Dr. Edwin Solly moved from England to Colorado Springs for his health . His health booklet, "The Health Resorts of Colorado Springs and Manitou'( published 1895), extolled the virtues of the area. Solly was realistic in his expectations on the climate upon disease. He did promote the climate's beneficial effects to include improved nutrition, skin, circulatory system, respiratory, nervous, and muscular systems.
Edwin Solly was born in England in 1845. He completed his medical degree at St. Thomas Hospital Medical College. In 1874 Edwin Solly, himself a sufferer of tuberculosis, moved to Manitou. Accompanied by a wife, Alma Helena, and his daughters, Alma and Lillian, he began publishing pamphlets on the health benefits of the Colorado Springs area. After Solly's first wife died in Manitou (1875) he remarried Elizabeth Evans (1877). Solly was physician to William Palmer and many other prominent citizens. The member's of Penrose's private watering hole, the El Paso Club elected Solly as their president for seventeen years. Solly served as Junior Warden for Grace Episcopal church. He was an integral part of the transplanted cafe society whose social events rivaled those of New York and Philadelphia. Solly was integral to the community's social and public enterprises and considered by the community leaders to be the city's leading citizen.
Solly was a man of remarkable imagination and vision. He inspired his patients with his belief that their efforts were as critical as his own to recovery. For twenty five years Solly had dreamed of a sanitorium which would bring together the knowledge he had gained of climate, nutrition, medicine and the ephemeral spirituality of health. Solly's vision involved a dynamic relationship between the function of the place and its design. He was thoroughly committed to the philosophy that open-air convalescence was the key to successful remediation of tuberculosis. His comprehension of the long duration of the disease and its treatment led him to include a family and home atmosphere for the patients. The sleeping porches were to be clustered, the rooms spacious and allow for frequent visits from friends and relatives The atmosphere of Solly's sanitorium was to be expansive, elegant and the most powerful therapeutic tubercular sanitorium for affluent consumptives in the country.
Solly had a summer retreat north of Colorado Springs he affectionately referred to as 'Cragmoor'. The landscape was reminiscent of England where craggy bluffs and the vast open plain greeted one another. Solly dreamed of creating a sanitorium on the craggy knolls of what locals knew as Austin Bluffs Park. As the century closed Solly faced his fifty-fifth year without any progress toward the realization of his dream. For all of the years Solly had brushed cheeks with the city's society and power brokers he never ask anyone for financial support of his vision. Finally, faced with deteriorating health and an insistent wife, he brought his dream to the founder of Colorado Springs, William Palmer.
In 1901 Palmer and Solly road out to the' Cragmoor ' retreat. Solly found the words and inspiration to convey his complete vision of a health mecca to Palmer. Palmer was no stranger to Solly's views of merging homeopathic and conventional medicine. Palmer's own family was beset with numerous physical and emotional conditions. Other proposals of sanitoriums were in the air, but it was Solly's vision of a residential facility that inspired Palmer. The 'Cragmoor' retreat was not to be a tent city like so many other tubercular settings. This would be a place where the most powerful and wealthy families would feel comfortable having family members reside and receive care. In 1902 Palmer announced his gift of 100 acres of land and $50,000 cash toward the $200,000 proposed sanitorium.
Shortly after Palmer's announcement about the Solly Sanitorium he donated an additional ten thousand acres on Austin Bluffs Park to the city, known today as Palmer Park. Once the land gift to the city was announced Solly began an earnest fund raising campaign to begin development of the Cragmor Sanitorium. In 1902 Solly commissioned MacLaren, the city's premier architect to design his dream of a 'Sun Palace'. The long time friends collaborated on bringing to life Solly's philosophy for the treatment of tuberculosis into a facility. MacLaren had the difficult task of continual revisions in the Cragmor plans to match the modest response to Solly's fund raising efforts. The city was becoming engulfed with people seeking the 'cure' and lacked the facilities to care for these patients. Glockner Sanitorium was over crowded. The city planners were deeply troubled by reports of patient treatment at Nordrach Ranch, also resulting from insufficient space for the number of patients demanding treatment.
The population of Colorado Springs in 1903 was approximately 36,000. Daily arrivals of numerous patients were pressing the politicians into concern over national scrutiny of patient care practices in the sanitoriums. The economic base for the city was threatened. Solly addressed a critical city council on the construction delays of Cragmor. Solly began to involve himself with the public relations surrounding the Cragmor as he had done for his friend William Palmer so many times before. Solly assured the city fathers that while Cragmor would receive an elite clientele that the profits from Cragmor would enable the city to build a tubercular care facility for the poor. As 1903 came to an end construction had not yet begun on Cragmor. Finally, after numerous changes in plans Solly and MacLaren saw construction begin in the spring of 1904. The first patients arrived in 1905. Cragmor's appearance at this time consisted of a series of pavilions, auxiliary edifices and cabins. Solly's dream was not yet realized. Unfortunately, Edwin Solly was suffering illness that would prove fatal when he died November 19, 1906.
Edwin Solly had transformed the city promise of Colorado Springs into a reality prior to his death. Between 1874 and his death in 1906 Edwin Solly had created the community's first major economic development effort. The role he played in the development of the Antlers Hotel, the El Paso Club and his profound influence upon his closest friend, William Palmer, left a legacy whose undeniable presence may still be seen and felt in Colorado Springs. Solly's powerful militancy in lobbying the city council for air quality regulations and industrial development are the foundation for the communities aggressive environmental regulations. Edwin Solly was the catalyst for the community's first economic development program, environmental activism, and the father of the health care industry in Colorado Springs. Only Edwin Solly could have created the Cragmor Sanitorium and a medical model for the treatment of tuberculosis that would survive fifty-seven years and three generations of medical directors and attendant physicians associated with the Cragmor Sanitorium.
July of 1905 found every unit at the Cragmor Sanitorium filled. The death of Edwin Solly had resulted in the appointment of a trio of new directors for the Sanitorium. Dr. Will Howard Swan (Palmer's personal physician), Henry W. Hoagland, and Charles Fox Gardiner were considered to be the most accomplished physicians in the West. The 1908 International Tuberculosis Conference in Washington D. C. brought together a young physician named Alexius M. Forster and Gerald Webb, Colorado Springs community leader and co-owner of the Cragmor Sanitorium.
Forster was greatly influenced by the research writings of Edwin Solly. As a young , recently graduated M.D. he was eager to practice medicine in the shadow of Edwin Solly. The remarkable physician ultimately found a way not only to bring Solly's medical vision fully to life but also to innovate and become famous in his own time for medical achievement in tubercular care.
Forster embraced the MacLaren designs for Cragmor published in a prestigious Boston journal entitled 'American Architect and Building News' (1908). He believed resolutely that no improvement could be made on the Solly-MacLaren sun porch design. The article not only confirmed for Forster that his destiny lay ahead of him in Colorado Springs, but it also resulted in Colorado Springs being selected as the site of the 1909 National Tuberculosis Exhibit. Inspired by MacLaren's drawings of Cragmor thousands of people throughout the United States traveled to the Springs. The triumvirate of physicians running the Cragmor Sanitorium were beginning to want out of their commitment to what they perceived as a financial albatross. The new guardian angle of the Cragmor project, Joel Addison Hayes, president of the First National Bank, believed Cragmor Sanitorium to be a dynamic investment. Hayes's son-in-law, Dr. Gerald B. Webb recommended the outstanding young physician, Alexius M. Forster for the directorship of Cragmor Sanitorium. In 1910, at the age of twenty-nine, Forster took on Cragmor and Edwin Solly's dream.
While Solly could envision the structure of the dream, Forster would introduce the comfort and mental attitude of the patient into the medical model. His youthful spirit combined with medical insight created a therapeutic home filled with beauty, ample humor, and epicurean style. Forster sensed that the time was right to begin the construction of the 'sun palace' main building. Forster's inexperience with the rigors of construction and planning led him to select ailing architect George Edward Barton who designed the Myron Stratton Home. The 'new cragmor' design resembled Mesa Verde Dwelling complete with pavilion extending from the main building in the form of a Maltese Cross. This architectural frolic died when confronted with fiscal reality. By the summer of 1913 Forster was ready to commit to MacLaren's design for Cragmor Sanitorium. The main Building was constructed in 1914.
Gerald Webb apprised the young director of Cragmor that his aristocratic residents were prodigal patients. Forster began to increase the daily structure of the sanitorium with rules. But the cafe society consumptives were not easily corralled. The eminent Dr. Webb continued to practice his medical arts through 1931 and bring a conservative balance to Dr. Forster's generous belief that the patients would recover if they truly enjoyed the art of living.