Beautiful gilded age mansion in Colorado

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado
Date added: November 01, 2022 Categories: Colorado House Mansion
West side (1975)

The Trianon, also known as Claremont, was built by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Baldwin in 1906-1907. Baldwin was a well-known esthete from New York and Newport and Mrs. Baldwin was a Howbart, inheriting a fortune from Nevada gold, silver, and timber interests. The Baldwins came to Colorado Springs, as did many others, for their health and as a remedy in those days for TB.

The Baldwins decided to make a real "eastern" showplace out in the West. General Palmer had already built a "castle", Glen Eyrie, but Palmer was a rather austere town founder and Glen Eyrie was not the sort of place where congenial and convivial people could congregate in the way they were doing in the east in the great mansions of Newport, along Fifth Avenue, and in North Carolina.

A water-color sketch drawn by the hand of Stanford White has led to some speculation that the noted architect may have submitted his ideas to the Baldwins for their consideration. Having just designed the Grand Trianon-inspired Rosecliff at Newport, White might have considered a similar commission in Colorado. However, it was architect Thomas MacLaren who actually designed the Colorado Trianon that was eventually built.

The Baldwins sent MacLaren to France where he sketched the decorations of, and scaled down the plans of the Grand Trianon at Versailles. Incidentally, his plans and specifications, and some of his sketches still exist in Colorado Springs.

So the building was built in 1906-07 in much the same style as it exists today. Another tie to the White tradition is that the Trianon in Colorado Springs, like Rosecliff in Newport, Rhode Island, were both built of ceramic tile glazed in a faux marble tone. Ours was made by the Northwest Terracotta Company in Chicago, a firm whose successors are still in business.

The Baldwins were pretty much pro-British snobs (Charles was a great polo player) so they never acknowledged that their great house was French. They called their estate Claremont after that of an English friend. On the other hand, they wanted their house to have the feel of royalty and so affected footmen in knee breeches and high teas. So, just as the Grand Trianon is decorated with entwined "L's" and just as Versailles has the Sun King's motif, Claremont, or the Trianon, is embellished on all its ironwork, interior and exterior with the entwined initials "C" and "V" for Charles and Virginia Baldwin.

Building Description

The Trianon (or Claremont as its first owners called it) was a spacious residence deliberately scaled down from The Grand Trianon at Versailles. It is a U shaped building 148' long, by 88' wide.

It is built of brick with an all-over facing of glazed terra cotta which somewhat resembles off-white marble. It originally had about forty rooms of which 19 were the more elegant family and guest rooms. The remainder were kitchen, serving, laundry, sewing, and servants' quarters.

The formal entrance is a circular rotunda with lavish plaster decorations in the French manner. The pilasters are Corinthian and the domed ceiling is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. In general, housekeeping and servants were to the right side of the rotunda while family and guests were to the left. The family and entertaining rooms, consisting of the solarium, the dining room, the smaller sitting room, the grand salon, the library and the master bedroom (all of which face the tapis vert side) were of imposing height reaching from floor to roof in a single story. On the front of the house there were two stories.

The solarium was done in the manner of a French villa with elaborate crossed wooden trellis patterns and arched windows. The dining room was done in almost overwhelming plaster with half-relief maidens in pairs over each of the four doors embracing cartouches in which were paintings of a Fragonard or Boucher type. Large mirrors were placed opposite each other to give infinite reflections of the large ormolu chandelier which the owners allegedly got from Czar Nicholas. The marble fireplace is done in rams' heads and fruit. Two immense marble tables at either end were the serving areas.

The sitting room was also done, walls and ceiling in more satisfying plaster, in a very French twisting vine-like pattern. A feature of the plasterwork is eight cartouches, each a different episode from LaFontaine's fables. The woodwork is also exquisite and the doors complement the paneling. This room has an enormous and resplendent crystal chandelier.

The grand salon was done in wainscotting and damask paneling. There is also considerable plaster work around the ceiling molding reflecting musical instruments. Two matching but not spectacular chandeliers light this room supplemented by three pairs of wall brackets in a very handsome griffon pattern.

The library, with a gallery on three sides reached by a spiral staircase surmounted by a carved shell decoration is the most distinguished room in the building. It has shelves for 5000 volumes and is done in light walnut. The large chandelier was made by Tolsa and is reported to be gold over bronze. Two most distinguished wall brackets (originally candles but now electrified) are the best I have ever seen. The railing of the gallery and the stairs are wrought iron entwined with a "C" and "V" motif for Charles and Virginia Baldwin, the first owners. This motif is also in all exterior window guards and in the big front door.

The master bedroom, really Mrs. Baldwin's, was part plaster ornament and part brocade paneling. It has a beautiful smaller (but still four times the size of present home models) crystal chandelier and ornate wall brackets.

There are large family and entertaining rooms. Of imposing height, each has an ornate marble fireplace with cast iron backs which the Baldwins personally selected and imported from Europe. All of them also have oak parquet floors laid in a simple entwining pattern.

The baths were also imposing in the 1900 manner. Large fixtures and tubs and, in the bath off the master bedroom, a sunken tub (this bathroom also had a fire-place in pink marble).

The other family (the Baldwins had two children) and guest bedrooms were very pleasant but less grand than the rooms previously described.

The housekeeping and cooking rooms were what any mansion of that time had. Large ice refrigerators with arrangements to push the ice in from the outside; large coal ranges; a dumbwaiter from the basement to the second floor and a pantry from which fifty could be served.

Downstairs (basement) were two family and guest rooms. One was the billiard room with a billiard table and a pool table (both lit by silken-shaded fixtures). Also a gentlemens' withdrawing room (for cigars and port) with the most exquisite paneling to be seen anywhere. The wainscotting is linen-fold oak and above are individually carved panels in leaf tracery each with a highly individualized head carved in full relief. The fireplace is a full free-standing edifice of atlanti and caryatids in full relief supporting a massive mantle on which stand two proper knights in full regalia. The Baldwins imported it from Scotland but the work appears to be Flemish.

On the exteriors, all of the large arched doors and windows are embellished with almost full relief figures (in terra-cotta) depicting successively war, the hunt, and music. (Exactly the same thing is at Versailles). The exterior ironwork has been mentioned. Around the front the terra-cotta decorations are women's faces with an armorial device over the front door with the motto JE N'OUBLIERAI PAS. All along the roofline is a balustrade (also in terra-cotta) in the Versailles manner. As mentioned, there is a working fireplace in every family or guest room, fourteen of them in all.

There are two un-French items. First is the lack of a grand staircase. The Trianon's is almost more New England colonial than French. Second is a flagpole. Mr. Baldwin wanted a flagpole but knew it was not Trianonish. So, on the roof there is a Windlass which will pull up a flagpole with a gilded ball. It reposes in a pocket beside one of the fireplaces.

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado Entrance and Terrace west side of building (1975)
Entrance and Terrace west side of building (1975)

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado Library spiral staircase (1975)
Library spiral staircase (1975)

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado North side, service area, dining room, and solarium (1975)
North side, service area, dining room, and solarium (1975)

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado Front east main entrance (1975)
Front east main entrance (1975)

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado West side (1975)
West side (1975)

Claremont Mansion - The Trianon, Colorado Springs Colorado South side (1975)
South side (1975)