A Brief History of Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs began as “Colorado City” in 1859, organized by a party of Kansas prospectors. The town advertised its free highway to the gold fields, mineral baths, and the "Garden of the Gods" (a dramatic assembly of sandstone monoliths). The gold eventually ran out and a decline in Western travel during the Civil War sent Colorado Springs into a period of decline. A flood washed away some of the settlement.
Then, in 1871, General William Palmer’s railroad company purchased nearly 10,000 acres. Palmer had discovered the site of Colorado Springs at the foot of Pikes Peak while scouting for the railroad. It was the ideal location for his dream: an elite city, a cultural oasis for the well-to-do. Palmer and friends incorporated in 1872. The General and his partners made it clear that mills, smelters, saloons, gambling houses, and similar edifices would be confined to boisterous “Colorado City.” The new community of Colorado Springs planned broad, elm-lined thoroughfares with Indian, French, and Spanish names. Lots were set aside for schools and churches, and an extensive park system projected. Cash and 20 acres of land were donated for the founding of Colorado College. Written into all land deeds was a clause prohibiting the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquor on the premises, a restriction enforced for many years.
The “Springs” founders planned a community to attract and hold people of means and social standing, a citizenry of “good moral character and strict temperance habits.” They made it clear that manufacturing establishments were not wanted. General William J. Palmer, who made and unmade towns by directing where railroad tracks should be laid, was impressed with this site so near the mountains, foothills and canyons.
From the beginning, the railroad promoted the region as a scenic wonderland and health resort. Pikes Peak was already a national landmark. Physicians extolled the dry air and bright sunshine, and several TB sanitariums were established. The town grew rapidly.
When new gold and silver finds – especially in nearby Cripple Creek – brought these mountains to life again in the 1880s, Colorado Springs boomed, too. Within a few months of the first strikes, five mining exchanges had opened. Promoters and financiers rushed to Colorado Springs from across the nation. Bonanza kings invested part of their fortunes in substantial office structures and palatial houses. Between 1890 and 1900, the population increased from 11,000 to more than 23,000. During the next decade Colorado Springs became one of the wealthiest cities per capita in the United States. The town never lacked patrons who contributed materially to its development.
Wealthy tourists and settlers, many of them British, were drawn to the area’s natural beauty. For awhile Colorado Springs had the nickname, “Little London.” Tuberculosis patients came for sanatorium treatments and some stayed. In 1909, the Garden of the Gods, 1,000 acres of spectacular red sandstone formations, became a city park.
Spencer Penrose, a Philadelphian, acquired a mining claim while visiting friends, and eventually made a vast fortune. Penrose stayed on in Colorado Springs and shared his wealth with the community. The Pikes Peak auto road, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Will Rogers Shrine were some of his projects. Penrose turned a one-time dairy into the Broadmoor Hotel, which became a five-star resort.
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