Colorado Springs is a gorgeous Rocky Mountains city in central Colorado full of breathtaking sights and things to explore outdoors. The fresh mountain air invigorates the body and soul, making this a wonderful place to live.
It’s also a city with a rich and diverse past that continues to influence residents and visitors today. Here’s a look at some interesting facts about Colorado Springs history.
The History of Colorado Springs Colorado
One of the first events in the history about Colorado Springs was the city’s founding. Colorado Springs was founded by William Jackson Palmer, an abolitionist from Delaware and Pennsylvania. Palmer fought in the Civil War for the Union Army despite being a Quaker, who were traditionally pacifists who opposed war.
At the end of the Civil War, Palmer became a railroad tycoon and joined the Kansas-Pacific Railroad, which he worked on expanding to Denver in 1870.
After learning about narrow-gauge railroads that would fit well in Colorado’s mountainous, hilly landscape, Palmer founded the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad with his business partner Dr. William Abraham Bell. The duo completed the first narrow-gauge railroad line in 1871 from Denver to what would become Colorado Springs.
Palmer and Bell created the Fountain Colony at the base of Pikes Peak the same year. The area was renamed Colorado Springs by 1879, due to the hot springs in the area.
William Jackson Palmer’s Contributions
Palmer made numerous contributions to the history of Colorado Springs. He established the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. He also helped fund the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the city of Manitou Springs, the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper and a tuberculosis hospital. He opposed segregation and fought to ensure it wasn’t part of the city.
Today, the Palmer Land Conservancy seeks to continue Palmer’s legacy in Colorado Springs. Since its founding in 1977, the organization works to protect more than 137,000 acres of land, including 20 public parks and open spaces.
Palmer continues to have a presence in Colorado Springs in sculptural form, as well. You can find a statue of William Jackson Palmer sitting on top of a horse in the middle of downtown Colorado Springs.
How Pikes Peak Came To Be
Before Palmer made his way to Colorado Springs, an Army lieutenant named Zebulon Montgomery Pike had explored the area. He was sent to explore the southwestern boundary of the Louisiana Territory. Upon seeing the Rocky Mountains and the summit, he named it Grand Peak.
Pike later tried to climb the peak to survey the landscape and rivers. While snow prevented him from reaching the summit, he detailed his expedition in 1810. Today, the mountain is known as Pikes Peak, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
A Park 2 Million+ Years in the Making
Today’s rock formations are a result of the erosion and glaciation of that ancient rock. Visitors can see sedimentary rock formations that were created by the erosion of ancient mountains and by the action of massive sand dunes as they traversed the environment.
In the late 1800s, Palmer’s friend Charles Elliott Perkins purchased 240 acres in the Garden of the Gods for a summer home. After he died, his children conveyed the property to the City of Colorado Springs.
That resulted in the land becoming the public park it is today. The park is always free to visit to explore the interesting rock formations.
‘America the Beautiful’ Begins in Colorado Springs
If you’re familiar with the song “America the Beautiful,” you’ve heard about the splendor of Colorado Springs in musical form. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the opening lines of the 1895 poem “America” that inspired the song after she visited the Rocky Mountain range’s Pikes Peak.
She rode to the top of the Pikes Peak in 1893 on a prairie wagon, during a visit in Colorado Springs where she was teaching at the Colorado Summer School. Her view from the top led to the line “purple mountain majesties” that’s so well-known in the song.
Studying Electricity in Colorado Springs
Inventor Nikola Tesla, who made significant contributions to modern electricity, built the Tesla Experimental Station laboratory in Colorado Springs in 1899. There, he and his assistants studied high-frequency, high-voltage electricity in wireless power transmission.
In the lab, Tesla created artificial lightning, thunder and sparks. He also built the largest Tesla coil in history, nearly 50 feet in diameter. He only spent around 6 months at the laboratory but made a lasting mark.
Colorado Springs Becomes Aircraft and Movie Center
In 1928, the Alexander Aircraft Company moved to Colorado Springs from Englewood, Colorado, after a fire burned down the previous manufacturing facility. The business was founded in 1924 and became the world’s second-largest builder of airplanes, with 143 U.S. dealers and 33 distributors throughout the country.
When the company moved to Colorado Springs, the Chamber of Commerce purchased 90 acres of land for an airfield. While the company thrived after the initial move, the market crash of 1929 led to the company filing for bankruptcy in 1932.
The Alexander Aircraft Company was also part of the business family that founded the Alexander Film Company. The film company endured, producing up to 3,000 films a year by the early 1950s.
Colorado Springs was home to production facilities that housed up to 32 full-size motion picture sets, as well as sound recording, film processing and art departments. The Alexander Film Company ceased production in 1974.
Colorado Springs continues to build history today
The above are just a few stories illustrating the vibrant history of Colorado Springs Colorado. Today, visitors and residents alike continue to explore the beautiful outdoors, tour sites like the U.S. Air Force Academy and explore a variety of world-class dining and shopping destinations.
Colorado Springs is home to the Senior Lifestyle community Liberty Heights, which offers Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care and skilled nursing options. Find out more about Senior Lifestyle, or schedule a tour today.