• Historic old building mask modern facilities at Deaf and Blind School

    Sun, April 6, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The main administration building at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind on April 3, 2014. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The main administration building, opened in 1906, at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind on April 3, 2014. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Don’t be fooled by the imposing old stone buildings of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind standing tall atop the hill at Institute Street east of downtown Colorado Springs.

    They only look old from the outside. You might be surprised at what’s inside the 17 buildings on the 37-acre campus on North Institute Street behind the white wrought-iron fence.

    I long admired the buildings and the folks I often saw walking with white canes up and down surrounding streets, learning how to navigate this crazy world with impaired vision or hearing.

    The 37-acre campus of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    The 37-acre campus of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    I knew the basics of the institution . . . that it’s a state-fund school serving kids across Colorado from birth to age 21 who have impaired hearing and vision.

    But I never had an opportunity to wander around and look behind the century-old stone facades.

    Recently I learned the school is celebrating its 140th anniversary. I called and asked for a tour. I’m glad I did.

    What I found really opened my eyes to all the great people and amazing work merging new technology and cutting-edge educational techniques in a historic setting.

    My tour guide, Diane Covington, the school’s community liaison, showed me around the excellent facilities the administration has built for its 220 or so students who attend daily classes. About half of them are “day students” and the rest live on campus Sunday through Friday. (The school’s staff of 160 serves about 550 students statewide.)

    Diane Covington, community liaison at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, points to the student ledger of every child ever enrolled dating to 1874. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Diane Covington, community liaison at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, points to the student ledger of every child ever enrolled dating to 1874. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And she introduced me to some of the great kids and staff at the schools.

    “It’s just like a college campus,” Covington said as we moved from building to building, dropping into modern classrooms packed with everything from old Braille writing machines that resemble small typewriters (if you remember typewriters) to state-of-the-art computers, electronic tablets and video equipment.

    The technology allows visually impaired students to read and even allows rural students to telecommute and interact with teachers and students in Colorado Springs.

    “We have a student in Holly whose parents don’t want him to live away from home,” Covington said, citing just one of the distance-learning students CSDB serves. “We have two classrooms equipped so he can watch and participate.”

    The class of the Blind School in 1889. Courtesy the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

    The class of the Blind School in 1889. Courtesy the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

    As dazzled as I was by the blending of old and new facilities, I was most impressed by the people.

    And I found myself a big fan of the teachers who have to deal with all the typical issues of pre-schoolers, elementary age and teenagers as well as physical challenges I can’t comprehend. I stood in awe watching a preschool teacher dramatically enact the eating of an apple as students sat in a semi-circle, watching her and a video on a huge screen about eating.

    The campus of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The campus of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    As a history buff, I was stopping frequently to study the photos of famous alumni and benefactors, like the lifesize oil painting Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer in the Administration Building. Palmer donated 10 acres to the school and the Colorado Territorial Legislature appropriated $5,000 so Jonathan Kennedy could open the school in 1874 with nine students — including three of his own children.

    An early, undated photo of a class at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Believed to be the late 1800s. Courtesy photo.

    An early, undated photo of a class at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Believed to be the late 1800s. Courtesy photo.

    The school’s rich history is on display throughout its buildings.

    There are photos of students and teachers through the decades.

    This teacher and her two students went to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis and put on exhibitions of teaching methods. Courtesy of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

    Student Lottie Sullivan, left, her teacher, Bessie Veditz, and an unidentified boy seen in 1904. The three went to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to represent the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. They demonstrated techniques for teaching students with visual and hearing impairments. Courtesy of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

    Some offer reminders of the often crude way society treated folks with physical disabilities, from the language “Deaf Mutes and Blind Institute” to the photos of the teacher and two students who were literally put on display at the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis to demonstrate teaching techniques for the blind.

    Trolleys packed with people stop at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in an undated photo believed to be around the turn of the 20th century. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Trolleys packed with people stop at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in an undated photo believed to be around the turn of the 20th century. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    I especially liked walking down a sidewalk and seeing large photos peering from out from windows of a former classroom building showing Lon Chaney, the silent film superstar whose parents met at the school. Chaney’s skills in sign language and pantomime, which he used to communicate with his parents, helped make him a huge star in silent films including the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera.

    This ledger shows the  first student enrolled in the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind from its inception in 1874. The school has detailed historic records of its students and activities. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This ledger shows the first student enrolled in the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind from its inception in 1874. The school has detailed historic records of its students and activities. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    In addition, I loved digging through the stacks of ledgers, including those documenting the enrollment of the very first students. And I marveled at the school newspapers, printed on site, dating back to its first years.

    The school will celebrate its anniversary with an assembly and balloon release starting at 1 p.m., Tuesday, at its gym.

    I recommend anyone interested call and schedule a tour. Get to know the people there. Covington tells me the school is always looking for community partners and welcome visitors.

    You will be glad you did. I certainly am.

    Diane Covington, community liaison at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, examines the school's "Touch Museum" _ a collection of stuffed animals. Students with visual impairments are taught about various animals by touching the taxidermy displays. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Diane Covington, community liaison at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, examines the school’s “Touch Museum” _ a collection of stuffed animals. Students with visual impairments are taught about various animals by touching the taxidermy displays. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette


    IF YOU GO

    The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind offers tours on the first and third Monday of each month. For more information, call Diane Covington, 578-2225 or email her at dcovington@csdb.org.

    The School for the Deaf will present a spring program celebrating the school’s history at 6 p.m., May 1, in the Gottlieb Building. The School for the Blind will present its own program at 6 p.m., May 13, in the Gottlieb Building.

    Images of Lon Chaney, the silent film star known as the Man of a Thousand Faces, peer from a former classroom building on the campus of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Both Chaney's parents attended the school and his ability to express emotion, learned from communicating with his deaf parents, aided his film career. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Images of Lon Chaney, the silent film star known as the Man of a Thousand Faces, peer from a former classroom building on the campus of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Both Chaney’s parents attended the school and his ability to express emotion, learned from communicating with his deaf parents, aided his film career. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    _

     

    Student Lottie Sullivan, left, her teacher, Bessie Veditz, and an unidentified boy seen in 1904. The three went to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to represent the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. They demonstrated techniques for teaching students with visual and hearing impairments. Courtesy the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

    Read more at http://gazette.com/gallery/articleid/1517701/1/pictures/465855#TBLxfvS3lUdZHZsT.99

  • Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is an historic artifact worth preserving

    Fri, March 28, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    ARCHITECTURE

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum in a 2007 photo. Mark Reis / The Gazette.

    It’s no secret that I love the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    I love the building, which opened in May 1903 as the El Paso County Courthouse.

    And I love its contents — the collection of 40,000 items ranging from Van Briggle pottery and American Indian artifacts to the personal papers of Civil War Gen. William Jackson Palmer, who founded Colorado Springs and built the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

    These artifacts tell the story of life in the Pikes Peak region. (In fact, a Side Streets column is one of the artifacts that has been on display!)

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum boasts three styles of columns: plain Doric on the bottom right, ornate Ionic in the middle and elaborate Corinthian on the far top tower. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum boasts three styles of columns: plain Doric on the bottom right, ornate Ionic in the middle and elaborate Corinthian on the far top tower. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    So it concerns me when I climb the steps to its doors and see cracks and missing chunks from its towering columns — which vary from Doric to Ionic and Corinthian, I’m told by Matt Mayberry, museum director. I hate to see the towers’ ornate, carved stonework crumbling.

    “The columns are melting away,” Mayberry said as he ran his hand over the deteriorating, decorative carvings.

    And it bothers me to see the stains and streaks of water damage under the windowsills around the elegant old building.

    “The building needs a thorough cleaning,” Mayberry said.

    When I look closer, my concerns grow. I see large pieces missing from archways over doors. Mortar is cracked or missing between the pink granite and rhyolite lava base stones. And a growing collection of pieces have fallen off the building.

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It’s a comfort to me that Mayberry and his staff have been diligent in pursuing funds to restore the structure. But money is tight for things such as power washing and new mortar. People tend to want to donate for a new exhibit or something to which they can proudly attach their names.

    That’s why I’m writing a note in support of the museum’s effort to secure a $190,000 grant from the State Historical Society to help fund Phase 4 of a decade-long restoration project.

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    In the first three phases, about $1 million was used to replace rusting metal and repair roof leaks and stones. Phase 3 is ongoing, and I watched Wednesday as a masonry magician finished work on an eroded column base near the main Tejon Street entrance.

    This is not easy or inexpensive work. Century-old mortar must be chemically analyzed for expansion and contraction rates so that matching mortar can be created. And some of the work is not easily accessible.

    Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, inspects decorative stone carving that has disintegrated on a column on the building. He is seeking a $190,000 grant from the State Historical Society to help fund the fourth phase of restoration work on the century-old building. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, inspects decorative stone carving that has disintegrated on a column on the building. He is seeking a $190,000 grant from the State Historical Society to help fund the fourth phase of restoration work on the century-old building. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It will be quite a trick to reach weathered and crumbling overhangs and windows.

    If Mayberry lands his grant and secures a 30 percent match from the city and private donations, Phase 4 will begin next summer on the north and south sides of the building. Then will come Phase 5, which will involve repairing and replacing doors and windows.

    “We started planning for this in 2005,” Mayberry said. “We hope to have it completed by 2016. Then the outside of the building should be good for another 100 years.”

    It’s pretty amazing to think that with a little more tender loving care the Pioneers Museum should stand for another 100 years. Consider that in 1963 the El Paso County Commission declared the building unusable and began planning a new courthouse — the rectangular monstrosity across Tejon Street.

    This building that now resides on the National Register of Historic Places serves as a 146-foot landmark in downtown with its bell tower, four-sided lighted clock, 38 carved Indian head keystones, two lion head fountains, cage elevator and more.

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It’s imperative that we preserve what enlightened Springs residents fought to save from demolition 50 years ago when they rallied behind a “Save the Courthouse Committee” and raised $250,000 to buy it.

    After this architectural gem was boarded up in 1972, I’m thrilled the museum was able to move in seven years later.

    And I’m happy to add my voice to those seeking grants and donations to preserve the museum.

    I’d love to see some deep-pockets benefactor step forward to transform the shuttered fourth courtroom into an exhibit space, restore the tower clock and ditch the clock’s electric motor for its historic water-pressure operation.

    A before-and-after comparison of cherubs over a doorway of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Courtesy photo.

    A before-and-after comparison of cherubs over a doorway of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Courtesy photo.

    About the museum
    • First two floors have large yellow columns, or pilasters, called scagliolia, or plaster painted to imitate marble.
    • Building materials include pink granite from Platte Canon quarry south of Denver and rhyolite tuff called cotapaxi lava from Kerr Quarries near Howard, west of Cañon City.
    • During its 60 years as a courthouse, its basement housed the offices of the courts, surveyors, county physician and coroner.
    • The 16 columns on the top of the clock/bell tower are cast iron.
    • Each of the four porticos are adorned with two cherubs holding blank shields. Original plans called for them to be inscribed with “Justitia Dedicata” or Dedicated to Justice.
    • The building has three floors. The tower is disproportionately tall because it was designed to accommodate a fourth story. The tower was centered in the building, north to south. But it is slightly off center, east to west, to accommodate a larger main courtroom.

    Lions head water fountains grace the north and south sides of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. They are believed to be horse water troughs. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Lions head water fountains grace the north and south sides of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. They are believed to be horse water troughs. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Timeline
    1899: Excavation begins
    Labor Day 1900: Cornerstone is laid
    May 1903: Opens as the ninth El Paso County Courthouse. Construction cost: $420,000. Architect: Augustus J. Smith.
    1963: El Paso County Commission starts planning a courthouse, declares old building unusable
    1966: Commission announces building will be demolished. A “Save the Courthouse Committee,” led by retired Brig. Gen. Kenneth Curtis, persuades the commission to build on a new site and preserve the old courthouse. It raises $250,000 to buy the building after a bond issue failed.
    Sept. 29, 1972: Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
    1972: Building is vacated by the county and boarded up
    1973: Building is deeded to Colorado Springs, which assumes ownership
    1979: Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum moves from its previous home in the gymnasium of the Knights of Columbus Hall at 25 W. Kiowa St.

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum features 38 Indian head keystones over archways  around the building. Each face is unique. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum features 38 Indian head keystones over archways around the building. Each face is unique. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Colorado Springs coalition determined to restore Tahama Springs

    Sun, March 9, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    This octaganol concrete pad and stone well in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs once were part of Tahoma Spring, an alluvial spring that flows about two gallons per minute according to recent testing, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This octagonal concrete pad and stone well in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs once were part of Tahama Spring, an alluvial spring that flows about two gallons per minute according to recent testing, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    In Monument Valley Park along the west banks of Monument Creek in downtown Colorado Springs, sheltered by a grove of towering old trees just past the pedestrian bridge, sits an octagonal concrete pad with a stone well in the middle.

    But the well is abandoned and there are only hints to what stood there decades ago.

    Cement caps the stone well where a steel hand pump produced "health-giving" water from Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Cement caps the stone well where a steel hand pump produced “health-giving” water from Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Two holes in the well’s concrete cap reveal where a steel pipe once was attached to a hand pump and another to a drain.

    Along the perimeter of the large concrete pad, steel bolts protrude — evidence of benches now long gone.

    You have to really use your imagination to guess this was the site of a large, Spanish-style pavilion with ceramic roof tiles, stucco walls and eight arches surrounding one of the alluvial springs that gave the city its name.

    Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs is seen in this undated photo. Courtesy Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs is seen in this undated photo. Courtesy Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    This was Tahama Springs and the elegant structure — gone nearly 50 years now — protected a steel hand pump used to draw water.

    It also sheltered three large, round bronze plaques, or medallions, honoring city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike whose name graces our signature mountain, and Chief Tahama, the Sioux Indian from Winona, Minn., who befriended Pike and became famous as an Indian ally to the U.S. government who even fought for this country in the War of 1812.

    Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, also known as Chief Standing Moose. Tahama was born in 1776 near Winona, Minn. He lost an eye in a childhood accident, prompting his nickname “Tamaha” ir “One eye.” Tamaha became a friend of Army Lt. Zebulon M. Pike and fought in the War of 1812. For his loyalty to the U.S., Tamaha was presented a Peace Medal and Loyalty papers by William Clarke. Tamaha was a liaison between the U.S. and Indians and wore a stovepipe hat. Pike called him “my friend” and he called himself an American Sioux, according to the South Dakota Historical Collection.

    Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, also known as Chief Standing Moose. Tahama was born in 1776 near Winona, Minn. He lost an eye in a childhood accident, prompting his nickname “Tamaha” ir “One eye.” Tamaha became a friend of Army Lt. Zebulon M. Pike and fought in the War of 1812. For his loyalty to the U.S., Tamaha was presented a Peace Medal and Loyalty papers by William Clarke. Tamaha was a liaison between the U.S. and Indians and wore a stovepipe hat. Pike called him “my friend” and he called himself an American Sioux, according to the South Dakota Historical Collection.

    Tahama was known for his trademark stovepipe hat, as a powerful speaker, as a liaison between whites and Indians and as the “one-eyed Indian” after a childhood accident left him blind in one eye, according to the South Dakota Historical Collections.

    The Tahama Springs pavilion was built in 1926 and suffered heavy damage in the Memorial Day flood of 1935 that killed upwards of 18 people in the region, destroyed every bridge over Monument and Fountain creeks but the one at Bijou Street and did $1.7 million in damage.

    The Memorial Day flood of 1935 killed an estimated 18 people in the region, washed out every bridge across Fountain and Monument creeks except for one at Bijou Street and wreaked havoc in Monument Valley Park where it heavily damaged Tahama Spring. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Stewarts Commercial Photographers Collection.

    The Memorial Day flood of 1935 killed an estimated 18 people in the region, washed out every bridge across Fountain and Monument creeks except for one at Bijou Street and wreaked havoc in Monument Valley Park where it heavily damaged Tahama Spring. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Stewarts Commercial Photographers Collection.

    A second major flood in 1965 killed two children, washed out roads and bridges, and caused millions of dollars in damage, including destroying the Tahama Springs pavilion. The exact location of the shale formation which produced the mineral water also was lost.

    Ever since, various groups have tried to generate interest in rebuilding the spring. But none has gotten very far until now.

    A new coalition including the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, Colorado Springs Utilities and even a couple young professionals who don’t even work in the city any longer, among others, are making a strong push toward restoration.

    Experts recently lifted the cement cap of the stone well in Monument Valley Park to test flow rates and collect samples from the Tahama Spring. Water flowed at two gallons per minute from the alluvial spring. Analysis of the water has not revealed whether it is safe for drinking. Courtesy Historic Preservation Alliance.

    Experts recently lifted the cement cap of the stone well in Monument Valley Park to test flow rates and collect samples from the Tahama Spring. Water flowed at two gallons per minute from the alluvial spring. Analysis of the water has not revealed whether it is safe for drinking. Courtesy Historic Preservation Alliance.

    They have hired experts to conduct civil engineering of the site, scope out the spring with an underground cam and take water samples for testing.

    In addition, an architect has produced drawings to guide reconstruction of a pavilion.

    And a Mitchell High School freshman even created a small model of the proposed pavilion.
    Soon they will try to raise $250,000 to finance restoration and reconstruction of the pavilion and provide a trust for future maintenance.

    It’s an exciting time for Jeff Long and Tim Boddington, preservation alliance members, who have hoped for this project to take flight for years. They were thrilled when a pumping company drilled and located the spring.

    “After all these years we did find the spring,” Long said. “It’s still there. We’re really excited about it. The HPA has been wanting to do this for years.”

    Tahama Springs is one of three that once attracted visitors with jugs and bottles eager to fill them with the “health-giving drink,” according to a Nov. 2, 1941 story in the Gazette and Telegraph.

    Its waters were valued for their high levels of calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate, sodium chloride and a handful of other minerals. They were not dissuaded by the “negligible amounts” of lithium revealed by a “spectrascope.”

    Three bronze medalions were hung inside Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park, as seen in this March 6, 1927, story in the Gazette and Telegraph. They honored Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, an ally of the U.S. and friend of Pike and other explorers. Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    Three bronze medalions were hung inside Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park, as seen in this March 6, 1927, story in the Gazette and Telegraph. They honored Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, an ally of the U.S. and friend of Pike and other explorers. Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    A key feature the coalition hopes to reproduce is the bronze artwork of Palmer, Pike and Tahama.

    After the 1965 flood, the medallions disappeared. Efforts to find them have failed.

    “The Gazette even wrote a story about the missing medallions in 1998 or so but no one came forward,” Boddington said. “We’d sure like to find them.”

    One of the most interesting aspects of the restoration push is that two key players — LeeAnn Westfall and Nick Kittle — no longer work in Colorado Springs. Kittle even moved away when his job with the city was eliminated.

    Westfall is the sustainability coordinator for the Douglas County School District and Kittle works for Adams County and lives in Parker. But both are committed to the Tahama Springs project. Westfall is focusing on fundraising while Kittle is leveraging his relationships from his days at City Hall to push the technical aspects of the project forward.

    “We had several questions to answer including: Is the spring still there,” Kittle said. “Then we had to find out if the water is drinkable.

    This story in the May 16, 1926, Gazette and Telegraph reported the new Tahama Spring pavilion in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs.  Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

    This story in the May 16, 1926, Gazette and Telegraph reported the new Tahama Spring pavilion in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

    “When we tested it, we found a flow rate of two gallons of water per minute.”

     The question of its drinkability will determine how the project proceeds. Will they try to install a filter system to purify the water coming out of the new pump or will they simply tap into a nearby CSU water main and turn it into a glorified drinking fountain, as Kittle described it?

    “We want to restore it to the most historically accurate structure possible,” Kittle said. “That’s our goal.”

    Either way, all involved seem determined to see the structure built, one way or another.

    This is architect J. Mark Nelson's drawing of the proposed new Tahama Spring pavilion. It would be an open-air facility, with no roof, to discourage homeless from camping inside. A new steel hand pump would be installed with a gravel drain. It would contain benches and medalions honoring Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama. Courtesy the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.

    This is architect J. Mark Nelson’s drawing of the proposed new Tahama Spring pavilion. It would be an open-air facility, with no roof, to discourage homeless from camping inside. A new steel hand pump would be installed with a gravel drain. It would contain benches and medalions honoring Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama. Courtesy the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.

    I wondered why Westfall and Kittle would be deeply involved since both have had to go out of town to find jobs.

    “We are just so committed to the community,” Westfall said. “It’s important for the city to know young professionals care.”

    For Kittle, the issue is personal.

    “For me, this project is a passion,” he said. “When I tell people about this project, they get really excited. Just because you leave doesn’t mean you don’t care. This is a labor of love for me and for all of us. It means a lot to be able to say I helped preserve something that is a big part of our history.”

    I have no doubt this group will live up to their rallying cry: “We’re going to put the springs back in Colorado Springs.”

    Tim Boddington, left, and Jeff Long are members of the Historical Alliance of Colorado Springs and have worked for years to restore Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park downtown. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Tim Boddington, left, and Jeff Long are members of the Historical Alliance of Colorado Springs and have worked for years to restore Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park downtown. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Colorado Springs man endured Olympic trials and tribulations including racism and discrimination

    Sun, February 16, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The K.D. Stroud family in 1929. Seated from left: James, Bobby, Rev. K.D., Rosa May, mother Lulu. Standing from left: Jack, Nina, Dolphus and Effie. Not photographed: Kimbal, Albert, Tandy and Lu Lu. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    The K.D. Stroud family in 1929.
    Seated from left: James, Bobby, Rev. K.D., Rosa May, mother Lulu.
    Standing from left: Jack, Nina, Dolphus and Effie.
    Not photographed: Kimbal, Albert, Tandy and Lu Lu. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    As the Winter Olympic Games continue in Sochi, Russia, I can’t stop thinking about a former Colorado Springs man who personified the Olympic ideal that values participation above winning.

    The Olympic creed says: “The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”

    That certainly describes the life of Dolphus Stroud, whose quest to reach the Olympics took a Herculean effort and turned into an ordeal that fell painfully short of the finish line nearly a century ago.

    I was reminded of Stroud’s Olympic trials and tribulations by my friend Lucy Bell, a retired teacher who has researched and given frequent talks about the experience of blacks in Colorado Springs, the overt racism and hardships they faced and overcame.

    Dolphus Stroud in a 1925 photo from the Colorado Springs High School yearbook. Photo courtesy Pikes Peak Library District

    Dolphus Stroud in a 1925 photo from the Colorado Springs High School yearbook. Photo courtesy Pikes Peak Library District

    Dolphus Stroud’s life epitomized that struggle.

    But first, a little about the pioneering Stroud family, which is particularly compelling.

    The family’s story starts in 1910 when Kimbal Dolphus Stroud and his wife, Lulu, a Creek Indian, packed their children and left their home in Oklahoma to escape racial discrimination. However they were disappointed to find similar conditions in Colorado Springs just a year after the death of founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, who abhored slavery and segregation.

    K.D. Stroud, as he was known, was a minister, a teacher and was studying law in Oklahoma but was unable to get a teaching job in Colorado Springs. He ended up hauling ash and then shoveling coal at the Rock Island Railroad yards, in what is now the Roswell neighborhood near Fillmore Street and Cascade Avenue, for seven cents a ton, seven days a week.

    The Strouds had 11 children and it was a struggle for him to feed the family. Their pain was compounded by the relentless racism the children faced in their predominantly white North Walnut Street neighborhood and at Bristol Elementary School. (When the Stroud children were pelted daily with rocks, the principal’s solution was to release Dolphus and his brother a few minutes early from class to give them a head start against their tormenters!)

    Still, the Strouds instilled a work ethic and desire to achieve in their children and all 11 eventually went to college with six graduating including four who earned degrees at Colorado College.

    K.D. eventually built a hauling business and trucking company before going blind around 1930 and his death in 1938. Lulu loved music and the arts and eventually became the first nonwhite member of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center before her death in 1953. These stories were documents in John Holley’s excellent 1990 book “The Invisible People of the Pikes Peak Region.”

    The Stroud story alone would make an inspirational movie. But the real blockbuster would be the telling of the saga of Dolphus, the third-oldest of K.D. and Lulu’s children.

    This photo, circa 1930, shows Dolphus Stroud posing with other members of the Colorado College Foreign Relations Club. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

    This photo, circa 1930, shows Dolphus Stroud posing with other members of the Colorado College Foreign Relations Club. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

     

    His achievements alone were noteworthy: a world-class distance runner who trained by running to the summit of Pikes Peak and won headlines in 1928 for his record 2 hour, 53 minute marathon roundtrip (which would rank among the best times ever); a gifted scholar who became the first black elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society at Colorado College, where he graduated cum laude in 1931; earned a master’s degree at the University of Mexico where he wrote, in Spanish, his thesis on the history of blacks in America.

    But what amazed me most about Dolphus Stroud was his quest to win a spot on the 1928 U.S. Olympic track team.

    Dolphus told the story in an oral history he gave before his death in 1975. His account was published in the Gazette Telegraph on July 30, 1978.

    He described being inspired to run by a Colorado Springs High School teacher who encouraged him to use athletics as an avenue to greater acceptance in a racist world.

    Even greater inspiration came when he was denied a spot on the school track team.

    Enraged, he blurted out to the team: “You watch. Someday I’ll be on the Olympics.”

    They laughed at the thought but it became a goal that drove Stroud. His teacher encouraged him to begin training on his own and soon he was running up Pikes Peak regularly. He graduated high school in 1925 with honors but didn’t immediately go to college, instead taking time to work and earn money.

    And he continued to run. He became so good at distances that he qualified to run in June 17, 1928, race in Denver. Winners would take a train to Boston a few weeks later for a July 6-7 meet that would pick the U.S. Olympic track team that would compete in the summer games in Amsterdam.

    “I won that race,” Stroud said in the 1978 story. “No one could have beaten me that day. I was going to Boston. I was representative for the Rocky Mountain Division. I was proud to have a chance to represent America in the 5,000-meter race. I was on my first lap to my Olympic dream. I was headed for Boston and Amsterdam.”

    His celebration was short-lived, however, when officials told him he would not be allowed to ride the train with the white athletes. He could run in Boston only if he could find his own transportation.

    He told his teacher he would not be denied his chance for Olympic glory:

    “I’m going to Boston! I’m going to hitchhike! I’m not beaten yet,” Stroud said.

    His teacher tried to dissuade him, reminding him that poor roads, summer heat and racism would make the 1,765-mile trip impossible on foot.

    “This is my dream and no one can keep me here,” Stroud said.

    His plan to walk and hitchhike made headlines here and in Denver: “Springs marathon runner will hike to Olympic test.”

    The Gazette dubbed him the “Black Hope of the Rocky Mountain Region.”

    One newspaper predicted:

    “The Colorado Springs colored boy works better at a lower altitude . . . Sea level should see him at his best . . . If perseverance will do it, Dolphus Stroud will be the American entry in the 5,000 meter coming Olympic race.”

    At 4 a.m. on June 25, wearing a “Denver to Olympia” sign and carrying a backpack, canteen of water and a golf club for protection, Stroud began walking to Boston.

    “In my pocket was a precious $10 bill,” Stroud said, describing his plan to survive buying just milk, bread, peanuts and graham crackers.

    Stroud figured he needed to average 180 miles a day while spending just a penny a day to make it. His route took him northeast through Omaha, Neb., to Chicago then east to Cleveland and Boston.

    “In 1928 there was very little automobile travel on dirt roads,” Stroud recalled. “Sometimes I walked 20 miles and more before seeing a car going my way. I rationed my water sparingly.”

    In cities he searched street gutters for small coins.

    “Once I felt rich for a day when I found a 50-cent piece,” he said. “Some days I bought 2-cent packages of peanuts and chewed them for a long time to make the taste last.”

    About a week into his journey, he grew hungry and weary and he recalled what his parents told their children when they didn’t have enough food.

    “I recalled a saying in the Stroud family which we often used in hard times: When there isn’t enough food, it’s a good time to fast and pray.”

    Besides hunger and thirst, Stroud said he endured heat, swarms of mosquitoes, winds, storms and racism along the way.

    “One day, a rain came to relieve the heat. Then my problem was to keep dry. My clothing became soaking wet. The roads became grease. I slipped and fell. My pack grew heavier. Mud and water oozed through my shoes and between my toes. I became tired, hungry and sleepy.”

    Walking into a small town in the rain, he prayed someone would take him in. He was wrong. All he got was taunts of “Hello Sambo” and threats. He ended up sleeping in a cemetery on a large monument with stone pillars and a roof for shelter.

    Word of his epic trek reached Chicago and on July 3 the Daily News published a story about Stroud.

    “Motorists had been urged to give the young black a ride,” Stroud said. “As a result, I got more rides. At Cleveland, I found one man who took me almost to Boston.”

    This was Dolphus Stroud's scrapbook and it is on display at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. In the upper right is the official "contestant ticket" from the July 6-7, 1928, Olympic trial where he competed for a spot on the Olympic track team. Bill Vogrin / Gazette photo.

    This was Dolphus Stroud’s scrapbook and it is on display at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. In the upper right is the official “contestant ticket” from the July 6-7, 1928, Olympic trial where he competed for a spot on the Olympic track team. Bill Vogrin / Gazette photo.

    Stroud said he crossed the Charles River and reached Cambridge just six hours before his race.

    He filled out forms, was issued a red, white and blue track suit and tried to rest his blistered feet.

    Soon, the track announcer called to the starting line the six men competing in the 5,000-meter race.

    “I and five white runners began to limber up on the track,” Stroud said. “This was the culmination of all those years of early morning runs. This was the reward for all those long, searing climbs to the summit of Pikes Peak.

    “This was the end of that torturous pack on my back. I was broke and hungry, but there would be no more budgeting a cent a mile for food.”

    In his mind, Stroud said he vowed to forever silence the jeers from the high school track team when he vowed to become an Olympian.

    “I dug my toes into the starting line,” he recalled. “A loud bang reverberated from the signal gun.

    “I froze at the sound. All five white runners shot into action. My start was slow but I knew I could catch up. I had to. I tried to close in on that first lap but I kept falling back.”

    He heard cheers from the crowd but he knew he was in trouble.

    “I prayed for a miracle,” he said. “After the second lap, I was hopelessly behind but I couldn’t quit.”

    Cheers turned to jeers and boos from the crowd.

    “I struggled on,” he said.

    But as he started his sixth lap, his eyesight failed.

    “Everything blurred,” he said. “I was falling. I staggered to the shoulder of the track and fell.”

    His Olympic dream had ended in a nightmare.

    “I had been a young man with an impossible dream,” he said. “Now I was only a tired heap of black flesh clad in red, white and blue that I would not wear in Amsterdam.”

    He struggled to his feet and felt a hand on his shoulder. A stranger asked his name, when he had last eaten, if he had any money or a place to stay. The stranger handed him a note and directed him to the Boston YMCA where he would find food, a bed and help getting a job. (Turned out his benefactor was a white distance runner who had qualified for the Olympic team.)

    “There, I caught up with my need for food and rest and money,” he said.

    Dolphus Stroud posed with the Colorado College track team in this 1931 yearbook photo. Courtesy Colorado College.

    Dolphus Stroud, back row upper right, posed with the Colorado College track team in this 1931 yearbook photo. Courtesy Colorado College.

    Stroud worked the summer before returning, by train, to Colorado Springs where he registered at Colorado College where he earned academic honors, ran track and joined the foreign relations club. In 2006, Stroud was inducted posthumously into the CC Sports Hall of Fame.

    The whole story became real to me as I stood in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum last week with director Matt Mayberry in front of an exhibit that includes the history of the Stroud family.

    There, in a display case, was Dolphus Stroud’s scrapbook, open to the page bearing his official ticket to the 1928 Olympic trial in Harvard Stadium in Boston.

    “It’s a remarkable story,” Mayberry said.

    I looked at it and mulled Stroud’s final thoughts in that 1978 story:

    “I treasure that summer’s rich experience,” he said. “My ‘journey toward Olympus’ became a ‘might-have-been’ and bittersweet memory to trade for new horizons.”

    He treasured it? I can’t imagine how I would have reacted.

    Consider this anecdote Lucy Bell told me: after graduating with high honors from CC, and going off after graduation to teach in Georgia, Stroud applied for a teaching job at his alma mater only to be rejected and offered instead a janitor’s position!

    So I called his daughter, Juanita Stroud Martin, a longtime area social worker, jazz singer and owner, with her husband Greg Johnson, of Black Beat Productions.

    What she told me left me even more impressed with Dolphus Stroud.

    “He wasn’t bitter,” she said. “In his mind, obstacles became stairsteps.

    “It was certainly painful but it didn’t discourage him.”

    She told me how he later had the chance to race an Olympic track star from Finland, easily beating him and getting a measure of satisfaction and vindication over his experience in Boston.

    Dolphus Stroud posed with his second wife, Helenna, and his daughter, Juanita Stroud Martin, center, in this 1972 family photo.

    Dolphus Stroud posed with his second wife, Helenna, and his daughter, Juanita Stroud Martin, center, in this 1972 family photo.

    “For every bad thing that happened, something good would happen,” she said. “Everything he went through molded and shaped him. And he approached everything with optimism.”

    Her father, she said, was many things: a distinguished scholar; a world-class athlete; a writer and pianist.

    Stroud eventually settled in Portland and opened a successful warehouse business that he operated until it was destroyed during race riots in the 1960s.

    I think his daughter described him best when she said he was a “transcendent soul who overcame obstacles to create and contribute with his life.”

    I like that description.

    “He had such a loving outlook on life,” Martin said. “He was an inspiration.”

  • Descendant of pioneering families leaving Colorado Springs with cherished memento

    Sun, January 19, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Anna Magee in her portrait for her 1953 graduation from Colorado Springs High School, now Palmer High.

    Anna Magee in her portrait for her 1953 graduation from Colorado Springs High School, now Palmer High.

    In a week or so, Anna Lee Magee will pack up Samson, her stuffed trophy brown trout, her easel and drawings of wolves and other animals, along with her tintype family photos and leave the only home she’s ever known.

    It’s a traumatic time for Anna, 78, because of what she’s leaving behind: her beloved Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and her lilac-lined street and her cozy little home — a nearly 150-year-old sheepherders cabin built before the founding of Colorado Springs.

    When she goes, we’ll all be losing something precious: a direct link to two of the region’s pioneer families whose members prospected for silver as a friend of Bob Womack, gardened at Glen Eyrie for Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, mined for coal, homesteaded ranches and generally left their mark from Yoder to Fountain to Cripple Creek and points across the Pikes Peak region.

    Luckily, Anna is leaving an important piece of family history behind for the benefit of us all. More on that in a minute.

    First, let me tell you about Anna Magee, who was milling about her round, oak dining room table as I came in her home north of downtown. She called out for me to duck my head as I walked through due to the low ceilings of the home.

    She pointed to the arched doorway and told how her father, Henry Magee, had opened up the wall to find split logs and a mysterious note.

    “It said: ‘This cabin was built by Louis Sanchez and his son in the year 1868,’ ” Anna said. “They were sheepherders and built this long, narrow, three-room cabin.”

    Those three rooms make up the center of her little home, which was added onto frequently over the years. She doesn’t know how long Sanchez lived in the cabin. But it’s been in her family for the better part of a century.

    This portrait of the coal-mining Elliott family from the late 1800s hangs in the home of Anna Magee. Her grandfather, William Elliott, is in the lower left of the portrait.

    This portrait of the coal-mining Elliott family from the late 1800s hangs in the home of Anna Magee. Her grandfather, William Elliott, is in the lower left of the portrait.

    Her grandfather, coal miner William Elliott, bought the house around 1900 when the street out front was known Crescent. After his daughter, Eva, married Henry Magee in 1920, the couple eventually bought the house from him and lived it the rest of their lives.

    Early on, Henry planted lilac bushes along both sides of the street. They must have been a colorful buffer from trains that frequently rolled past. The front door of the cabin is just 30 yards from where the Santa Fe Railway tracks crossed a bridge over the Rock Island Railroad line.

    Railroad mapThe lilacs became such a landmark that when the city was adjusting street names a few years later, they dropped Crescent and renamed it Lilac Street. And for decades, it was the northern edge of Colorado Springs.

    Those train figure into many of Anna’s earliest memories.

    “Every time I’d hear the train coming, I’d run to the ditch and I’d wave and wave,” Anna said, laughing at the memory and waving her hand over her head as if it was the 1940s again.

    “I saw many troop trains leave,” she said. “I’d wave and they’d all yell out the windows and wave back. Of course, I had no idea where they were going.”

    In those days, the trains were coal-fired steam engines and that had serious consequences.

    “Often, Mom would be doing the wash and have clothes out on the line,” Anna said. “We’d hear the trains and she’d holler: ‘Get the washing in.’ We’d run and take the wash off the clothes line. The smoke and soot would turn them black.”

    The marriage of Eva Elliott and Henry Magee brought together two families with deep roots in the settlement of the Pikes Peak region.

    While it was coal that brought William Elliott to the area and provided him work for years, later in his life he went to work for Palmer, gardening at the Civil War hero’s Glen Eyrie castle, where Elliott met Queen Palmer and their daughters, Anna said.

    Pioneering couple Henry and Sarah Magee were profiled in the 1985 edition of El Paso County Heritage, published by Juanita and John Breckenridge.

    Pioneering couple Henry and Sarah Magee were profiled in the 1985 edition of El Paso County Heritage, published by Juanita and John Breckenridge.

    Mining also played a big role in the life of the Magee family.

    Anna’s other grandfather, Robert H. Magee, was a prospector whose family settled in Fountain in the early 1870s. He had silver fever, which led him to spend years searching around the Mount Pisgah area.

    In fact, Anna still has a leather-bound journal, fragile from age, in which Robert Magee wrote of prospecting trips up Pikes Peak he made in July and August 1874.

    His handwritten entry from July 23 read: “Start early on our last days prospecting. Grub played out and are successful in finding what we have long been looking for — ‘Silver Mines’. Gathered some specimens of ore to take back to have tested and look at surrounding country and then start for camp. Arrive in time to get supper over before it rains.”

    Robert Magee is mentioned in several Gazette stories including a September 1874 story about his role in the formation of the Mount Pisgah Mining District. The story reported “rich ore samples sent to town are creating excitement” and described a miner meeting in August to write rules for the new district.

    Of course, silver never was a major producer. And the area didn’t take off until 1890 when Womack discovered gold in Poverty Gulch, leading to the boomtowns of Cripple Creek and Victor.

    Robert Magee and Henry Magee as seen in "Here Lies Colorado Springs." Courtesy photos.

    Robert Magee and Henry Magee as seen in “Here Lies Colorado Springs.” Courtesy photos.

    Robert Magee later owned a saloon there but it was destroyed by fire and a partner cheated him out of a mining claim, prompting him to return to Colorado Springs and look for work.

    He’s later mentioned in an 1892 Gazette story about his work as the “pioneer mail carrier” in the town. The same title was in the headline of his 1913 obituary.

    Anna’s father, Henry, was a farmer who sold milk at the Cragmor Sanitorium where he met employee Eva Elliott.

    This is a photo of Anna Magee's mother, Eva Elliott, on the family pig farm north of Colorado Springs in the early 20th century.

    This is a photo of Anna Magee’s mother, Eva Elliott, on the family pig farm north of Colorado Springs in the early 20th century.

    After they married, he would become well-known for his work driving tourists through Garden of the Gods and up Pikes Peak in the late 1920s, as well as for his own gardening work, growing flowers in a greenhouse he built on their home for city parks, the mansions along North Nevada Avenue and other customers. Henry also built rose trellises and many ended up in Evergreen Cemetery to decorate graves.

    Meanwhile, Anna graduated from Colorado Springs High School in 1953 and eventually went to work for Vicon Instrument Co. at their hearing aid manufacturing facility on 8th Street.

    Turns out she would have one more memorable passing of the trains. This time during the Korean War when her fiancé shipped out on a troop train.

    “I stood and waved,” she said, this time knowing what he might face. Although he did eventually return, they never married and she remained single all her life.

    “I wrote him so often I still remember his serial number,” Anna said, quickly reciting it.

    She stayed with Vicon until it closed in 1983. Then she went into business on her own repairing hearing aids, working from home so she could care for her elderly mother.

    Eva died in 1986 and Anna worked soldering hearing aids until about 1995 when she finally retired.

    Over the years, she and her sister, Lela, would retrace their grandfathers’ steps. They looked for the Elliott mine near Yoder and for the Magee silver mine on Mount Pisgah.

    But they never found much. They couldn’t even find the remains of Magee Street in Cripple Creek.

    “That’s why it’s so hard to leave this place,” Anna said wistfully. “We have so much history here.

    “And I can’t imagine life without seeing my Pikes Peak and my Garden of the Gods.”
    But the house is becoming too much to manage and she longs to be near relatives, which is leading her to relocate to Ohio.

    Which brings me to the important things she is leaving behind.

    First, there’s the lilacs. Remnants of the Magee lilacs still grow along the street. Anna hopes they always will.

    In hopes of ensuring they survive, her handyman, Jon Torley, dug up a clump and transplanted them to his home where he intends to nurture them through drought.

    This is the journal kept by Robert H. Magee as he traveled from his home in Fountain to prospect for silver around Mount Pisgah on the south side of Pikes Peak in July and August 1874. The journal includes his handwritten account of the journey.

    This is the journal kept by Robert H. Magee as he traveled from his home in Fountain to prospect for silver around Mount Pisgah on the south side of Pikes Peak in July and August 1874. The journal includes his handwritten account of the journey.

    Then there’s the historic journal.

    As a history buff, I felt a sense of awe as I lifted the journal out of its tin box where Anna has stored it. I removed it from its plastic bag and gently opened the cover, which fell apart in my hands and revealed tattered, yellowed pages.

    “It’s not in very good shape,” Anna cautioned.

    My eye immediately went to the beautifully written signature “Robt. H. Magee, Fountain City, Colorado Ter.” and the date, July 28, ‘74. There were random notes and specific, detailed entries about his mining activities.

    Deeper inside I read about a trip to Kansas City, Mo., he made in November 1874. And there were lists of groceries and prices: “Cakes, apples & pies 1.90”

    Robert H. Magee's handwritten journal from his 1874 prospecting trips around Mount Pisgah on the south side of Pikes Peak in July and August 1874.

    Robert H. Magee’s handwritten journal from his 1874 prospecting trips around Mount Pisgah on the south side of Pikes Peak in July and August 1874.

    I’ve long marveled at old cabins built high in the mountains and abandoned mining ruins on sheer cliffs. I’ve tried to imagine the lives of the men who dragged equipment and supplies on burros, dug mines by hand and risked everything to strike it rich.

    Here I was, holding in my hands, the personal thoughts of one of those prospectors. And someone who knew the famous Bob Womack, no less.

    I thanked Anna for sharing the journal with me and told her I considered it a valuable museum piece.

    Anna nodded and said she hated to take it to Ohio where it had no significance to anyone.

    Journal Inside Detail

    I mentioned that the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum might be interested in acquiring it. She worried there wouldn’t be time before she moves to deal with it. I offered to make a call.

    Within 24 hours, the donation was arranged.

    “I’m just so happy the journal is going to be here forever,” Anna said. “It means so much to know it will be where everyone can appreciate it.”

    Having gently thumbed through the journal, I’m thrilled to know it will be available to tell future generations about the miners who settled the region.

    It’s a rare window into the daily lives of prospectors and how they dealt with “grub” and rain and ore.

    Most of all, it will be a permanent reminder of Anna Magee’s family and all it contributed.

  • New Gazette building in downtown Colorado Springs represents commitment, hope

    Mon, December 23, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The Gazette's new downtown building Sunday, December 15, 2013. Mark Reis / The Gazette

    The Gazette’s new downtown building Sunday, December 15, 2013. Mark Reis / The Gazette

    As I write this, I am settling into my new desk in The Gazette’s stunning new offices at the Busy Corner of Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue and enjoying a workplace with huge windows and tall ceilings that hint of its previous life as a bank lobby.

    It is nicer than any newsroom where I’ve ever worked.

    And I can’t help but remember what I was thinking the first time I drove up to The Gazette’s old building, its home for 56 years on the edge of the Hillside neighborhood on South Prospect Street.

    The Gazette building in Colorado Springs, Colorado Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Photo by Mark Reis / The Gazette

    The Gazette building in Colorado Springs, Colorado Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Photo by Mark Reis / The Gazette

    It was 1994 and I was here for a job interview. I pulled up to the curb and thought: What a dump!

    For a moment, I thought I’d driven to the printing plant, not the main business office and newsroom.

    Of course, the Prospect Street facility was all of the above contained in a building most flatteringly described as steam punk, as the kids say.

    It looked like a warehouse with its corrugated steel siding and patchwork of brick and cement blocks and poured concrete walls.

    Then I walked inside, climbed the stairs to the second-floor newsroom and looked around. It had a low ceiling with dirty rectangular tiles punctured by dim light fixtures. The carpet was stained and threadbare. Walls hadn’t seen fresh paint in decades.

    I revised my first impression: Dump was too nice a word.

    But I was here to report and write the news, and I didn’t really care about the surroundings.

    The Gazette Telegraph, as it was known then, had a great reputation nationwide for recruiting editors and reporters from much larger papers and turning them loose to do their best. In fact, the paper was just four years removed from winning a Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor. It was on the cutting edge of newspaper design and experimenting on that newfangled Internet thing.

    Dump or not, I quit The Associated Press – the only job I’d ever known -joined the GT and never regretted it.

    I settled in among 140 or so other journalists who were highly skilled, dedicated and usually pretty fun people to hang out with each day.

    Many were as crusty as the building.

    There was one guy, for example, who showered infrequently, wore shoes so tattered his toes hung out and whose desk was piled 3 feet high with papers and trash.

    Another of my colorful colleagues liked to crawl under his desk and sleep.

    A few were famous for expletive-laced outbursts, pounding pica poles on the desks and tossing newspapers around when angry or drunk, or both.

    Telephones slammed from time to time.

    A shouting match in the corner of the room was not unprecedented.

    Heck, there were two editors who got along so poorly they were sent to marriage counseling to repair their relationship. (It ended in divorce, actually.)

    In the back of the newsroom was a “smoking lounge” that got a lot of use in those days. (Gag!)

    Summer lightning storms inevitably caused power surges that took down our stone-age computer system. (Can any computer be described as “stone-age”?)

    And each afternoon when the presses fired up, the computers and lights all blinked and the building began to tremble and vibrate.

    (Around 1998, I learned why the floor shook when the presses rolled or people simply walked across the room. During a renovation, they pulled out the old furniture and we could see the concrete floor. Dozens of holes the size of my fist are drilled in the concrete, giving the floor a spongelike quality.)

    For the most part, people ignored the surroundings and concentrated on finding interesting stories, then writing and illustrating them well. That was our mission.

    I like to think it’s the same goal Gen. William Jackson Palmer had in mind when he launched our ancestral newspaper, “Out West,” on March 23, 1872, as he was founding Colorado Springs.

    But in recent years, it has been harder to ignore the surroundings.

    Especially when the mood inside the room became more grim.

    As the newspaper industry collapsed in the face of intense Internet competition for advertising and readers, The Gazette’s old owners, Freedom Communications, started laying off employees.

    Over about five years, our newsroom shrank to about 50 full-time employees. It felt as if we were in a slow-motion death spiral. Along with the layoffs, we shed pages, even entire sections in the newspaper. We shrank from four daily sections – Main, Local, Sports, Features/Business – to just two sections and there was talk of not printing seven days a week anymore.

    Meanwhile, the building deteriorated. Lights went out and were left off. From day to day, folks would sit in jackets and type wearing gloves, or they would pry open the windows and sweat because they couldn’t regulate the heating and air-conditioning system. Several times, work stations were consolidated because the sight of so many empty desks was so depressing.

    The place, frankly, began to feel like a tomb. We, the guilt-ridden survivors, were losing hope.

    But we never lost our fight. Perhaps our proudest moment came in June 2012 as our skeleton staff worked around the clock to cover the Waldo Canyon fire. Some of us paused only to evacuate our families as the fire exploded into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, killing two and destroying nearly 400 homes.

    By November 2012, I was actively looking for work. (I found a street corner and scrawled on a piece of cardboard: Will write for food.)

    Hope finally came a year ago, when The Gazette was sold to Clarity Media, which immediately stopped the bleeding and began investing in the paper.

    The new office is a tangible, obvious message from the folks at Clarity that they are committed to Colorado Springs and the future.

    The new office is a commitment to quality, in the building where we work and in the product we produce.

    Consider all the changes that have happened to The Gazette in the year since Clarity bought us and rescued us from our death spiral.

    Hopefully, you’ve noticed them for yourself.

    We’ve added staff, pages and entire sections to the print product. We’ve redesigned the online paper at Gazette.com. We’ve reconnected with readers by hosting public conversations about important issues facing the community.

    I think you can see the impact of the changes in our work. We’ve done some amazing journalism in the past year, and we have lots of plans for 2014 and beyond.

    So, while I was cautiously optimistic a year ago, I am a true believer now and convinced we are headed in the right direction. The new headquarters on the Busy Corner is confirmation, in my mind, of our commitment to readers and to that goal of finding interesting stories, writing and illustrating them well.

    I view it as our return to what Gen. Palmer must have had in mind.

    I know I’m certainly looking forward to resuming the quest in our new office. I hope you will join us. Come by and check out the new place. Say hi. Give me a suggestion for my column. I’ll be glad to see you.

    Entertainment writer Jen Mulson in the new Gazette newsroom on Friday, Dec. 19, 2013.

    Entertainment writer Jen Mulson in the new Gazette newsroom on Friday, Dec. 19, 2013.

  • By playing baseball, Brown Bombers joined struggle for racial equality

    Sun, October 13, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Joe Morgan, Justus Morgan, Sam Dunlap, and Jesse Vaughn (left to right) were all members of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Joe Morgan, Justus Morgan, Sam Dunlap, and Jesse Vaughn (left to right) were all members of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Quick, name any championship team of the semi-professional Colorado Springs City Baseball League.

    Didn’t know we even had a league?

    We did, and it was popular a couple generations ago, fading away after the 1950 launch of the minor league Sky Sox.

    Today, the city league and most of its champions are long forgotten.

    But not the team that won back-to-back championships in 1949-50.

    The Brown Bombers team that won the Colorado Springs City League Baseball Championships in 1949. Back row, from left: A.B. Turner (coach and manager), Clarence Banks, James Smith, Joe Morgan, John Morgan, Larry Moss, and John Moss. Front row, left: James Wheeler, James Bell, Ellis Clements, Justus Morgan, C.W. Brown, Cecil Bass, and Marvin Brooks. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    The Brown Bombers team that won the Colorado Springs City League Baseball Championships in 1949. Back row, from left: A.B. Turner (coach and manager), Clarence Banks, James Smith, Joe Morgan, John Morgan, Larry Moss, and John Moss. Front row, left: James Wheeler, James Bell, Ellis Clements, Justus Morgan, C.W. Brown, Cecil Bass, and Marvin Brooks. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    The team was the Brown Bombers and it is celebrated still today for its historic role in the struggle for racial equality in Colorado Springs.

    The Bombers were an all-black team competing against teams that were all-white and wouldn’t accept black players. These were men who learned to play on their own with makeshift balls and gloves and equipment, not in organized leagues taught by experienced coaches using new equipment and uniforms as the whites enjoyed.

    They were men who had to swallow hard as opponents and fans yelled racial slurs. They faced the indignity of being refused service in restaurants. And they endured road games that became marathon round trips because no motel would let them stay the night.

    Many Bombers went on to become leading citizens and several survive today. Four Brown Bombers recently reunited to tell me of their lives and the lasting impact of the Brown Bombers. I was thrilled to meet these elder statesmen of Colorado Springs and hear their stories.

    Joe Morgan was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette / Jerilee Bennett)

    Joe Morgan was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette / Jerilee Bennett)

    I was warmly greeted by first baseman Joe Morgan, 87, and his 85-year-old brother, the Rev. Justus Morgan, who pitched for the team. There was second baseman Sam Dunlap, the youngest Bomber at 80. And then there was 90-year-old the Rev. Jesse Vaughan Sr., who played catcher.

    The four men sat around a table at the Hillside Community Center and swapped stories.

    Rev. Justus Morgan was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Rev. Justus Morgan was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    “Job-wise, it was not very good in Colorado Springs then,” Joe Morgan recalled. “Opportunities were very limited. You could shine shoes or be a custodian or a waiter or a dishwasher.”

    Joe and Justus Morgan told of going to Woolworths after seeing a movie.

    “They wouldn’t serve us,” Joe Morgan said.

    They returned with friends the next day and demanded to be served.

    Sam Dunlap was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Sam Dunlap was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    “They served us but they poured salt in our milkshakes and on our sandwiches,” he said. “We refused to pay and they called the police.”

    Cops tasted the food and said they wouldn’t pay for it either and they were free to go.

    Justus Morgan recalled being turned away from the YMCA.

    “We just wanted to participate in sports and be like any other boys,” he said.

    Rev. Jesse Vaughn was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Rev. Jesse Vaughn was a member of the Brown Bombers baseball team. The Brown Bombers won the city championship in 1949 and 1950. They helped to open many doors for African Americans in Colorado Springs. They look out over Spurgeon Field at Memorial Park where they used to play baseball on Thursday, October 10, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    As for sports, blacks were not welcome on little league  teams and certainly not on varsity high school football or basketball teams. Typically, only one or two blacks, if any, made those teams. Instead they were shunted off to track and field. If they wanted to play contact sports, they played on neighborhood teams, Vaughan said.

    “We didn’t have uniforms or anything,” he said. “If a ball went in the creek, we fished it out. We took broken bats home and nailed them together.”

    Their stories of discrimination and racism were shocking and sad and vivid a half-century later.

    Lucy Bell holds a portrait of her late husband, Oliver Bell, on Wednesday, Apil 17, 2013. Lucy, a retired Colorado Springs School District 11 teacher and writer, is compiling stories of growing up black in segregated Colorado Springs in the early 20th century, as experienced by Oliver. She hopes to compile the stories into a book. Several of Oliver's stories will be included in the book. He grew up in the Hillside neighborhood and was a star athlete at the University of Northern Colorado before returning to a career teaching physical education in District 11.

    Lucy Bell holds a portrait of her late husband, Oliver Bell, on Wednesday, Apil 17, 2013. Lucy, a retired Colorado Springs School District 11 teacher and writer, is compiling stories of growing up black in segregated Colorado Springs in the early 20th century, as experienced by Oliver. She hopes to compile the stories into a book. Several of Oliver’s stories will be included in the book. He grew up in the Hillside neighborhood and was a star athlete at the University of Northern Colorado before returning to a career teaching physical education in District 11.

    You can hear more if you attend an upcoming class: “The Black Community in Colorado Springs 1869-1949.” The class is taught by Lucy Bell and is sponsored by Pillar, the non-profit group that offers adult enrichment classes.

    It’s scheduled in two parts, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, because Lucy has a lot of history to cover starting with the first black citizen of Colorado Springs, George Motley, and his relationship to founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer.

    Side Streets readers will recall Lucy as a retired Colorado Springs School District 11 teacher and writer. She is compiling stories of growing up black in segregated Colorado Springs in the early 20th century, as experienced by her late husband, Oliver Bell.

    Oliver grew up in the Hillside neighborhood and was a star athlete at the University of Northern Colorado before returning to a career teaching physical education in District 11. He was also a member of the Brown Bombers and he told fascinating stories of the lives of blacks in Colorado Springs and the racism they faced.

    Members of the Colorado Springs semipro all-black baseball team called the Brown Bombers, circa 1948,relax with their girlfriends in Duncan’s Café. From left:  James Smith, Don Duncan, Joe Morgan, Claudia Jones (Morgan), Pauline Brown (Bell), James “Sonny” Bell. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    Members of the Colorado Springs semipro all-black baseball team called the Brown Bombers, circa 1948,relax with their girlfriends in Duncan’s Café. From left: James Smith, Don Duncan, Joe Morgan, Claudia Jones (Morgan), Pauline Brown (Bell), James “Sonny” Bell. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    Lucy’s class will trace the history of segregation and oppression of blacks. She pinpoints its origins to 1909 with the death of Gen. Palmer, a  passionate opponent of slavery who set aside his Quaker pacifist upbringing to volunteer and fight for the Union in the Civil War.

    He was a war hero who rose to general, then pursued railroading and in 1871 founded Colorado Springs where, Lucy said, he tried to create a community in which blacks would not be second-class citizens.

    “Palmer walked the talk,” Lucy said, giving me a preview of her class. “There were black businesses, two newspapers, a publishing company, livery stables, grocery stores, a dairy. The racial climate was great. There were middle-class opportunities for blacks.”

    Everything changed, she said, after Palmer died. Within a couple years, blacks found themselves relegated to service positions such as shining shoes, washing dishes, shoveling coal, waiting tables and similar menial labor.

    Lucy’s class will describe the treatment by Colorado Springs of national black leaders including educator, author and presidential adviser Booker T. Washington and historian, author and civil rights activist W.E.B. Dubois.

    She will touch on the frightening rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado and how Gazette publisher Clarence Hamlin courageously campaigned in his paper to prevent the KKK from taking control of the City Council and District 11 school board.

    Three members of the Colorado Springs semipro, all-black baseball team called the Brown Bombers, circa 1948, on their way to a game in Trinidad. James “Sonny” Bell, a co-founder of the team, is standing in the center. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    Three members of the Colorado Springs semipro, all-black baseball team called the Brown Bombers, circa 1948, on their way to a game in Trinidad. James “Sonny” Bell, a co-founder of the team, is standing in the center. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    Lucy also will delve into the role of Camp Carson soldiers in ending segregation in the area with the arrival in 1942 of 78 black troops and then an all-black tank destroyer battalion, providing an injection of diversity into the predominantly white resort town of 45,000 or so.

    Most interesting to me is the story of the Brown Bombers, whose history would make an inspiring movie as did the life of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

    Maybe it’s because we can vividly trace the impact of the Bombers on the community:

    • Dunlap was the first black baseball coach for School District 11, was a youth mentor and was honored by the Sports Corps.

    • Joe Morgan was inducted in 2004 in the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame. In 1970 he became the first black umpire invited to officiate a state high school baseball championship.

    • Justus Morgan was elected to the Palmer High School Hall of Fame and became pastor of Morgan Memorial Chapel Church of God in Christ, which his father started.

    • Vaughan helped found Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church and was chaplain for the Colorado Springs Police Department.

    Members of the Colorado Springs semipro all-black baseball team called the Brown Bombers, circa 1948, before leaving for a game in Trinidad. Players, from left: John Morgan, George Calvin, James Duncan, Joe Morgan, Justus Morgan, and James Wheeler. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    Members of the Colorado Springs semipro all-black baseball team called the Brown Bombers, circa 1948, before leaving for a game in Trinidad. Players, from left: John Morgan, George Calvin, James Duncan, Joe Morgan, Justus Morgan, and James Wheeler. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum from its Starsmore Center for Local History’s general photograph collection.

    A fifth surviving Bomber, Sylvester Smith, is also scheduled to attend the class. He played center field and worked 26 years at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and as a youth mentor for years.

    These men were intelligent, motivated and talented athletes denied an opportunity to play organized contact sports in high school or the semi-pros. They united to form their own team and take on white teams and they experienced the sweetest revenge — they won. Twice.

    Their first championship in 1949 generated all kinds of headlines. Here’s an excerpt from The Gazette’s story of the game:

    “A wild and rugged evening which saw two members of the losing team tossed out of the ballgame marked the Brown Bombers 9-6 victory over the Still Bros.-Jackson Gas team for the championship of the city league. Major popoff session of the evening occasioned action by members of the Police Department to quell an incipient riot.”

    There was a near riot when they won? And then they came back and did it again the next year? What a great story. To hear more, get yourself to the Pillar class. Anyone interested in attending should call Pillar at 633-4991 for reservations, which are required to attend.

    I’m just glad I got to meet these Bombers and learn of their amazing lives. And I have to wonder, why isn’t this team, as a whole, enshrined in our Sports Hall of Fame?

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  • Happy Birthday, Colorado Springs. Now, open your gifts

    Thu, August 1, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Iron work over the south entrance to Monument Valley Park near Bijou Street. Mark Reis photo

    Iron work over the south entrance to Monument Valley Park near Bijou Street. Mark Reis photo

     

    Gen. William Jackson Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs

    Gen. William Jackson Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs

    Gen. William Jackson Palmer did more than just found Colorado Springs on July 31, 1871. He went on to give his community many gifts in the form of vast parkland that we still enjoy today including the jewels Monument Valley, Palmer Park and Helen Hunt Falls at North Cheyenne Cañon Park.

    So in honor of the city’s birthday Wednesday, and considering all the gifts given the city by Palmer, I thought about what I’d give the city, if I could.

    My first thought was that we could use another Palmer, a benevolent, visionary leader with deep pockets.

    Winfield Scott Stratton

    Winfield Scott Stratton

    Or we could use another Winfield Scott Stratton, a carpenter and prospector who struck gold in Victor, became the Cripple Creek mining district’s first millionaire in 1894 and went on to become a philanthropist who showered Colorado Springs with gifts such as a trolley system, cheap land for a post office and, finally, created a home for poor children that, 100 years later, still offers a sanctuary to the less-fortunate.

    Spencer Penrose

    Spencer Penrose

    Or another Spencer Penrose, a risk-taking entrepreneur who made a fortune in mining, built The Broadmoor resort, founded the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, built the Pikes Peak Highway and whose immense wealth continues to enrich the lives of those throughout the Pikes Peak region and Colorado through the El Pomar Foundation. The nonprofit, established in 1937 by Spencer and his wife, Julie, today has assets estimated at $450 million or more and awards grants of $20 million or so annually.

    I  decided to see what some of my longtime colleagues would give the city, if they could.

    Gazette business writer Wayne Heilman, who has lived in the Springs 31-plus years, offered a simple wish: “Thousands of high-wage jobs.”

    His longtime colleague, Rich Laden, had a wider-ranging response: “A thriving economy, neighborhoods free from wildfires and a break from the national media’s stereotyping of the community.”

    The gift list varied as I wandered the newsroom.

    “More police,” said Carlotta Olson, our calendar wizard whose Hillside neighborhood is experiencing rising crime.

    “Better public transit,” said editorial assistant Joy Harper, who has lived here for decades and seen friends struggle to get around due to inadequate bus service.

    Colorado College graduate and longtime resident Pula Davis, who sits on the editorial board, would give a different gift: “A better self image, more confidence for the community.”

    That sentiment was echoed by designer David Demi-Smith, who has lived here most of the past 30 years.

    “I give a renewed spirit to the city,” he said. “More of a can-do spirit.”

    Military reporter Tom Roeder would give a gift to folks he meets on his beat.

    “I’d give this city a major manufacturing employer,” Roeder said. “We’re looking at military downsizing. And it would help all the military families here and the veterans coming home.”

    Connie Steele, our newsroom administrator and 35-year resident, would give a gift to help the homeless people and animals in the city. She also suggested a long-sought and elusive gift.

    “I would give Southwest Airlines whatever it takes to get them to fly out of Colorado Springs and sign a contract to stay for at least the next 10 years,” Connie said. “It would be a huge boost to our economy.”

    Finally, I asked our longest-tenured staff member for her thoughts on a gift to the city.

    Linda Navarro has lived and worked here 47 years. (I often kid her by asking what Gen. Palmer was really like.)

    Anyway, Linda recalled “the giving nature” of Colorado Springs going back to the generosity of Palmer, Stratton and Penrose.

    “My happy birthday wish,” Linda said, “is that we become even stronger in giving to others, in helping those in our community and in just plain being more caring and understanding.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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    Range Riders 2LOOKING BACK

    On a summer day 142 years ago Wednesday, former Union Army Gen. Robert Cameron stood before 30 or so frontiersmen gathered around a log cabin, drove a stake into the ground and announced the founding of a new community: Colorado Springs.

    The town was conceived by Cameron’s boss, Gen. William Jackson Palmer, who paid $10,000 for about 1,000 acres near the confluence of Monument and Fountain creeks and envisioned a resort town, a home for him and his new wife, Queen, as well as a headquarters for his fledgling Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

    The first stake ceremony on July 31, 1871, was described by Marshall Sprague in his excellent history “Newport in the Rockies.” Sprague said that Cameron, whose name still adorns a cone-shaped mountain visible south of Pikes Peak, had spent the previous weeks platting home and business lots, streets and parks from Monument Creek east and running two miles north and south from the stake.

    Palmer had picked the spot by pointing to the summit of Pikes Peak and telling Cameron to use it as the center line for his new community’s main street: Pikes Peak Avenue. (The Range Riders statue and a plaque mark the spot of the first stake ceremony at Pikes Peak and Cascade avenues.)

    This monument on Pikes Peak Avenue at Cascade Avenue marks the spot where Gen. William Jackson Palmer's men drove the first stake and founded Colorado Springs.

    This monument on Pikes Peak Avenue at Cascade Avenue marks the spot where Gen. William Jackson Palmer’s men drove the first stake and founded Colorado Springs.

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  • EVEN IN 1912 CITY PLANNING WAS IMPORTANT

    Wed, July 4, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    "A City Beautiful Dream - The 1912 Vision for Colorado Springs" is the latest in a series of regional history books published by the Pikes Peak Library District

    As Colorado Springs studies loosening the reins on developers by expediting the process for getting their plans approved, I thought I’d look at how the planning process evolved.

    Funny thing. The planning department overhaul comes  on the 100th anniversary of the City Council’s adoption of its first formal plan for the future development.

    In fact, the Pikes Peak Library District has published a book: “A City Beautiful Dream – The 1912 Vision for Colorado Springs.”

    It’s the 10th book in the library’s fascinating regional history series. (It’s $14.95 and available at the library, the Pioneers Museum and ClausenBooks.com.)

    The project started — doesn’t every government effort — with a consultant hired by the City Council in late 1911 for $2,000 to evaluate the city’s design.

    Charles Mulford Robinson, photo courtesy Pikes Peak Library District

    At the time, Charles Mulford Robinson had established a reputation for designing modern cities. So he got the job.

    Tim Scanlon, a former Springs city planner who now consults with Shooks Run Research, described  Robinson as being ahead of his peers in envisioning how cities might be built.

    “Robinson advanced the practice of comprehensive planning . . . that continues today,” Scanlon wrote in an introduction to the book.

    Though Robinson plan never was fully implemented, several of his recommendations are evident today, said Tim Blevins, the library’s special collections manager who coordinated publication of the book.

    This 1904 map of Colorado Springs shows the downtown grid consultant Charles Mulford Robinson detested as well as the railroad lines he blamed for polluting the air and inhibiting movement due to their poor location and at-grade street crossings.

    “We use the plan quite a bit in special collections to answer reference questions,” Blevins said.

    Robinson observed the strengths and weaknesses of Colorado Springs, based on research he conducted 1905-1911 for two separate reports that were the basis of his 1912 report: “A General Plan for the Improvement of Colorado Springs.”

    Issued three years after the death of founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Robinson’s plan was critical of some of Palmer’s key design features: the wide streets and downtown grid.

    Robinson said the Springs should design its streets to enhance its railroad stations, hotels and parks as its three obvious “focal points in the life and activity of the community.”

    But he said Palmer’s “tiresome” grid did nothing to enhance community, calling it “as commonplace as Philadelphia’s or Chicago’s.”

    He advocated disrupting the unimaginative grid by varying the widths of streets.

    Wide roads would be thoroughfares while more narrow roads would discourage horses and buggies and become quiet residential streets.

    His plan forcefully advocated building parks and playground and ridding the city of air pollution by imagining electric trains instead of smoky steam engines.

    Consultant Charles Mulford Robinson urged the City Council to rid Monument Creek of those "wretched shacks" as seen in this photo looking south from the Bijou Street bridge. Photo courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    He advocated a height limit on buildings downtown and ridding the city of at-grade railroad crossings.

    Wonder what he’d think of the city today and efforts to muzzle city planners? Hmm.

    Eliminating the Sante Fe Station, top, on East Pikes Peak Avenue, was one of consultant Charles Mulford Robinson's recommendations. It took a route through the east side of Colorado Springs, spreading smoke and causing too many transportation delays with its numerous at-grade street crossings. Robinson urged turning the Denver & Rio Grande station, bottom, into a "union station" and consolidating all train travel in it.

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  • LON CHANEY’S INSPIRING LIFE STORY DESERVES RECOGNITION

    Fri, June 22, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The many faces of Lon Chaney, silent movie star and Colorado Springs native

    How do we inspire our children to dream, to work hard to overcome adversity and achieve greatness?

    One way is to hold up as inspiration those who grew up down the street and went on to win acclaim. We erect statues and put their names on parks, boulevards and buildings.

    It’s time Colorado Springs so honors Lon Chaney, one of the greatest stars of the silent movie era and a pioneer in the use of makeup.

    Sure, the tiny theater in the City Auditorium was named for Chaney in 1986. But he deserves much more.

    Lon Chaney is a hero to Michael Blake, an actor and award-winning makeup artist, who has written several biographies of Chaney.

    A persuasive case is made by Michael Blake, a Hollywood actor, makeup artist and author of several biographies on Chaney.

    Chaney’s parents, Frank and Emma, were deaf and mute and quite poor.

    Blake’s research identified nine rental houses where the family lived before Chaney left to pursue acting.

    Frank Chaney was known as “Dummy the Barber,” Blake said. It was an affectionate nickname, he said, given him by his millionaire clients who included Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and gold miner/philanthropist Winfield Scott Stratton.

    Emma was a teacher at the School for the Deaf and the Blind, which her father Jonathan Kennedy founded.

    She suffered from inflammatory rheumatism, Blake said, forcing Chaney to drop out of school in fourth grade to care for her.

    “She was basically a shut-in,” Blake said. “She couldn’t hear or speak. Lon was her eyes to the outside world.”

    The Colorado Springs Opera House as it appeared in 1885. Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections.

    While growing up, Chaney worked many jobs, including as a carpet-layer, wallpaper hanger, tour guide on Pikes Peak and prop boy at the Colorado Springs Opera House, where his brother was the manager.

    He made his acting debut there in 1902 and soon joined a touring company. He eventually settled in California and went on to star in 80 silent films. But he returned many times to visit family and friends.

    “This guy was a big movie star,” Blake said. “He deserves a statue, a park, a big theater, a film festival.”

    I agree. We need to give our kids inspirational role models. We need to show them they can achieve great things in whatever career they choose, whether it’s public service, science, education, sports or the arts.

    Lon Chaney shows them they can be the poor son of “Dummy the Barber,” a dropout caretaker for their invalid mother, and still become a huge star.

    And they can be from Colorado Springs!

    Heck, we all ought to be celebrating Chaney. He’s at least as worthy as Hank the Cowboy, for crying out loud!

    I vote for a life-size bronze outside the Chaney Performing Arts Center.

    Maybe folks who agree should bombard the City Asset Naming Board.

    Can’t afford the outrageous $50 nominating fee? Launch a social media campaign. What do you say, Mayor Bach? City Council?

    #LetsHonorLon.

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    Here’s some links to other good stories about Chaney in Colorado Springs:

    On Thursday, June 21, 2012, I wrote about Lon Chaney and the need to recognize him.

    In 1999, The Gazette wrote about Michael Blake and his efforts to honor Chaney. Click here to read it.

    Follow this link to read another 1999 story that describes him as a generous family man.

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    Three houses where Lon Chaney lived as a child still exist. They are 509 W. Bijou St., 738 N. Spruce St. and 802 N. Walnut St. Here is a map:

    Three houses where Lon Chaney lived during his childhood in Colorado Springs.

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