Colorado Springs history stretches back many hundreds of years. The area’s first inhabitants were American Indian people. The Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other tribes gathered at the base of Pikes Peak, near its abundant springs and in what is now called Garden of the Gods Park. During the 1700s, both French and Spanish flags flew over the region. But with the Louisiana Purchase more Anglo-American explorers and settlers began to venture west.
In November 1806, American explorer Zebulon Pike traveled through the area and is credited for “discovering” Pikes Peak. He and his group attempted to reach the summit, but they were neither dressed nor equipped to climb the mountain that ultimately came to bear his name.
In 1859, Colorado Springs history is marked with the founding of Colorado City which became the first settlement in the Pikes Peak region. It was the territorial capitol for a short period and served as a supply camp for miners traveling to the mining camps west of Denver.
General William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero from Pennsylvania, ushered in a new era in Colorado Springs history in 1869. During his first visit to the area, he fell in love with its “most enticing scenery.” He predicted that there would soon be a great resort town at the base of Pikes Peak. One year later, he founded the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and purchased land to create Colorado Springs along its route. In 1871, the Victorian spa resort town Palmer envisioned became a reality.
Throughout Colorado Springs history, the stunning scenic beauty was not the only thing that attracted people to the area. The sunny conditions and dry, mild climate of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs made these communities popular for people suffering from poor health, especially tuberculosis.
In the 1890s, gold was discovered on the western slope of Pikes Peak, one of the richest gold strikes in American history. Almost overnight, the Cripple Creek Mining District grew from an isolated cattle pasture to the home of more than 50,000 people. As a result, by the turn of the 19th century, Colorado Springs was called “the city of millionaires.” One of these millionaires was Spencer Penrose, who made his first fortune in Cripple Creek. He used his vast resources to build the Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain Highways and to establish the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine and The Broadmoor Hotel. He and his wife, Julie, created the El Pomar Foundation, which still supports many worthy causes in the Pikes Peak region and across Colorado.
At the turn of the century, inspired by a trip to the summit of Pikes Peak, Katharine Lee Bates penned what has become our country’s most famous poem and song, “America the Beautiful.”
In the 1940s, the U.S. Army opened Camp Carson, marking the beginning of what is now a strong military presence in this region. In 1954, the Air Force broke ground for the United States Air Force Academy to continue this military tradition. Today’s Colorado Springs history is capped with a military flair. Colorado Springs is home to major military installations including Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the U.S. Space Command, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), Schriever Air Force Base and the United States Air Force Academy.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations. Colorado Springs was selected for its walkable historic areas, its commitment to sustainability and its natural attractions and ample recreational opportunities in the nearby Rocky Mountains.
For 13 years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has annually selected communities across America that offer cultural and recreational experiences different from those found at the typical vacation destination. From dynamic downtowns and stunning architecture to a commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization, the selected destinations boast a richness of character and exude an authentic sense of place.
“Few vacation destinations provide such an extraordinary range of tourism opportunities in a single location,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “From the vibrant and walkable downtown to the thriving local businesses to the ample recreational opportunities afforded by the nearby Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs retains the distinctive charm that has attracted generations of visitors.”
Nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, visitors to Colorado Springs can enjoy commanding views of Pikes Peak from just about any part of town. The multiple recreational opportunities afforded by the nearby mountains include everything from hiking to taking in the breathtaking geological wonders at Garden of the Gods Park, Cave of the Winds and the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
Home to Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the town has a thriving arts and cultural scene–including the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, which interprets the early history of the area. Visitors looking to spend the night in Colorado Springs have several top-notch options available, from the historic Broadmoor Hotel to the Cliff House at nearby Pike’s Peak.
- The Broadmoor Hotel, a member of the Historic Hotels of America program, is the longest running five-star resort in the United States.
- Cliff House at Pike’s Peak, has been a hotel longer than Colorado has been a state and has hosted such luminaries as Clark Gable, Theodore Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill Cody.
- North End historic district, a charming and highly walkable local historic district located near the campus of Colorado College.
- Nearby highlights include Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy, where the Cadet Chapel is considered a masterpiece of Modernist architecture.
To date, there are 156 Distinctive Destinations located throughout the country. The title of Distinctive Destination is presented to cities and towns that offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural persity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization. In each community, residents have taken forceful action to protect their town’s character and sense of place.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.PreservationNation.org) is a non-profit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them. By saving the places where great moments from history – and the important moments of everyday life – took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation helps revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability. With headquarters in Washington, DC, eight regional and field offices, 29 historic sites, and partner organizations in 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to a national network of people, organizations and local communities committed to saving places, connecting us to our history and collectively shaping the future of America’s stories.
*Courtesy of www.VisitCos.com