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About Colorado Springs

“America the Beautiful” City: A History of Colorado Springs

Dominating its range at 14,010’, Pikes Peak at all times attracted people to its prominence. A few of the American Indian tribes that made this area their home were the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The Ute referred to Pikes Peak as “Ta-Wa-Ah-Gath,” the Sun Mountain. Following the vast herds of bison, the Ute camped in the area’s red rock canyons and drank from the same bubbling springs we have today. The influence of the American Indian is seen by their names found on our maps and buildings; they are still part of our community and continue their traditions in yearly festivals.

After the European discovery of the Americas, both French and Spanish flags few over the Pikes Peak region. In 1795, the first official Spanish exploration of the region was commanded by Juan Bautiste de Anza; the Spanish name for our great mountain was “Almagre” for the reddish color of the granite. The name was retained for the south ridge of the peak.

The US acquired the Pikes Peak region from the French when President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803 and then sent out expeditions to explore and map the new land. While Lewis and Clark were sent to the Dakotas and Montana to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean, Zebulon Montgomery Pike was sent to the territory that is now Colorado. In November of 1810, Pike attempted to climb the mountain but deep snow caused him to declare the mountain’s summit unattainable. His journal of 1810 described the mountain that now bears his name and encouraged others to want to see the beautiful terrain. Colorado Springs recently celebrated the bicentennial of Zebulon Pike’s expedition.

Sitting below beautiful Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs is the gateway to Southern Colorado. Founded in 1871 by the youngest civil war general, William Jackson Palmer, Colorado Springs quickly earned the nick name “Little London” because of the many Englishmen making long visits to oversee their mining and ranching investments. Palmer looked at the expanse of open land before the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains and envisioned a resort destination and thriving community. In only two years he laid out wide avenues, opened his resort hotel, the Antler’s, generously granted land for numerous public parks, and actively encouraged the founding of educational and civic institutions. To ensure easy access to his beloved city, Palmer founded the Denver & Rio Grand Railroad, an important regional railroad. Colorado Springs became a quaint resort town by the late 1880’s when tourists arrived from all over the world and health-seekers sought the dry climate and clear spring waters.

The cry “Pikes Peak or Bust” heralded a famous gold rush, but it was not the first activity of mining in the area. Spaniards were prospecting and mining in the areas as early as the 1700’s. Explorers and mountain men of the 1800’s told stories of finding gold nuggets in the streams and rivers, yet little attention was given to these accounts until the economic depression of the late 1850’s. In 1858, a group of prospectors discovered gold near the present site of downtown Denver starting the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, named after the famous landmark of the territory. Mining helped develop the Colorado Territory. By 1859, Colorado City (now part of Colorado Springs) became the supply town for the men who came to seek their fortune. The miners sacrificed their earnings in exchange for food, tools and equipment to start their travel over Ute Pass to the mines.

By 1890, the Colorado gold rush focused on the Pikes Peak area when gold was discovered on the western slope by Bob Womack, a cattle rancher and part-time prospector. New cities sprang up almost instantly as the fame of the mining district of Cripple Creek and Victor attracted tens of thousands of new people. Gold ore was transported by railroad to processing mills in the old supply town of Colorado City. While the mining districts got the fame, Colorado Springs benefited from its gold. The quiet resort town also grew as the new mining millionaires built homes and businesses. More tourists than gold is mined in Cripple Creek today, while many buildings and mansions in Colorado Springs remind us of our mining heritage.

Inspired by the view from the summit of Pikes Peak in 1893, English professor and poet Katharine Lee Bates penned what has become our country’s most famous poem turned song, “America the Beautiful.” The natural beauty of Pikes Peak continues to inspire artists working in the area to this day.

Philadelphia entrepreneur, Spencer Penrose put Colorado Springs on the map with the opening of his Broadmoor Hotel in 1918. The Broadmoor Hotel consistently offers 5-Star and 5-Diamond resort service, three world renowned golf courses, tennis facilities, and a luxury spa.

Colorado Springs has maintained its “small town” ambiance while acquiring sophistication as Colorado’s second largest city. Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region calls home to over fifty attractions and is the gateway to Southern Colorado’s outdoor adventures of world-class skiing, snow boarding, white water rafting, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. Its breathtaking scenery, quality accommodations and cuisine, variety of attractions from its art colonies, culture, outdoor recreation, and shopping make this community a desirable place to live or visit.


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