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History

The 1873 Briarhurst Estate Carriage House today

At first glance, it may seem as though Blue Skies 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 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 a site just across the ridge line that features the Balanced Rock, amid the streamside cottonwoods and willows with an abundance of deer and other game inhabiting the scrub-oak hillsides.
Ute tribesmen mark the ancient route of Ute Pass by Fountain Creek and around Pikes Peak

There 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.
Balanced Rock on the ridgeline between Blue Skies Inn and the Garden of the Gods
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 Arapaho. Another name for that tribe was Blue Cloud Men, a very poetic term. Many peoples who lived here have been in awe of Colorado's intensely blue skies.


The Garden of the Gods, looking west towards Pikes Peak

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 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 after the Ute campgrounds along Fountain Creek were claimed by Dr. William Bell as a perfect site for a small town dedicated to exposing Easterners afflicted with "consumption" and asthma to pure mountain air and the healing waters of the natural springs.
Dr. William Bell and his wife Cara

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. The original manor house burned down twelve years later, whereupon Dr. Bell built an even larger version. That mansion survived the intervening years well and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The new, stone Briarhurst mansion rebuilt after the fire
Dr. Bell's Carriage House, which is (we think) the oldest standing structure in Manitou Springs, suffered a less dignified fate than the manor house. 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 and was sadly neglected for years.

The Carriage House was being used as a storage shed adjunct to 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 training carried Sally away from Colorado back to the east coast. For the next three decades, she studied and worked as a commercial artist, perfecting her knowledge of pottery, painting, and illustrating tile.

In addition, she spent seventeen years painstakingly remodeling a 400 square foot house into a 4000 square foot house. As it turned out, she would find a use for all the crafts she learned during the time she spent away from Colorado.


Exteriors of the B&B buildings at Blue Skies Inn mirror the Gothic Revival design of our 1873 Carriage House
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.
Fountain Creek flows through Blue Skies Inn property. Experienced anglers have been known to catch breakfast.

Upon being informed that she needed a general contractor to supervise construction, Sally went down to El Paso County Regional Planning and took the contractors test. 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."


Intrigued? Sally Thurston is the
Artist-in-Chief of RainbowHands.
To see more of her work , click below.
Sally wonders where great-Grandma Sarah put her "Colorado Pioneer" license plates

Click here to return to the Blue Skies Inn Home Page
Click here for Pikes Peak area attractions
Click here for Romantic Extras to put in your suite at Blue Skies Inn
Click here for the history of Blue Skies Inn
Click here for Policies and Conditions of staying at Blue Skies Inn
Click here for photos and detailed information on suites at Blue Skies Inn
Blue Skies Inn allows Children of all ages! Click here for policies governing children
Click here for detailed specs on our ADA accessible suite
Click here for Breakfast menus, recipes and more!
Click here for Maps and Directions to Blue Skies Inn
Click here for current Specials at Blue Skies Inn
Business travelers, click here
Click here for a list of Amenities and Features offered by Blue Skies Inn
Click here for information about Family Reunions at Blue Skies Inn
Click here to visit our page on FaceBook
Click here for more info on Weddings held at Blue Skies Inn Click here to check availibilty and/or make Reservations on-line Click here to order a Gift Certificate on-line Click here to visit the Blue Skies Inn Blog Guest Reviews and Travel Industry Professional Reviews of Blue Skies Innn - click here



402 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, Colorado 80829
(800) 398 7949
(719) 685 3899

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