The magnificent Pensmore Chateau is a 72,215 square-foot structure located near Branson, Missouri. The owner and visionary of the residence is Steve Huff, an astrophysicist whose career includes the CIA and his own business that linked computer technology and satellites. The concrete constructed home is designed last 2,000 year or more, able to withstand earthquakes, bomb blasts, or a direct hit from an F5 tornado! It will become not only a family retreat home, but home to the Huff Family Foundation as well as a retreat center for scholars and “deep thinkers”.
When Dr. Lillback first had the privilege to meet Steve, he was just beginning the plans for building Pensmore. George Washington’s Sacred Fire had become and Amazon best seller, and in their initial conversation they discovered that they shared a deep interest in the way that faith and liberty intersected in the American founding. They also shared a recognition that science and faith are all too often seen as opponents rather than allies. Their friendship has grown over the ensuing years, as together they have worked with Westminster Theological Seminary to host some seven Science and Faith Conferences. Steve has also been an ardent supporter of the Providence Forum as we pursue our mission to advance the faith and values of America’s founders.
As Pensmore has developed, Steve and Pete have conferred in various ways as to how the Pensmore facility and its programs could highlight the historical and faith principles that have been so important for America’s history. Out of these conversations have come plans to highlight the Liberty Tree in the iconography of Pensmore, the planting of a Liberty Tree Trail on the Pensmore grounds and a dedicated history museum space that will highlight historical portraits of America’s Founders as well as other Providence Forum materials.
Video sourced from The Kansas City Star
As Pensmore approaches completion, a tour of Pensmore in written form has been developed. The first edition of this draft is posted here for friends of The Providence Forum to read so they can learn of the unique educational opportunities that Pensmore will afford coming generations. The Providence Forum looks forward to when we will hold conferences and study opportunities on principles of faith and liberty in conjunction with Steve and the Pensmore team. We are grateful to the Huff family and the Pensmore staff for the privilege to labor together in so many ways. Steve’s friendship with TPF has been an encouragement to our labors and we remain truly thankful for his partnership and pioneering leadership in helping to restore the lost voice of liberty to contemporary America.
A Visitor’s Guide to Symbols of Pensmore
Renowned for its grandeur, remarkable architecture, extraordinary energy efficiency and durable construction, it is designed to withstand the forces of nature for centuries to come. Woven into the fabric of this project that was conceived, designed and created by Steve Huff and members of his family are numerous symbols, emblems and citations. Each of these in varying ways convey the ideals and values that have guided and defined his quest to create a center for study and dialogue on foundational issues of human existence. The foci of Pensmore’s emphases include liberty, science and faith, as well as contemporary challenges such as energy efficiency, structural durability and sustainable agriculture.
Steve explains, “We are in the process of building both a home for my family and, more importantly, a living laboratory for energy-efficiency and disaster resistant technology for years to come”.
Mr. Huff, the owner of Pensmore, is chairman of TF Concrete Forming Systems. Steve wants Pensmore to be the premier energy efficient, environmentally sustainable single-family residence that is also earthquake and tornado resistant.
Pensmore is composed entirely of concrete. TF Forming Systems is a manufacturer and distributor of insulated concrete forming systems. The mansion is not only an opportunity to experiment with new technologies, it provides a showcase for various products being developed by companies with which Steve is working. The home’s concrete structure is reinforced with “Helix” steel fibers produced by PolyTorx. Helix are twist-shaped fibers, first developed at the University of Michigan, that dramatically add strength and flexibility to the building’s structure. Helix reinforced concrete can withstand natural disasters like major earthquakes and F5 tornadoes and even massive ballistic explosions.
The Name and Purpose
The name of the Pensmore Chateau gets to the heart of Steve’s vision. Pensmore is derived from two words. “Pense” carries the meaning of “thought” as in pensive and as is reflected in Pascal’s classic work, Pensees. The second word “more” is simply the English word that we already know. Thus the name Pensmore means “Think-More”. Steve hopes that Pensmore will be an example of a more thoughtful way to build. His vision for Pensmore is “to develop and showcase a variety of cutting-edge green building technologies with immediate practical application in the real world”.
But Pensmore also has an academic and educational mission as well. Pensmore has been established to be a place for scholars and thought leaders to gather to think together, to learn from each other, to challenge each other and to celebrate and advance the wisdom and values of the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition and worldview. As a “thought house”, Pensmore is to be a place where people will think more about the things that really matter.
The visible symbols of the roof line are the mathematical symbol Pi and the early American historic symbol of the Liberty Tree.
Penmore’s roof line alternates these symbols of mathematics and history. These two symbols reveal Pensmore’s commitment to science and liberty.
On the grounds, on Liberty Ridge, you will also find one of the fourteen seedlings germinated from the last surviving American Liberty Tree that was felled by Hurrican Floyd in Annapolis, Maryland in 1999. The other seedlings were planted by The Providence Forum in the original states that first formed the United States.
The number π is a mathematical constant, namely, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is typically approximated as 3.14159. It is often represented by the Greek letter “π” although it is sometimes spelled out as “pi”.
Because π is the relationship of the diameter of a circle to its circumference, the value of π not only reflects the material world but also the realm of the mind and pure mathematical thought. Thus π can also symbolically evoke the constant and transcendent role of the Triune God in fashioning mathematical and scientific realities and placing them into human existence.
Thus the properties of π suggest the very properties of God. The circle is a classic symbol for God and divine perfection. The circle like God has no beginning and no ending. Moreover, the circle possesses perfect symmetry in that every point on a circle is precisely the same distance away from the center of the circle, suggesting again the perfection of God.
More cryptically, π is a ratio of approximately three to one, allegorically hinting at the three to one relationship within the Trinity. π, of course, is usually rounded to 3.14159 because it is an irrational number. Thus the value of π in this regard even more directly evokes the nature of God. As an irrational number, the exact value of π cannot be established. It is an infinite, non-repeating unique number even as the nature of God is infinite, unrepeatable and unique. Just as the number π is unchangingly true at all times and in all places, so God is unchanging, true and omnipresent. Thus π is a classic mathematical number that evokes reflection on the nature of God who is beyond human comprehension in his infinite uniqueness, omnipresence, eternality and immutability. Because God is true, all truth is God’s truth. Interestingly, π is also the Greek letter for “P” which is the first letter in the Greek name for Father, Pater, one of the Bible’s frequent names for God.
Finally, there is a similarity in shape between the Hebrew letter for “H”, English letter “H” that begins Steve’s last name and for π. “H” obviously stands for Huff. Along the way in designing Pensmore, it occurred to Steve that if π is compared with the Hebrew letter for “H”, which is , then π might also stand for the first letter of his last name, namely Huff. is the Hebrew letter “he” or the letter “H” in English. It is roughly similar in structure to the Greek letter pi . So a stylized pi can appear to be similar to “he” and suggest the first letter of the name of Huff as well. Thus the Hebrew symbol of also appears at Pensmore.
Symbols of the Trinity
The upper level of the central tower has three Trinitarian symbols of the three Person of the Godhead.
- The All-seeing eye of God, representing God the Father, the agent of providence.
- The Alpha and the Omega, the symbols of Christ as the first and last of all of human history.
- The Dove as the symbol of the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity is also captured by the symbols of the Fleur de Lis and Trefoils on the South wall. The three petals of the lilies suggest both the resurrection of Christ and His role in the Trinity. The Fleur de Lis has historically been connected with France and the French royal family. The three leaves of the Trefoils or three leaf clover has been historically connected with St. Patrick and his teaching of the Trinity to the early Irish Christians.
Mathematically, the Trinity is captured by the necessary, distinct yet complementary mathematical operations of addition and multiplication. When the three persons of the Trinity are considered, the Trinity is expressed by addition: 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. There are three Persons in the Trinity. But when the unity of the Trinity is in view, multiplication is used to express the essential unity of the Trinity: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. There is only one God. Christianity affirms monotheism by declaring that God is one essence who subsists in three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Just as the mathematical operations of addition and multiplication are distinct yet logically connected, so similarly the unity and plurality of the Trinity are distinct yet interconnected.
The role of Scripture in showing how God is the source of liberty for mankind is captured in the Hebrew text of Lev. 25:10 that is in the floor at the entrance to the garage. This verse when translated into English declares, “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” This is the biblical text that is on the historic Liberty Bell.
The Hebrew word for Liberty is Deror.
The theme of Liberty is ever present at Pensmore through the Liberty tree imagery. For example, a Liberty Tree and a Dove are also found on the garage floor. They remind us of 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty” as well as John 8:32, “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Thus biblically speaking, there is a strong connection between civil liberty and spiritual liberty. This is seen in Pensmore’s frequent use of the Liberty Tree symbol along the roof line and in its many growing Liberty Trees found at various locations on the Pensmore grounds.
The Liberty Tree Symbol and the Liberty Trees
The Liberty tree is an original American emblem of liberty. The Liberty Tree seedling and the bud grafted trees that compose the Liberty Tree Trail at Pensmore have a remarkable history. The first Liberty Tree was identified in 1765 by the Sons of Liberty in Boston in the context of their protest against the Stamp Act. As tensions mounted in the years leading to the declaration of American Independence in 1776, the practice of gathering support for the American cause around a large tree in urban centers began to spread throughout the colonies.
Liberty Trees began with the Stamp Act in 1765. Patriots met outdoors because they could not meet in government buildings as their activities were viewed as political opposition to the king. They met first underneath an ancient Elm tree in Boston Common. When the British invaded Boston, the first thing they did was to chop down the liberty tree and burn it for firewood. The idea of the liberty tree spread to other colonies as resistance to the King’s taxation grew. During the Revolutionary War, flags were displayed with liberty poles and liberty trees upon them. There was even a dedication service for liberty trees. We have examples of that from some of the early literature.
The story of its history includes: The Sons of Liberty read the Declaration of Independence under the tree. Annapolis was the city where Congress met, not far from the tree, when Washington victoriously visited them to return his commission on his way back to Mount Vernon. Francis Scott Key went to school under this tree. Youths exploded gunpowder in the hollow of the tree in the 1800’s. Instead of destroying the tree as all expected since the leaves were all blown off, the tree was much healthier the next year than in previous years, because the blast cauterized the rotten center destroying the insects. This enabled it to live another century, and, left black scorch marks on the wood remnants that can be seen to this day.
One by one, through the years, these ancient trees have passed away. The last standing liberty tree was felled by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 that stood on the campus of St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD across from the Naval Academy. It was a tulip poplar tree. It was perhaps 800 years old. It was living before Columbus discovered America. This Liberty tree was cut down and thrown into a landfill after it had been damaged by hurricane Floyd in 1999.
These children of the last Liberty Tree were then secured by The Providence. The last standing Revolutionary era Liberty Tree, a Tulip Poplar estimated to be up to 800 years old when it died, was in Annapolis, Maryland and was felled in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Under this tree in 1776, the Maryland Sons of Liberty read the Declaration of Independence. From the seeds that were harvested from that venerable tree in 1999, only fourteen took root. These were grown under the watchful care of the non-profit organization American Forests (www.AmericanForests.org). Forum when they were quite small and were nurtured at the Mt. Cuba Center, a horticultural institution in Wilmington, Delaware (www.mtcubacenter.org). As they matured, they were planted throughout the original colonies at such auspicious locations as the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and Mount Vernon in Virginia. A bud-grafting project continues and has produced the trees you will find throughout the grounds of Pensmore.
The Tower’s Liberty Pole and Cap
The central tower of Pensmore displays a Liberty Pole and Cap. Liberty poles took the place of ancient trees as meeting places if there was not a large tree in the city. This idea goes back to early Rome when one of the generals lifted a battle lance with a freed slave’s cap called a pileus on its point. He told the slaves if they stood underneath the pole they would be free. Thus the liberty pole and cap began then to be the symbol of freedom.
The liberty pole and cap began to be used in classical imagery and made its way to England. The symbol was used by Paul Revere and others in America. And so it began to be a symbol of the American revolution, just as the liberty tree. During the Revolutionary War, flags were displayed with liberty poles and liberty trees upon them.
The Symbols in the Compass Rose in the Garage
In the garage, there is also a compass that is designed in the mosaics of the floor. It is laid out with an astronomically accurate orientation. The edifice thus faces directly east. In the compass rose, there are distinctive symbols that reflect the practical interests of Pensmore.
The telescope represents Pensmore’s scientific mission and desire to explore the cosmos as is also seen in Pensmore’s working observatory.
The globe represents the laws of physics that govern the created order as well as the hope that the efforts of Pensmore will advance the common good of mankind on a global scale.
The lion and owl are symbols of Pensmore’s aspiration to provide leadership through the exercise of strength and the pursuit of wisdom. Pensmore hopes to harness further the physical laws of nature for superior construction and durability and to advance electrical, heating and cooling efficiencies through its unique technologies developed by the creative investigations of Steve Huff.
The fleur de lis and the liberty pole and cap are symbols of freedom. The Fleur de Lis or Easter Lilly evokes the resurrection of Christ that frees believers in Christ from the bondage of death.
The Liberty pole and cap represent the freedom from political and civil enslavement that result when liberty and justice become principles shared by all in civil society.
The compass rose also portrays various animals that model Pensmore’s commitment to sustainable agriculture. Pensmore’s animals are free to roam the estate’s 500 acres, believing this results in a healthier product. Allowing the animals to roam over large spaces also helps ready the land for produce; the cattle and sheep eat the grass down while the hogs till it. They all participate in contributing to the fertilization.
- The hog depicts an Ossabaw hog that is raised at Pensmore. This unique hog developed after Spanish explorers left them behind on Osabaw Island off the coast of Georgia. For centuries, as they fended for themselves, they had to live off the land developing a heartiness that makes them easier to care for and resulting in very lean meat.
- The ram stands for the St. Croix sheep nurtured at Pensmore. This variety of sheep does not grow a dense coat of wool and so are raised for food and not for wool.
- The beehive is a spiritual symbol of industriousness and good order and also represents the harvest of honey and beeswax that Pensmore’s aviculture provides. The bee hives will also enhance the pollenization of the various crops and fruit orchards that are being planted.
- The steer is the emblem of the herd of the Saler cattle that Pensmore is raising to provide its own source of beef for food and potentially for sale with all of these products at a store that is envisioned to be opened in the coming years at the entrance to Pensmore.
With Pensmore’s ability to use geothermal and solar energy in conjunction with its remarkable durability and energy efficiencies, these food sources establish Pensmore not only as an ecologically friendly center, but also as an enterprise for sustainable agriculture and self-sustainable independence.
Pensmore’s Various External Symbols and Images
Surrounding the building on the outside one can see:
- Bears, the symbol of strength and survivability of adversity
- Lions, the symbol of rule and power, appropriate for a study of physics and the great ideas of free government and liberty
- Gargoyles remind of classic solutions to building challenges and the reality of the imminent challenges that confront human existence from unseen directions such as from natural disasters and manmade problems. Historically, Gargoyles provided decoration for buildings, and contained spouts to direct water away from the sides of buildings. The word gargoyle comes from a French word, which means “throat” or “gullet”, perhaps suggesting the gurgling of water flowing through the gargoyle from its mouth. Ancient beliefs held that gargoyles protected against evil spirits.
- The Oxford faces are classical symbols of human emotions and the arts. The Huff family also has an academic connection with Oxford through family studies there and their friendship with noted Christian mathematician and apologist Dr. John Lennox.
Concluding your Tour
Your tour of Pensmore is intended to both educate you in the great story of American liberty and to inspire you to preserve, defend and advance this extraordinary gift bequeathed to us by our Founders that they derived from our Judeo-Christian heritage emerging from the Word of God.
So as John Adams wrote, “Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”
Benjamin Franklin said we have a republic, if we can keep it. It is up to us to keep our constitutional republic intact and preserve our liberties for the coming generations.
As George Washington said so well in his First Inaugural Address,
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
It is the hope of the Pensmore Foundation that having visited, you will be more ready, willing and able to do your part to make the American experiment an ever advancing success.