2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Colorado Springs native, recent Pulizter Prize winner, heads to New York Times

    Wed, June 18, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, left, and Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, pose in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum before a portrait of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, left, and Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, pose in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum before a portrait of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Today, just two months after we gave Dave Philipps a champagne toast in the newsroom to celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, we are honoring him again.

    It’s his last day at The Gazette.

    He is leaving us to join the New York Times, where he’ll start on Monday.

    Gazette Managing Editor Joanna Bean, Dave Philipps and photographer Michael Ciaglo pop champagne in April to celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Mark Reis / The Gazette

    Gazette Managing Editor Joanna Bean, Dave Philipps and photographer Michael Ciaglo pop champagne in April to celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Mark Reis / The Gazette

    I applaud Dave, 36, for reaching what I consider the pinnacle destination in our profession. He deserves it as much as any reporter I’ve ever known. And in my 20 years at The Gazette, I’ve seen some good ones.

    Dave is proof of what I used to tell prospective reporters when I was hiring as City Editor.

    The Gazette is a place where you can do great work because it has an atmosphere that encourages reporters to think big. This attitude has produced two Pulitzer Prizes, national military writing awards, national religion writing honors and prestigious prizes for photos and designand our Lifestyle and Sports sections. I’m confident there will more accolades in our future.

    But today we are bidding farewell to Dave, who bounced into our old newsroom on South Prospect Street in 2002 as a brash intern ready to show all us oldtimers how this journalism thing is done.

    I didn’t know it at the time but Dave grew up here, on the campus of the Fountain Valley School where his late father, Glenn, taught history for years.

    His mother, Peggy, still lives in Colorado Springs after retiring as an elementary school teacher.

    He arrived at The Gazette after stints doing construction work (he’s skinny as a 2-by-4!) and as a ski bum, er ski instructor.

    “I can get down the hill OK,” Dave said modestly.

    His first day should have been an omen . . . it was the day the Hayman fire erupted near Lake George. He came armed with an environmental studies degree from Middlebury College in Vermont and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York.

    It was immediately obvious he was confident in his abilities and unafraid to push boundaries.

    “I just wanted to write,” Dave said. “Journalism is a way to engage people and connect with people. It’s not an academic practice.”

    By the time his summer internship was over, Dave felt ready to jump right in as a fulltime employee.

    But he had to wait for an opening about six months later when we hired him as a outdoors writer specializing in hiking, skiing and other fun pursuits.

    “It was a dream job,” he said. “They were going to pay me to have fun in the Rockies.”

    Dave threw himself into the job.

    “I wanted it to appear to readers like it was totally awesome, which it was,” Dave said laughing.

    I remember resenting this skinny kid who we paid to play.

    Then I started hating him when he became our food critic. (It wasn’t enough he specialized in recreation, we had to feed him too?)

    But I couldn’t ignore his talent. His early writing taught me about hiking and biking and camping and skiing with thoroughly researched stories that always included entertaining turns of phrase.

    Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, studies an exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum on June, 17, 2014, about the life of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, studies an exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum on June, 17, 2014, about the life of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And soon he was revealing his appreciation for the history of The Gazette, of Colorado Springs and, of course, founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer. How could I dislike someone who shared my passions?

    He loves to cite the trivia of The Gazette.

    “The Gazette building was the first school, and the first firehouse and the first two-story building in the city,” Dave said, repeating one of his favorite sayings.

    “And we’re the oldest surviving non-taxpayer funded institution in the city. That’s really cool. We get up each morning and have to figure out how to keep the lights on.”

    I wondered where he got his love of history.

    “My dad was a history teacher,” he said. “We spent every summer in an orange Volkswagen bus touring history sites.”

    Then he started producing cartoons to tell stories. I began looking forward to see how Dave would surprise me next.

    The biggest surprise would come in 2009 when Dave dove into an investigation of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, among returning combat troops at Fort Carson.

    In just about any newsroom it would be an audacious move for a skiing writer/food critic to grab a hard news story. But Dave didn’t care.

    He’d been watching the headlines we were churning out about soldiers coming back from combat tours only to wreak havoc at home in a series of violent crimes and murders.

    Dave Philipps and Joanna Bean at the Pulitzer Prize award banquet June 17, 2014, at Columbia University in New York.

    Writer Dave Philipps and Gazette Managing Editor Joanna Bean at the Pulitzer Prize award banquet May 28, 2014, at Columbia University in New York.

    Hanging out with his wife, Amanda, whom he met in college and was a public defender, and her friends, Dave gained a different perspective on the soldiers and their crimes and, with the encouragement of his editor, Joanna Bean, he started digging.

    “I felt there was a real need to explain what was going on,” Dave told me. “We needed to take a step back and consider the bigger forces at work. We owed it to these guys, who are the kernel of why this community exists. These soldiers.”

    His research produced the “Casualties of War” series that uncovered PTSD and traumatic brain injuries among our troops. The series was a runner-up in Pulitzer voting in 2010. He later wrote a book “Lethal Warriors” based on his stories.

    Dave was not a one-hit wonder.

    Remember his stories about the bogus psychiatrist?

    Or his exposé about wild horses being rounded up and shipped to Mexican slaughterhouses despite promises from federal officials they would not be harmed?

    Or his investigation of Colorado Springs Utilities’ questionable investment of millions in ratepayer money in unproven scrubber technology?

    And I haven’t even mentioned how Dave convinced sources to talk on the record about El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and produce hundreds of sexually charged emails, even a half-naked selfie, he is accused of sending to women he supervises.

    And I think he could have won many awards for his reporting last fall that uncovered a secret snitch squad among cadets at the Air Force Academy.

    Of course, the biggest prize came in April for his three-day series “Other than Honorable,” which examined how wounded combat veterans were being discharged from the Army and stripped of benefits for offenses likely caused by their war injuries.

    His stories reveal a reporter who is fearless and dedicated to standing up to those in authority and those in power on behalf of the helpless. Exactly what the best reporters, editors and newspapers should be. It’s what The Gazette has been doing during my 20 years.

    He’s also a fun guy to hang out with at lunch or after work. I’m going to miss him.

    But I have hope that maybe we haven’t seen the last of Dave.

    Deep down I harbor a feeling that Dave, Amanda — a graduate of the University of Colorado law school — and their kids might be back someday.

    After all, Dave’s a hometown boy.

    Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette, is seen in a photo exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette, is seen in a photo exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And his beloved Gen. Palmer is here. Always will be. And we all know how much Dave loves the founder of Colorado Springs. He can’t just leave Gen. Palmer behind forever, can he?

    “I will miss Gen. Palmer deeply,” Dave said.

    Heck, he came back twice already. Remember, he left for college. Then he left the Gazette in 2011 to attend a journalism fellowship at CU in Boulder. But he returned in October 2012 and immediately picked up where he’d left off . . . reporting about those in authority who were not doing the right things.

    But for now, I’m just wishing him the best as he heads to Gotham City and the Times, which counts among its prestigious ranks ex-Gazetteers including sports writer Lynn Zinser, sports copy editors Greg McElvain and Melissa Hoppert and 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning sports writer John Branch.

    I’m proud of all of them. Like Dave, they are all really great people. And I miss them all.

    So good luck, Dave. I know you’ll kick some butt.

    As a parting gift, he bestowed on me his local history book collection.

    Thanks, Dave. I appreciate it. I’ll mine it for columns. And I’ll take good care of it so it will be around for years.

    Until you return.

    Dave Philipps

    Dave Philipps

  • Historic re-enactors featured in historic chapel of Colorado Springs’ Evergreen Cemetery events

    Wed, June 4, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The marble angel atop the Ferrand family headstone in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was toppled in 2005, breaking the right hand off at the wrist. The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society hopes to raise enough money from its Historic Speaker series and Lantern tours to pay for the estimated $2,400 repair. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The marble angel atop the Ferrand family headstone in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was toppled in 2005, breaking the right hand off at the wrist. The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society hopes to raise enough money from its Historic Speaker series and Lantern tours to pay for the estimated $2,400 repair. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    If you are dying for some historic fun this summer, pencil in the Evergreen Cemetery on your itinerary, starting with a sneak peek Thursday evening.

    In hopes of raising money for restoring damaged headstones and other preservation work at the 143-year-old cemetery southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, the Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society has several events scheduled to attract history buffs.

    For the first time, the society will host a “Historic Speaker” series. Participants pay $10 to spend an evening with folks in costumes who re-enact historic figures, speaking in character.

    The speaker series replaces the walking tours the society hosted the past 12 years.

    Evergreen cemeteryInstead of hoofing it around the 220-acre cemetery to visit speakers standing at graves, the new speaker series will anchor the re-enactors in the beautiful Evergreen Chapel.

    At 6 p.m. Thursday, the re-enactors will gather at the chapel for a free preview of what paying guests will enjoy when the series officially gets underway June 15 with a talk by Theodore Roosevelt.

    And that signals another change from the walking tours, which featured only folks buried at Evergreen.

    This year, historic speakers will include national figures like Teddy and his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Queen Palmer, wife of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, is buried at Evergreen Cemetery with her husband.

    Queen Palmer, wife of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, behind the chapel, with her husband.

    There will still be local luminaries like Helen Hunt Jackson and Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and his wife, Queen Palmer.

    The walking tours were interesting, but I think the logistics of hiking around posed a challenge, especially in heat or changing weather. I know I worked up a sweat when I toured last spring with Dianne Hartshorn, co-director of the society.

    The new format will give people more opportunity for questions and answers with the speakers, Hartshorn said.

    And I love the setting in the stone chapel, built after the crowds at Gen. Palmer’s 1909 funeral had nowhere to get out of the weather.

    The upstairs is a classic chapel with stained glass windows, wooden floors and a small stage.

    As a bonus on Thursday, the basement will be open for tours. Typically, it’s only open for tour during lantern tours.

    It’s worth seeing and it really creeps me out.

    The chapel in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was built in 1909 for $10,000 after hundreds of mourners followed the funeral procession of town founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and were left in the cold with nowhere to escape cold weather. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The chapel in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was built in 1909 for $10,000 after hundreds of mourners followed the funeral procession of town founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and were left in the cold with nowhere to escape cold weather. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It has rooms where corpses were stored for services or when the ground was too hard to allow burial.

    There is a casket wagon and casket elevator and rooms with what resemble bunks that held remains.

    There’s even some bloat balls used in the embalming process. (Enough about them.)

    But the speaker series isn’t the only thing happening at Evergreen every other Sunday and Thursday this summer through September.

    The basement of the chapel at Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, includes rooms with bunks where corpses were stored as well as a coffin elevator, seen here, and bloat balls. (Don't ask.) Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The basement of the chapel at Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, includes rooms with bunks where corpses were stored as well as a coffin elevator, seen here, and bloat balls. (Don’t ask.) Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    If you like to walk, check out the Lantern Tours planned for each month. For $10, guests will be guided to significant graves by guides who will talk about historic people buried there, Hartshorn said.

    And for folks who want a free, self-guided tour, there’s always the Story Board Project. Each year, the society picks an assortment of important graves and marks them on a map available at its website. Information is then posted on each of the dozen or so graves explaining their significance.

    I think these are great opportunities to learn a little about Colorado Springs’ history and help a good cause.

    Money raised from the Historic Speaker series and the Lantern Tours will pay for things like repairing the lifesize marble angel — assuming angels are the same size as humans — over the grave of a woman who died in 1890.

    In 2005, the angel was knocked off her pedestal and her right hand was broken off at the wrist.

    The marble angel atop the Ferrand family headstone in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was toppled in 2005, breaking the right hand off at the wrist. The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society hopes to raise enough money from its Historic Speaker series and Lantern tours to pay for the estimated $2,400 repair. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “There’s no one in the . . . family left to take care of it,” Hartshorn said. “We had it inspected and the estimate to repair it was $2,400. It includes hand-carving a new piece out of matching marble. It’s very expensive.”

    There’s plenty of other work that needs to be done at the cemetery, which is owned by the city but not supported by taxpayers.

    So get out to the cemetery, learn some cool history, see some fascinating tombstones, and help preserve it for the next generation when, maybe, they’ll be coming back to learn about you!

  • Hope flows for Tahama Springs restoration despite tainted water tests

    Sun, June 1, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers Paul Andersen, left, Jon Cockroft and David Mataipule clean out Monument Valley Park’s Tahama Springs on Wednesday in an effort to test the water that inspired the city’s name. The springs, named after a Sioux chief and scout who traveled with Zebulon Pike, was damaged in a 1935 flood and destroyed in 1965 after another flood. A local group is trying to bring back the historic springs, and cleaning the 50-plus years of debris from the springs is the first step.    Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers Paul Andersen, left, Jon Cockroft and David Mataipule clean out Monument Valley Park’s Tahama Springs on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, so the water could be tested. The springs, named after a Sioux chief and scout who traveled with Zebulon Pike, was sealed after Monument Creek flooded in 1965, destroying the pavilion. A local group is trying to bring back the historic springs. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    For the group working to restore Tahama Springs as a free-flowing source of water in Monument Valley Park, success is so close they can taste it.

    But they dare not.

    The well, on the west bank of Monument Creek, had been sealed since a flood in 1965 destroyed the well’s pavilion, depriving the city of its namesake and leading to envy and jealousy of Manitou Springs with its mineral springs that seem to bubble up on every corner.

    The Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs is determined to restore Tahama and is working with a coalition that includes the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, Colorado Springs Utilities and a group of young professionals.

    (I wrote about their efforts in March. Read that column here.)

    Already they hired experts to evaluate the site, locate the springs with an underground camera and take preliminary water samples for testing. Once they found a substantial flow, they hired Utilities to help dig a half-century of crud from the well to allow more detailed water sampling and analysis.

    Colorado Springs Utilities worker Frank Trujillo cleans out the well at Tahama Springs before flushing it out to take a water sample Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Colorado Springs Utilities worker Frank Trujillo cleans out the well at Tahama Springs before flushing it out to take a water sample Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    On May 21, utility crews spent hours digging trash and debris from the well. One lucky crew member was strapped in a harness and lowered through a manhole about 12 feet to hand fill bucket-after-bucket with trash, tree branches rocks and crud until a huge vacuum hose could be pushed down to suck out accumulated water.

    Finally the alluvial water was found, pouring from a layer of shale.

    Jeff Long, of the preservation alliance, watched the scene unfold.

    “They pumped it out to get the water off the bottom so only water flowing from the side was sampled,” Long said. “We didn’t want any bottom contaminants.

    Then they let the spring run several minutes.

    “Finally, they lowered the guy back down with water sample bottles. He had to get it quickly because water was coming up from the bottom of the well.”

    Long said everyone on the scene was buoyed by what the staffer brought back to the surface.

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers found items from the past in the Tahama Springs including old whisky bottles, hoses and a pair of boots while cleaning out century-old Tahama Springs Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers found items from the past in the Tahama Springs including old whisky bottles, hoses and a pair of boots while cleaning out century-old Tahama Springs Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    “It was exciting,” Long said. “It was a very clear stream of water. And the water he brought up wasn’t turbid or cloudy. It was good-looking water.”

    But, as the cliché goes, looks can be deceiving.

    Long said he was tempted to taste the water, he opted to wait for an official analysis.

    Good thing he did.

    Lab test results came back last week with some bad news. Testing confirmed the presence of total coliform bacteria and specifically E. coli, a common form of bacteria that generally is harmless, according to the Mayo Clinic. But it can cause brief diarrhea and some strains can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

    It’s not something you want in your drinking water.

    “The eye-opening thing was the E. coli,” said Rick Johnson, an environmental specialist with Utilities’ water quality support group.

    Johnson said the lab tests also showed unexpected nitrate levels, which could indicate fertilizer is leaching into the water. And the fluoride levels in the water were high enough to require consumers be warned before drinking it, Johnson said.

    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.

    However, he gave the group hope, noting that one test is not definitive of the water quality.

    “A lot more testing needs to go into this,” Johnson said. “I’d suggest resampling after it sat there for at least a week. The sampling we did was right after we had stirred everything up. This was an initial test and not under ideal circumstances.

    There’s a good chance it could change. I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on the test.”
    The preservation alliance board agreed with Johnson that the news, while discouraging, was not a deal-breaker.

    “The board is as enthusiastic as ever,” Long said. “We’re still firm in our intent to proceed.”

    If further testing produced evidence of contaminants, one option is to install a filtering system on the spring. Two types of filters, UV and reverse-osmosis, could be used to ensure safe drinking water, Johnson said.

    Long said the board will investigate those alteratives and more, depending on future test results.

    “The point is, the spring has been opened, it’s clear and it is running,” Long said. “That is huge.”

    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.

    The coalition intends to raise $250,000 to finance restoration of the spring and well. The money also will pay for reconstruction of the historic Spanish pavilion built in 1926, severely damaged in the Memorial Day flood of 1935 and destroyed in the 1965 flood.

    Supporters also intend to replace three large, round bronze plaques, or medallions, that hung in the pavilion.

    They honored city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer; explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike; and Chief Tahama, the Sioux Indian from Winona, Minn., who befriended Pike and became famous as an Indian ally to the U.S. government and even fought for this country in the War of 1812.

    Finally, money will be needed to provide a trust for future maintenance — especially if a filtration system is installed.

    Long is optimistic issues with water quality will be worked out, the needed money will be raised and the spring and pavilion restored.

    “We have a lot of momentum,” Long said. “We’re gonna do this.”

    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 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

  • Buried ‘treasure’ found in Colorado Springs hotel not valuable as hoped

    Sun, May 25, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The Albany Hotel is the major tenant of the Lennox building, which was built in 1902 by William Lennox who came from Iowa with his brother John and made a fortune mining gold in Cripple Creek. Lennox was one of the incorporators of the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway, which evolved into today’s Gold Camp Road. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Albany Hotel is the major tenant of the Lennox building, which was built in 1902 by William Lennox who came from Iowa with his brother John and made a fortune mining gold in Cripple Creek. Lennox was one of the incorporators of the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway, which evolved into today’s Gold Camp Road. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Buried in a basement boiler room of the 112-year-old Albany Hotel, Jerimy Noon found a strange black object.

    Noon, who manages the 70-room rental house at 228 N. Tejon St., was cleaning out years of junk when he noticed the object wedged behind a large air duct and a stone foundation wall.

    “I tried to wiggle it out and then I got the sledge hammer and gave it three good whacks,” Noon said. “But it wouldn’t come out.”

    In this basement boiler room, between the stone foundation wall and the sheet-metal air duct in the center of the photo, a framed poster print was found recently by staff of the Albany Hotel. The poster turned out to be less valuable than an original photo, as originally thought. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    In this basement boiler room, between the stone foundation wall and the sheet-metal air duct in the center of the photo, a framed poster print was found recently by staff of the Albany Hotel. The poster turned out to be less valuable than an original photo, as originally thought. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    So Noon decided to take a softer approach.

    He grabbed a pry bar to loosen the wooden object.

    “I pulled on it and pried until it finally came free,” Noon said.

    During the process, Noon saw a label and realized this was something special. So he set it aside and called his in-laws, John and Mary Murphy, who own the hotel.

    052514 Side Streets 11John Murphy, longtime attorney, historian and art collector, picks up the story.

    “Lo and behold, out came a large, expensively framed and matted photo of a nude male in a Classic Greek pose,” Murphy said in an email. “On the back was the gallery in New York City.

    “The artist was the late Herb Ritts, whose works ascended in value as the gay community gained acceptance in our culture. I did ten minutes of research and found it to be quite valuable as his works are found in many of our nation’s finest art museums.”

    Nude 2Murphy sent the photo to Robert Lockwood at Rio Grande Custom Framing for restoration and appraisal. If it was as valuable as he suspected, he intended to restore it and donate it to the Fine Arts Center.

    I love stories of buried treasure so I asked Noon to show me the boiler room.

    As an added bonus, I got a tour of the Albany, one of those remarkable buildings in the heart of downtown that most don’t know exist.

    The Albany is like a piece of old furniture in your grandparents’ home. It’s a little worn and you walk past so often it becomes invisible.

    But it’s been there, serving guests as the major tenant of the Lennox building, which was constructed in 1902 by William Lennox, who, Murphy told me, came from Iowa and made a fortune mining gold in Cripple Creek.

    The lobby of the Albany Hotel features an assortment of art pieces and historic memorabilia of its owners, John and Mary Murphy. The hotel occuplies most of the Lennox building, built in 1902. The hotel has 70 rooms that it rents to low-income guests by the month. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The lobby of the Albany Hotel features an assortment of art pieces and historic memorabilia of its owners, John and Mary Murphy. The hotel occuplies most of the Lennox building, built in 1902. The hotel has 70 rooms that it rents to low-income guests by the month. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    (Lennox and his brother, John, have deep roots in Colorado Springs history. They had a coal hauling business, Murphy said, and were friends of city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer. In 1900, Lennox was one of the incorporators of the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway, which evolved into today’s Gold Camp Road.)

    Anyway, the Albany served as the Holiday Inn of its time. Murphy said that while wealthy visitors stayed at The Broadmoor hotel or the Antlers, middle-class tourists and railroad workers would get off the train and lodge at the Albany.

    The three-story Lennox Building, home of the Albany Hotel, is seen at the end of the block on North Tejon Street in this undated photo circa 1920. Photo courtesy Jerimy Noon, Albany Hotel.

    The three-story Lennox Building, home of the Albany Hotel, is seen at the end of the block on North Tejon Street in this undated photo circa 1920.  A painted ad on the wall advertises John Lennox Real Estate. Photo courtesy Jerimy Noon, Albany Hotel.

    Murphy and his brother, builder Chuck Murphy, bought the building in 1979 and have operated it since.

    In 1994, the brothers split their holdings, giving John and Mary sole ownership of the building, which they have improved regularly, including installation of a fire sprinkler system about 25 years ago.

    More recently, they added skylights and vents and put in a high-tech security system.

    This new mural adorns the north exterior of the Albany Hotel, a 70-room hotel in the Lennox building, which was built in 1902 by William Lennox who came from Iowa with his brother John and made a fortune mining gold in Cripple Creek. The train mural pays homage to Lennox, who was one of the incorporators of the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway. And it includes brothers John and Chuck Murphy, who bought the Albany in 1979. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This new mural adorns the north exterior of the Albany Hotel, a 70-room hotel in the Lennox building, which was built in 1902 by William Lennox who came from Iowa with his brother John and made a fortune mining gold in Cripple Creek. The train mural pays homage to Lennox, who was one of the incorporators of the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway. And it includes brothers John and Chuck Murphy, who bought the Albany in 1979. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Murphys also had a huge mural painted on the north exterior that pays tribute to Lennox, his railroad, and John and Chuck Murphy, who appear in the mural.

    All the work has made the Albany a safer, nicer place. But the hotel doesn’t hide the many wrinkles it has acquired. It looks a little worn.

    And that also describes the people who stay there. Instead of housing middle-class tourists, these days the Albany is a home for the less fortunate in Colorado Springs.

    052514 Side Streets 5For $450 a month, or about $15 a day, tenants get a modest room with a shared bath. For a private tub, it’s $25 more and another $25 for a kitchenette.

    Most stay anywhere from a month to a few years, Noon said, although one has lived at the Albany 36 years.

    And when they leave, sometimes they leave their stuff.

    Which brings us back to the framed photo discovered in the basement.

    Skylights brighten the hallways of the Albany Hotel, 228 N. Tejon St., where low-income residents pay about $455 a month for a room and shared bath. When the Albany opened in 1902, it served middle-class tourists who arrived by train. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Skylights brighten the hallways of the Albany Hotel, 228 N. Tejon St., where low-income residents pay about $455 a month for a room and shared bath.  Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Apparently, it was stashed for a tenant who never returned for it. It fell behind the duct and was forgotten until Noon’s discovery.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the appraiser to determine it was a poster print, not an original photograph, making it worth potentially hundreds of dollars instead of thousands, as Murphy first hoped.

    Rio Grande Custom Framing owner Robert Lockwood holds up the print of Male Nude on Log 1987 that was recovered from the basement boiler room of the Albany Hotel. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Rio Grande Custom Framing owner Robert Lockwood holds up the print of Male Nude on Log 1987 that was recovered from the basement boiler room of the Albany Hotel. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    I went to see it at Lockwood’s frame shop. It’s a beautiful poster of a photo Ritts titled “Male Nude on Log.” Lockwood straightened the print in its matte, put an acid-free backing on it and replaced the old frame, which bore the scars of Noon’s sledge hammer and pry bar.

    I’ll be interested to know what Murphy does next with the print. Perhaps it will join a wide assortment of art that adorns the walls of the Albany — it’s worth a visit to check it all out.

    And I’ll be going by soon to check out the mural. Murphy is installing a sound system that will broadcast train sounds on the hour, 12 hours a day.

    I think it’s a great idea and wonderful tribute to the Albany, to Lennox, to Palmer and our rich history as a railroad town.
    052514 Side Streets 9

     

  • Solitary street clock a touchstone to Colorado Springs history, legendary figures

    Wed, April 30, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Carl Mattson of Carl's Clock and Watch Repair re-installs the historic street clock on the north plaza of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Thursday, April 24, 2014, following a restoration of the timepiece. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Carl Mattson of Carl’s Clock and Watch Repair re-installs the historic street clock on the north plaza of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Thursday, April 24, 2014, following a restoration of the timepiece. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    After several months in rehab, a 114-year-old street clock is back in its familiar place on the north plaza of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    It’s looking great, thanks to TLC given it by Carl Mattson of Carl’s Clock and Watch Repair. Before it was removed last fall, it was a faded, dreary green. Years earlier it was a two-tone green and white. Today it’s wearing a coat of shiny dark green paint with gold pinstripe accents.

    Carl Mattson of Carl's Clock and Watch Repair re-installs the workings of the historic street clock on the north plaza of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Thursday, April 24, 2014, following a restoration of the timepiece. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Carl Mattson of Carl’s Clock and Watch Repair re-installs the workings of the historic street clock on the north plaza of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Thursday, April 24, 2014, following a restoration of the timepiece. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Perhaps you remember I wrote about it last August when Matt Mayberry, museum director, asked long-time residents if they had photos showing the original color of the clock. He wanted to be historically accurate with the restoration.

    You may also remember I climbed up into the clock tower of the museum in March as Mayberry adjusted that huge timepiece forward an hour due to Daylight Saving Time.

    Clearly, I have a thing about old clocks, especially these community clocks. They are more than just time-keepers to me. They are a shared experience spanning generations.

    And now, thanks to its restoration, the one on the plaza looks as good as it did when it was new in 1900.

    Even better, its mechanics are clean and tuned and once again precisely moving its long, skinny hands past Roman numerals on its two bright, white faces, which identify its manufacturer, the E. Howard & Co. in Boston.

    Crews lovingly returned the clock last Thursday and reinstalled its inner-workings, which stretch down the tall, skinny pedestal into its base where a heavy, lead weight hangs alongside gears and cables and a crank.

    I sat on a bench Monday nearby, ate my lunch and admired it as folks on their way to lunch, or getting some exercise or simply killing time wandered past.

    Some glanced at the clock but few noticed the timepiece with its ornate scrolled ironwork standing a few yards from the towering, contemporary glass and red brick Plaza of the Rockies office building.

    In modern Colorado Springs, this antique marvel of turn-of-the-20th century manufacturing seems out of place.

    It’s a relic, ingeniously relying on intricate gears and pulleys and hand-cranked pressure and gravity to measure the passing minutes and hours of every day.

    Most passersby are oblivious to it. And why shouldn’t they be? After all, most have universal time — standard or daylight, Eastern, Central, Mountain or Pacific — on their wristwatches, phones, mp3 players or tablets.

    To most, I’m sure the clock is not much more than a curiosity.

    That’s OK. To me and others, like Mayberry, the street clock is a community treasure that must be preserved.

    Thankfully there are folks like the Cogswell family who share our passion for history and historic novelties like street clocks.

    The street clock is seen on Pikes Peak Avenue, just west of the Busy Corner at Tejon Street, in this Nov. 27, 1909 photo. It stands near the front of the First National Bank building, now the offices of The Gazette. Men crowd burned storefronts by a street clock; a fire truck, bicycles, and a motorcycle are parked. Signs read: “Johnson Jewelry Co.” “Perkins Shearer Co” and “Doctors W.W. & C.R. Arnold.” Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library digital collection.

    The street clock is seen on Pikes Peak Avenue, just west of the Busy Corner at Tejon Street, in this Nov. 27, 1909 photo. It stands in front of Johnson Jewelry and near the First National Bank building, now the offices of The Gazette. Men crowd burned storefronts by a street clock; a fire truck, bicycles, and a motorcycle are parked. Signs read: “Johnson Jewelry Co.” “Perkins Shearer Co” and “Doctors W.W. & C.R. Arnold.” Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library digital collection.

    In fact, we owe the Cogswells a big thank-you, starting with Dr. Walter Cogswell, a dentist who practiced in an office building near the Busy Corner of Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, Mayberry said.

    Cogswell admired the street clock for years and, in 1962, when urban renewal and “progress” put the clock’s future in jeopardy, he stepped in, bought the clock and donated it to the museum.

    Buggies with blanketed horses park on Pikes Peak Avenue in front of the Midland Block. The two-story brick commercial building has corbeling, storefronts, awnings, and signs: “Tucker’s Imported & Key West Cigars Restaurant, Lunch, Drinks, Cigars, & Tobacco” “New-York Electric Co” “Mack Real Estate Exchange” “The Whitaker Printing Company” “Job Printing” “Billiards Pool & Bowling Alleys” and “Oysters.” Men pose by a streetside clock; the awning over them reads: “J. D. O’Haire Tailor.” Taken 1890-1900. Courtesy  Denver Public Library.

    Buggies with blanketed horses park on Pikes Peak Avenue in front of the Midland Block. The two-story brick commercial building has corbeling, storefronts, awnings, and signs: “Tucker’s Imported & Key West Cigars Restaurant, Lunch, Drinks, Cigars, & Tobacco” “New-York Electric Co” “Mack Real Estate Exchange” “The Whitaker Printing Company” “Job Printing” “Billiards Pool & Bowling Alleys” and “Oysters.” Men pose by a streetside clock; the awning over them reads: “J. D. O’Haire Tailor.”
    Taken 1890-1900. Courtesy Denver Public Library.

    The timepiece was moved to the museum, then located at 25. W. Kiowa St., where it stood until 1989 when the local chapter of the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors helped restore it and move it to the new home of the museum at 215 S. Tejon — the former El Paso County Courthouse, built in 1903.

    But the Cogswell family’s connection didn’t end with the initial purchase and move. The family, Mayberry said, was the primary source of funding for the recent $7,000 restoration, the first upgrade of the timepiece in 25 years.

    While it may look out of place next to the Plaza of the Rockies, I think the street clock is right at home next to the courthouse, which opened three years after the street clock was installed. And it’s appropriate that the clock in the tower of the old courthouse also is a vintage Howard clock, installed in 1913.

    And it doesn’t matter to me if folks don’t pay a lot of attention to it.
    I’m happy just knowing it’s still there, quietly keeping track of each passing minute and second.

    To me, it’s a connection to our past. It has survived even as the buildings around it have come and gone, like those that gave way to the Plaza of the Rockies or the parking garage across the alley.

    The street clock is seen in 1917 at the Busy Corner, Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, down the block for the Antlers Hotel. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    The street clock is seen in 1917 at the Busy Corner, Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, down the block for the Antlers Hotel. Photo courtesy the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    I like knowing I’m looking at a face that the city’s founder, Gen. William Jackson Palmer, may have glanced at it when he visited his Antlers Hotel just down the street or timed the arrival and departure of his Denver & Rio Grande trains.

    It’s a touchstone to gold mining legend and philanthropist Winfield Scott Stratton, who built the Mining Exchange Building a block away, and whose trolley system roared past the clock in both directions for decades.

    And I can imagine Spencer Penrose, the mining giant and founder of The Broadmoor hotel, checking the time on the old street clock as he was downtown on business.

    “To me, it’s nice to know there are things that endure despite the passage of time,” Mayberry said. “This clock show us that not everything changes with time. Some things still do the jobs they were built to do, all these years later.

    “That’s comforting somehow.”

    I agree. I like to think of all the people over the century who may have sat like I did Monday and simply admired the clock. And it doesn’t matter whether anyone notices or not.

    So, thanks Cogswell family and all the watch collectors and others who preserved this amazing old street clock. There are many of us who appreciate it.

    The street clock on the north plaza of the Pioneers Museum, seen Aug. 22, 2013, has been telling Colorado Springs residents the time since 1900. A manufacturer's catalog priced the clock at $600 in 1890 - or about $16,900 in 2013 dollars. The clock is deteriorating, as seen around its face, and its mechanics are failing. It needs restoration and museum officials want the public's help determining its original color. This is how is appeared Aug. 23, 2013, prior to restoration. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The street clock on the north plaza of the Pioneers Museum, seen Aug. 22, 2013, has been telling Colorado Springs residents the time since 1900. A manufacturer’s catalog priced the clock at $600 in 1890 – or about $16,900 in 2013 dollars. The clock is deteriorating, as seen around its face, and its mechanics are failing. It needs restoration and museum officials want the public’s help determining its original color. This is how is appeared Aug. 23, 2013, prior to restoration. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Drought claims home to flickers, squirrels, racoons, threatens Colorado Springs’ urban forest

    Fri, April 25, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Carol Willis hugs the silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn't want it cut down.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Carol Willis hugs the silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn’t want it cut down. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Recently, Carol Willis returned to her home near Colorado College to find a large “X” painted in orange on the trunk of a large, old silver maple tree out front.

    It might as well have been a skull and cross bones in orange.

    Carol Willis hugs the silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn't want it cut down.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)The “X” was painted by city foresters who determined the tree, growing in the parkway between the sidewalk and curb, was dying and a hazard that must be removed before it falls and crushes someone or damages property.

    Now, Carol is mourning the pending loss of the tree, which towers over her century-old home, and she worries about how many more city trees damaged by a decade of drought and watering restrictions are doomed to suffer a similar fate.

    “It’s like losing your favorite aunt,” Carol told me. “You’ve been close with her for 35 years. She’s always been in excellent health, cheerful, kind to animals and then suddenly you are told she has a terminal disease and she won’t be with you for but a few more weeks.

    “It’s terrible.”

    Cary Vogrin

    Cary Vogrin hugs a tree on a trail above Green Mountain Falls in September 2013.

    I know exactly how she feels. My wife, Cary, loves trees so much I have photos of her hugging them on hikes and on vacations.

     Big, old trees attracted us to our little home in Rockrimmon. We love the massive blue spruce in front and cherished the privacy we enjoyed from a dozen or so tall pines in back.

    Then pine beetles attacked and killed a handful of our trees, which had to be removed. We’ve felt exposed, like a plumber bent over under a kitchen sink, ever since.

    Anyway, Carol is dreading the loss of the tree, which was part of a pair of silver maples in front of the house when she and her late husband, Clif, bought it in 1979.

    Funny story, she and Clif discovered Colorado Springs in 1968 when they on their way from Chicago to a new job in California. Their car broke down on Raton Pass and they hitched a ride into Colorado Springs with traveling salesmen. They called a friend who happened to be living here and borrowed a car to complete their trip to California.

    “The job in California didn’t work out and we moved back to Chicago,” Carol said. “But we kept dreaming of Colorado Springs. Finally, in 1973, we just decided to go and we picked up and moved here.”

    They found jobs — Clif worked in broadcasting and acted in TV commercials while Carol danced, did choreography and costume design and more — and after a few years they bought their home on Dale Street with the twin silver maples in front.

    But almost immediately one silver maple was cut down by the city after it was declared dead.

    Carol Willis views the decades-old silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard as a "favorite aunt." She hugs it Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn't want it cut down.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Carol Willis views the decades-old silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard as a “favorite aunt.” She hugs it Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn’t want it cut down. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    The other silver maple, however, remained and became a beloved friend.

    “I think of how comfortable, warm and protecting it’s been,” Carol said. “It’s shaded us and never shed one branch.

    “It’s been the home of two nesting pairs of flickers. Squirrels live in it. They really love it.

    They run up and down, chasing each other all the time. They are going to be losing their home.”

    She always looked forward to it leafing out in spring, bringing a burst of green to the neighborhood. In the fall, it turned red. And she loved seeing its wing-shaped seed pods helicopter to the ground.

    “I love them,” she said wistfully of the memory. “And its leaves are so beautiful in the fall.”

    But city foresters plan to remove the tree “sooner rather than later.”

    Even though the tree appears to be alive, even producing leaves through the barely alive bark and branches, it is dead on the inside, said Kurt Schroeder, manager of park operations for the city.

    “The heartwood of the tree is rotted out,” Schroeder said. “It’s hollow in the middle and has raccoons living in it.”

    Given its proximity to the street and houses and pedestrians and cars, Schroeder said the city has no choice but remove it.

    “It has become a potential hazard tree,” he said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. We want to get it down before it blows over.”

    Because the tree sits in the city right-of-way between the sidewalk and curb, Schroeder said it’s the city’s responsibility to remove.

    Schroeder said the tree is very old and the rot may have occurred naturally. Or it may be the result of drought and water restrictions that already killed thousands of trees and threaten many more.

    Colorado Springs in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    Colorado Springs in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    It has happened before. Previous drought cycles have decimated Colorado Springs’ lush urban forest, started by Gen. William Jackson Palmer who transformed a treeless prairie by overseeing the planting of 10,000 trees after founding the city in 1872.

    A drought in the 1950s resulted in widespread destruction and replanting. City foresters at the time aggressively replanted, relying on silver maples along with elm and ash. Foresters estimate Carol’s silver maple at around 60 years old, meaning it could have been planted after that drought event.

    Then came a five-year drought cycle in 2000 that left huge holes in the canopy of trees shading the city.

    Historic parkways in the Old North End saw significant losses as well as those on East Platte Avenue and in the Broadmoor neighborhood.

    Schroeder said Carol is right about the impact of ongoing watering restrictions on the city’s trees.

    “We have a lot of trees in decline,” he said, describing how trees have suffered as more homeowners convert their yards to xeriscape and remove irrigation systems that once fed thick lawns and trees.

    “Unless trees get supplemental water, they will have a much tougher time,” he said.

    And trees in the city’s medians have thirsted for water since the city parks department’s staff and operating budget were slashed, forcing an end to routine watering of medians and parks.

    Part of the problem is that people often don’t start watering trees until they notice stress.

    “By then, it’s usually too late,” he said. “We’ve got to water trees year-round to keep them healthy.”

    Sadly, it’s too late for Carol’s silver maple.

    Now, she’s considering whether to replace it and if she should choose a buckeye or a horse chestnut. I think she should replant. And, hopefully, she’ll get to watch a new tree grow and give those squirrels and flickers a new home.

    This towering silver maple in the parkway along Dale Street near Colorado College has shaded the neighborhood 60 years or more. Now, the city says the tree's core is dead and it must be removed before it falls over. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This towering silver maple in the parkway along Dale Street near Colorado College has shaded the neighborhood 60 years or more. Now, the city says the tree’s core is dead and it must be removed before it falls over. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • 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.”