Briarhurst Manor * 404 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO, 80829. (719) 685-1864 or 1 (877) 685-1448 * http://www.briarhurst.com/ *
Briarhurst Manor is bombarded with negative reviews for its wedding services and its dining food. So I’ve always been hesitant to try the restaurant out, even though i was deadly curious about the place. I agree, the food is “Very” expensive and you don’t really get to portions for what you are paying. In a way, you are paying for the ambience of the place. The servers are very knowledgable and professional. I found our server to be pretty friendly and servicable. We walked in, no reservations. We had with us a coupon essentially for 30% (?) off our meal. We had the lobster bisque, frog legs, roast rabbit, and the escargot. Figured we’d make a meal out of a selection of appetizers as the main meals seemed to be much more pricey with little in portions to share. The rabbit was dry as were the escargot, the frog legs were tasty, and the lobster bisque was delicious. The desert sampler came with dark chocolate torte, creme Brulee, and a lemon raspberry tart – which were very delicious, though again, the portions small. Service was good, the ambience was exquisite, the food was so-so. For the ambience alone I’d give the place 4 stars, but the food at maybe a 3, and the pricing a 2. So to meet in the middle, I rate the entire restaurant experience a 3.5.
History: One of Manitou Springs local attractions for fine dining with a spectacular view of Pike’s Peak and located close to the infamous Garden of the gods. They have A’ la carte dining, banquet menus, and dining rooms that would be perfect for dinner parties. They seem to be a popular spot for weddings, though many reviews online state they fail the bill. The manor was built in 1876 by Dr. William Bell from London, England who was the founder of the village of Manitou Springs. The manor is built in Tudor style with finely grained pink sandstone bricks, English Country House architecture and landscaping, and a piece of local history as the building resides on the National Historic Registry. Dr. Bell was born in Ireland and relocated over to London, England at an early age to learn medicine. Dr. Bell moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States in 1867 after his series of lectures on the medical principles of homeopathy. He was lured by the west and decided to stay in America. He joined a survey and mapping expedition with the Kansas and Pacific Railroad as a photographer since someone else had the physician position. He journeyed with General William J. Palmer who quickly became one of his best friends and joined together with a shared vision of founding the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad. They extended a spur of their tracks to Manitou Springs seeking to get rich off the health benefits of the healing natural spring water of the city. Bell returned to England in 1872 to marry Cara Scovell, and returned later that year to Colorado to begin construction of their new home on the banks of Fountain Creek that they called the “Briarhurst Manor”. The Manor quickly became a community hotspot for the local area, and was a common place for Utes to camp before they headed off to worship in the Garden of the Gods. As Manitou Springs sprung up as a American-European-like Spa with luxury hotels, parks, and shops; the Bells jumped on the bandwagon for being a place to entertain. By 1876 Colorado became a state, and the Bells had their hands around over 30 businesses in the area. But tragedy befell the family as in 1886 while William was away on business, Cara awoke to find the bedroom filled with smoke. She barely had time to gather the children and servants. They escaped safely but lost all of their belongings and had to return home to England. They returned the following year to reconstruct a second more elaborate Manor including a schoolroom, conservatory, cloister, and a library with a special alcove dedicated to the ‘Mount of the Holy Cross’. By 1890 Bell sold their assets and passed on the Estate to Ferdinand and Amalia Schneider who were in his employ while the Bells moved back to England. In 1909 Bell had to return as his partner General Palmer had died from spinal paralysis. They returned another last time in 1920 as their official final visit to Manitou for they were getting too old for the long sea voyage back and forth from England. William died at 81 of a heart condition. Cara lived to the age of 85.
Even though the Bells did not pass away in the Manor, it is rumored some of the employees and servants did. Staff and owners of the Manor claim of great hauntings and everyone has a story to tell. In fact, the Briarhurst Manor has received enough attention as a haunted hotspot (as does most of Manitou Springs) that the “Ghost Hunters” show on Sci Fi Channel decided to film their reality show at the Manor during Halloween. Staff and visitors have claimed to have table cloths miraculously appearing on table after they had just taken it off, ghost photography, story of a large fake plant flying from its stand to the middle of the dining room, trays flying, rumors of a former owner Mrs. Ellison storing artifacts and Anasazi mummies in the manor (she stored items for Mesa Verde here), ghost caresses, a Lady waiting in the bedroom, spirits playing with babies on the haunted tour, thuds, coldness, goosebumps, weird headaches, spirits tugging at arms, bleeding walls, a glowing white lady in the garden at night, Ghost Snowy Footprints, horses galloping that ae not there, whispering, faint music being played in the library, extreme cold spots, hidden chimes in the basement, and apparitions. There are no recorded deaths or tragedies other than the fire known at the spot. So is it haunted? no one really knows.