Marigreen Pines

One never knows what gems lie hidden only slightly out of sight. When traveling due west from Colorado Springs, the principal road that leads through the foothills of the Rockies is US Highway 24, which was built along Ute Pass, a natural east-west corridor used by Utes and various other Indigenous tribes for millenia. The hamlet of Cascade just west of Manitou Springs straddles the highway and one of its properties is accessed by a nondescript driveway on the north side. Nondescript except for a small sign posted at the turn-off from the road which reads Holy Cross Novitiate, and which had always piqued my interest.

Driveway to Marigreen Pines

As many of you know, I love regional history and museums and while taking a tour of the Ute Pass History Park run by the Ute Pass Historical Society in Woodland Park about 20 miles west of Colorado Springs a number of years back, I learned with alacrity that the society organizes visits to the site in question every three years. I immediately signed up. This was four years ago (where, oh where does time go?) and on July 15, 2018, I joined other visitors at Ute Pass Elementary School near Cascade for an introduction. From there we were ferried in an orange school bus to the spot along the busy road that millions have passed but only thousands have seen with their own eyes.

Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region have attracted individuals from all walks of life and knowing that princes, paupers, and presidents have journeyed to and through the area, I wasn’t too surprised to learn of yet another industrial giant who had bought land for himself and his family in these environs.

Thomas Cusack (1858-1926) epitomizes the rags-to-riches story. He was born in Ireland and brought to the US by his parents as a three-year-old boy. When he and his younger brother were orphaned six years later, they were taken in by family in Chicago. Thomas became a sign painter and later ran his own shop, painting signs and carriages. It eventually grew into the largest outdoor advertising business in the country and Thomas became known as the “Billboard King of Chicago.” He also served on Chicago’s Board of Education and as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Illinois for one term.

Thomas started visiting Colorado in the 1880s. His personal life was overshadowed by more loss when his first wife and daughter died during childbirth in 1890. Five years later, he married Mary Greene who first came to Colorado with him on their honeymoon. During one of their trips up Ute Pass, she fell in love with a small cottage, Rockhaven, which then belonged to a couple from California. The Cusacks purchased and renamed it Elinor Cottage, after Thomas’s deceased infant daughter from his first marriage. It became the growing family’s summer home for many years to come.

The original Rockhaven Cottage received a number of additions over the years

Rockhaven was built on top of a natural spring which is now a place of worship

Rockhaven with adjacent pond

Decades later, Thomas was finally realizing his dream to build a mansion on their Colorado property adjacent to Elinor Cottage. When Mary died of cancer in 1922 during its construction, he named it Marigreen Pines in her honor. He personally designed and furbished the house with luxury materials acquired in both the US and Europe. At his retirement in 1924, his business sold for $24 million. Alas, pneumonia cut his life short a mere two years later. The family continued to own and live at the estate until 1978, when they donated it to the Congregation of the Holy Cross in South Bend, Indiana. It became a retreat center for novices enrolled at the Moreau Seminary of Notre Dame University who are considering priesthood. The gift stipulated that the Ute Pass Historical Society be allowed access to the property for one weekend every three years in order to conduct public tours.

Marigreen Pines seen from the driveway

Front porch of Marigreen Pines

Main Hall with marble floors from Chicago and marble staircase

Hand-painted panels adorn the top of each door (a second panel is visible in the room behind)

Marble fireplace from Rome

Relief ceiling from New York

Decorative light fixture

It was thanks to this stipulation that my curiosity about Marigreen Pines was finally satisfied on this day four years ago when I was allowed to enter the mysterious driveway and explore the beautiful, serene setting and the various buildings which were once so meaningful to the Cusack family and have since then been meaningful to many in trying to figure out their lives’ purpose, incidentally a quest I’m still on. Is anybody else?

42 thoughts on “Marigreen Pines

    • It’s wonderful to have one’s own water source right in the basement and thanks to the coolness of the room, it also served to refrigerate food. I wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright also cooled his milk in his stream.

      I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who is still trying to figure out what to do when I grow up. 🙂


      • I lived as a young boy in the guest house above the spring from 1950 until 1954. I was friends with tory and ate many meals with the Cusacks in the big house

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for your comment.

        How special for you to have been so closely linked with the Cusack family. I would have loved to be here in the 1950s before the population exploded in the area. I imagine that living along Ute Pass felt rather more remote in the 1950s than it does now.

        Best wishes,


      • Fond memories: camping out with my brother in the back rooms of the guest house and nailing our make shift tent to the floor, the billie goat that would walk around on the roof because it was easy to get up onto, visiting Tory when she was laid up with broken ribs from a horse kick. My Dad and Frank Cusack shooting the top shoots off the trees along the drive way with shotguns because of some boring insect. Mostly my brother and I just ran around in shorts, cowboy hat, cowboy boots and holsters with cap pistols. Different era today.

        Sent from my iPhone


        Liked by 1 person

  1. My favorite details in the house are the painted panels above the doors; they’re quite beautiful. While I appreciate the stipulation that the house and grounds should be opened once every three years, I wondered how that schedule was chosen. My suspicion is that it is somehow related to the rhythms of the seminary programs. In any event, it’s good that the public can visit, and that you were able to tour the place, and share both the old and new stories associated with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t remember learning about the rationale behind the 3-year visiting schedule but your guess makes sense to me. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at this historic site with all the history it holds in its ground and walls.


    • It was very peaceful and serene, Ann, both the houses as well the setting on the hillside with beautiful trees, a little creek, and the pond.
      I hope both you and I will make progress on finding our lives’ purpose. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. By my reckoning, Mary Greene died exactly 100 years ago. This charming mansion seems like a good way to preserve her memory. I too am struggling with working out my life’s purpose. I’d hoped that, when I retired from work and so inherited more time for reflection, things would become a bit clearer. But sadly I’m more confused than ever! One day, maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • How very perspicacious of you, Mr. P. I double-checked on “Find a grave” and the year of her passing was 1922. I had completely overlooked that fact.

      I’m sorry to hear that you are confused and struggling about your life’s purpose. Having had a fulfilling (or at least partly fulfilling) career should help to give you some degree of satisfaction. Maybe it would be best for us not to question and doubt all the time, and to simply count our daily blessings, but that’s easier said than done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Living in the moment” should offer some relief from the pain that results from the thinking too much about life’s purpose. Trouble is, the moment’s not great (political turmoil, economic woes, and record high temperatures here in the UK yesterday causing unprecedented wildfires, transport chaos etc). But today’s another day, and I’ll do my best to keep smiling 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Eine interessante Geschichte Tanja, mit vielen sehr schönen Bildern garniert.
    Vielen Dank dafür.
    Ich suche nicht nach dem Sinn meines Lebens, denn ich vermute, dass er einfach nur darin besteht Leben weiter zu geben.
    Zitat” Fortpflanzung ist eine Grundeigenschaft aller Lebewesen, die Ausbreitung und in der Generationenfolge biologische Evolution ermöglicht.”Zitat Ende
    Na ja, ich weiß es nicht.
    Liebe Grüße Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dankeschön, liebe Brigitte, es ist schön, daß Du diese Zusammenfassung interessant fandest.
      Es freut mich für Dich, daß Du Leben weitergegeben hast. Wir haben bewußt keine Kinder bekommen und bereuen das auch nicht. Aber ich frage mich oft, ob es darüber hinaus nicht noch mehr Gründe gibt, zu existieren. Menschen haben wegen dieser Sinnfrage ganze Religionen erfunden um sich zu trösten. So sehe ich das jedenfalls.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Da hast du ja auch recht Tanja.
        Für mich jedoch sehe ich das so wie ich es schrieb.
        Sucht der Vogel den Sinn seines Lebens?
        Oder der Eisbär?
        Ich bin ja auch nur eine Art, wenngleich auch höher entwickelt.
        Wir könnten sicher trefflich darüber diskutieren und philosophieren bei einem guten Glas Wein, gell.
        Liebe Grüße

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ich wünsche mir oft, nicht so viel zu grübeln, aber leider scheint unsere Gehirnentwicklung da irgendwie falsch gelaufen zu sein. Denn wie Du sagst, haben andere Tiere nicht solche Probleme wie wir, jedenfalls nicht, so weit wir das beurteilen können.
        Das Gläschen Wein reserviere ich mir mal für die Zukunft. 😊
        Sei herzlich gegrüßt,

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Tanja,
    What a fascinating (and deep) history! I appreciate that you share such local gems that most of us international readers would not be aware of otherwise, and am happy that you were able to visit in person.

    Like so many others, I find myself struggling to understand my own life “purpose…” (Of course this can be considered a “first world problem” and luxury) Perhaps it’s time to go on another birding trip and gain some inspiration from our avian friends…

    Hope you and all your family are continuing to say safe and well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Takami. I’m glad you enjoyed this bit of local history.

      You are so right about mentioning that our worries about finding our life’s purpose are pure luxury. I’m fully aware of that, but that doesn’t necessarily make me feel any better about what I have or haven’t done with my life. Birding has become an absolute necessity for me and is the activity I find most fulfilling. I don’t question why this happened but I’m very grateful for it.

      Sending you and your loved ones warm greetings,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hello dear Tanja, thank you for your kind reply.

        First, I hope I did not sound offensive!
        When I mentioned how finding our life’s purpose can be a “luxury,” I certainly did not meant to belittle your worries. All our worries are valid, and of course very real too. (As mentioned, I find myself going through a “crisis” trying to find my own direction for this life) I just wanted to make a “hopeful” comment, but my English may not have come across that way. If so, I apologize!

        Like you, birding has become an absolute necessity and therapy for me and I am very grateful for it. Thank you, as always for sharing your deep thoughts and discoveries with us.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. How fortunate that you were able to visit and chronicle the time there, Tanja. It is a beautiful property with a lovely structure. “millions have passed but only thousands have seen with their own eyes.” could be said of so many places we speed by in our daily lives. There is a property owned by the Rockefellers on Mount Desert Island (actually Seal Harbor) adjacent to part of Acadia National Park. Although still privately owned, they allow visitation for a day or two annually…I have not done so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad I was able to go, Steve, and add another piece to the historical puzzle of the region. I hope you will make it to the Mount Desert Island Rockefeller property one of these days. I’m sure it would be fascinating to explore one of the Rockefeller properties.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love posts like this! They certainly don’t make architecture like this anymore.
    What is the purpose of life? I think there are a variety of purposes to our lives, depending on our age and the times. During my dozens of teaching years, I always introduced the following poem to my first graders, and displayed it prominently in my classroom:

    Instructions For Living a Life:

    Pay attention.
    Be astonished.
    Tell about it.

    -Mary Oliver

    May all our WordPress posts help us to “tell about it”!
    I’m enjoying catching up on your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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