La Foret History
Before Mid 1800s
The first inhabitants and stewards of the land where La Foret currently operates were the Ute and Comanche Indians. More
The dense Ponderosa Pines provided them with protection, fuel, and timber for lodgepoles. These tribes were displaced by the Kiowas around 1800. Almost 40 years later, the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes joined forces to drive out the Kiowas and become the last Native Americans to collectively inhabit the area. Source
Today, we give thanks for the Ute people and others who protected this sacred place before being removed from much of their territory. We hope to follow the example set by their leaders, both then and now, in that "The Ute people lived in harmony with their environment... They came to know not only the terrain but the plants and animals that inhabited the lands. The Utes developed a unique relationship with the environment learning to give and take from Mother Earth." Source
Timber and Farming
When American pioneers began to settle the region in the late 1850s the Black Forest became an important center of activity, primarily as a source of scarce timber. General Palmer was the first major landowner of Black Forest when he established the Colorado Pinery Trust in 1870; he purchased 43,000 acres. Lumber and mine props were supplied to build Colorado Springs and Denver.
Although lumbering continued sporadically through the 1950s, farming and ranching had become the dominant activities by the 1880s. A wide variety of crops were raised, including cattle, sheep, alfalfa, wheat, corn, hay and beans. Potatoes, however, were the agricultural product for which the Black Forest area became most renowned. By the 1920s the area was mostly consolidated into large ranches. Some of these remain today. Source
Alice Bemis Taylor
Alice Bemis was born in Newton, Massachusetts to Alice Cogswell Bemis and Judson Moss Bemis, philanthropist and founder of J. M. Bemis Company. Alice Bemis married Frederick Morgan Taylor, a stockbroker, in 1903. He enjoyed camping, hunting and fishing. The couple camped, with few comforts, in the Rocky Mountains and Adirondack Mountains. Source
La Foret was originally the summer estate of Mrs. Alice Bemis Taylor. Mrs. Taylor and her husband, Frederick Morgan Pike Taylor, are considered to be one of Colorado Springs’ most important founding families. Alice Bemis Taylor was the first woman to serve as a trustee of Colorado College and was known as “Lady Bountiful” for her generous donations to the institution. Mrs. Taylor held great interest for art and architecture. She was one of three benefactresses of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, perhaps her greatest contribution to the community. More
Ponderosa Lodge, the main residence, was constructed in 1928 by renowned J.J.B. Benedict, a prominent Denver-based architect who studied in Paris. The Ponderosa Lodge was
constructed of ponderosa lumber cut from the western slope of Pike’s Peak and cost $90,000 to
construct. The building originally had six rooms, all of which were decorated with Mrs. Taylor’s extensive
southwestern art collection. More
In this summer home, Alice would often host gatherings of friends and family for tea, Christmas day parties, and dancing.
Ponderosa is listed on the Register of Historic Places and has been maintained as such with loving care.
Taylor Memorial Chapel
The Taylor Memorial Chapel was built in 1929 as a memorial to Alice's husband, Frederick Morgan Pike Taylor, who passed in 1927 at the age of 49, and so was never able to see construction of any of the buildings on the property finished. The Chapel was designed by renowned architect John Gaw Meem, who also designed the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center along with many other chapels and buildings throughout the southwest. Art and detail was created by Eugenie Shonnard, including the magnificent Reredos behind the altar. More
CO Congregational Conference & More
After Mrs. Taylor’s death in 1942, the Bemis Taylor Foundation deeded La Foret to the Colorado Congregational Conference, now known as the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Leon Grubaugh, a leader in the conference, had been dreaming of starting a camp for youth and families of the church, but others discouraged him, thinking it could not possibly be afforded, or the right place found. After meeting with relatives of Alice Bemis Taylor in 1944, Grubaugh asked to buy the property. The foundation declined to sell to the conference -- but said they could have it as a gift! Soon after, children were invited to camp out, at first in covered wagons, then later in cabins. Adult groups came several times per year to participate in conferences and retreats. Notably, La Foret became an important home base the Western Pastors' School in the 1950s, and aided in the education of pastors from all over the United States.
The legacy and mission of Mrs. Taylor, to make the world a more beautiful place for those who had little, lives on in the many gifts given by she and her family, including La Foret.
Over the years, what began as "Camp La Foret" has developed into a full-service conference and retreat center. Today, it operates as a non-profit organization serving a wide variety of clientele.