c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins
In this vintage image of Cascade, the wonderful Ramona Hotel can be seen in the distance.
When Thomas Cusack and his new bride Mary Green came to Cascade in 1895, it was love at first sight. Cascade, a summer resort since 1878, was just the ticket to relieve the humid heat of Chicago where Thomas’ sign company flourished. The Cusacks made Cascade their permanent summer home and immediately set about making a family. Four children—Frank, Charles, Tom and Ann—spent their vacations romping merrily through the forests around the family home.
By 1920, Cascade and its once-stately Ramona Hotel were both showing signs of wear. The town needed a face lift. Rather than leave their beloved abode, Thomas and his bride decided to give the village a make-over in an elite, country club style. The Cusacks purchased the Cascade Town Company and set about planning for the future.
First, Thomas tore down the family’s former summer home and built a luxurious mountain mansion in its stead. This was Merigren Pines, a grand estate bordering Ute Pass as it opens into Hurricane Canon. Carefully constructed by builders from far away New York and Chicago, Thomas named his creation after his beloved Mary, who had long ago overcome her fear of mountain lions to revel in her happy home at Cascade.
After tearing down the badly dilapidated Ramona Hotel in1924, the Cusacks announced a five year, $500,000 development plan that included building a new resort hotel, a horse track and clubrooms. Within two years a Spanish Mission style town hall and “Community House” were built at a cost of $50,000.
Unfortunately, both Mary and Thomas Cusack had passed away by the time the Community House opened. The Cusack children, now grown, were left to complete what was hoped to be “the pride of the Pike’s Peak region.” Frank Cusack renovated Cascade’s one room school and announced plans to develop several hunting cabins with trails connecting to the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.
In 1928, the Cusacks announced plans for a chapel to honor Thomas and Mary. The new Chapel of the Holy Rosary was erected with stained glass windows, a German organ and award winning architecture. Mary’s sons also wanted to duplicate an abbey similar to one near her birthplace in Ireland. The abbey never materialized, but a 1929 brochure for Cascade offered accommodations, stables and a tennis club.
During the 1930’s, Frank Cusack changed his plans for a $100,000 resort hotel in favor of building the Pyramid Lodge atop Pyramid Mountain above Cascade. The lodge offered bridge parties, children’s activities, steak cookouts and dancing. In its time, the Pyramid rivaled the Broadmoor’s Cheyenne Lodge on Cheyenne Mountain. The Broadmoor’s rival, the Antlers Hotel, frequently brought their guests to Pyramid.
As tourism slowed and the last Colorado Midland train chugged through Cascade in 1949, the Cusack’s dream resort slowly dissipated. Eventually the family went away and Cascade reverted to the solitude it had known in centennials past. Today there are few signs of the family who loved Cascade, the exceptions being the old “Community House” and the Chapel of the Holy Rosary. As for Merigren Pines, where Thomas once courted his beloved wife, the mansion is now owned by the Congregation of the Holy Cross and still visible along the pass, if you know where and when to look.
For those who want to see more, Merigren Pines offers a wonderful tour of the property. When the Cusack’s oldest child, Ann Cusack Johnson, became a founding member of the Ute Pass Historical Society she declared that the Society could give tours of the property every three years. In July of this year, the curious will once again be allowed access to the grounds. Reservations are limited. For more information, contact the Ute Pass Historical Society at (719) 686-7512 or firstname.lastname@example.org,