractors' exam. She became one of the few female licensed General Contractors in the Pikes Peak area.
Sally painted and decorated the ten spacious suites at Blue Skies Inn with individual themes. Bathrooms feature handpainted tile inset into decorative and bejeweled walls that are tiled to the ceiling.
When Sally decided to return to Colorado and build an inn, many asked "why?" The most compelling reason other than mountains was "blue skies," and that is how the inn was named. It is merely a wonderful coincidence that the Ute Indians who camped on this property for centuries were called "The Blue Sky People."