gold seekers, lured by the prospect of riches in the mountains west
of Denver, established a village they called Colorado City as a supply
depot and jumping off point for the South Park goldfields. That area
is now part of Colorado Springs West Side.
William Jackson Palmer, a former Civil War general and railroad tycoon,
passed through the area while surveying the route of his Denver &
Rio Grande Railway. He decided this was the perfect place to build a
genteel resort like Newport, Saratoga, and others he had enjoyed back
east. He formed a town company, and staked out the first streets in
1871. A Quaker and strict teetotaler, Palmer forbade the manufacture,
sale, or consumption of alcohol in his new town. Drinkers and carousers
simply rode out to the saloons of Colorado City.
the next 20 years or so, Colorado Springs grew to be a popular spa.
Well-to-do tourists arrived by train and spent summers at General Palmers
luxurious Antlers Hotel or at other grand establishments in Manitou
Springs. Many of the celebrities of the time--Jefferson Davis, Oscar
Wilde, John D. Rockefeller--vacationed here. And the area was so popular
with English visitors and settlers that the town acquired the nickname
days as a quiet little resort came to an abrupt end in 1891 when gold
was discovered at Cripple Creek. In 10 years, the population of Colorado
Springs tripled to 35,000. More than 50 of these new residents were
newly minted millionaires, and many of them built splendid mansions
in the North End of the city. One of these was Spencer Penrose who built
not only the world famous Broadmoor Hotel, but the Pikes Peak Highway,
the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. After
Cripple Creek gold dried up, Colorado Springs returned to a sleepy existence
catering to the tourists and to the many tuberculosis patients who came
to regain their health in the thin, dry air.
II got the town going again. Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base
were established. The North American Air (now Aerospace) Defense Command
(NORAD) and the U.S. Air Force Academy joined them in the 1950s. This
military presence continued to grow as Colorado Springs became the nations
military space capital in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today, General Palmer’s Saratoga of the West is home to more than 500,000 people. The influx and growth of high-tech
manufacturers, software companies, nonprofit organizations and ministries,
and other businesses have made Colorado Springs less reliant on tourism
and the military, and have attracted tens of thousands of highly educated
and technically skilled newcomers. Homes, plants, offices, and malls
have spread onto the prairie and into the foothills, creating new neighborhoods
that, except for the dramatic mountain backdrop, look much like suburbs
those who care to look, the history of the Pikes Peak region is remarkably
visible and accessible. The Colorado Springs of yesterday is very much
a part of the Colorado Springs of today.