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    Wed, October 5, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    (Special thanks to Matt Mayberry, director of the Pioneers Museum, for helping me with the history of the house, neighborhood and its owners!)

    Take a good look at the Steven Stearman House on the campus of Penrose Hospital north of downtown Colorado Springs. In a couple days, it will be gone.

    The Steven Stearman House on the campus of Penrose Hospital north of downtown Colorado Springs as it looked Oct. 4, 2011. The century-old house was to be demolished on Saturday, Oct. 8. For the past 30 years, it served as a guest house with four apartments for families of hospital patients. A salvage crew hired by the Old North End Neighborhood removed as many fixtures, doors, windows and wood trim prior to demolition.

    The old house has been vacant since 2008 when Penrose opened the new John Zay Guest House.

    Now, it is coming down to make room for more parking for  a nearly completed four-story medical office building, Penrose spokesman Chris Valentine said.

    Folks in the adjacent Old North End Neighborhood had hopes of saving the house, moving it and restoring it into a community center.

    Penrose even offered the $50,000 it will spend razing it toward relocating it.

    But the cost of moving totalled $80,000. Then there was the expense a lot, which nearly doubled the cost. Building a new foundation and restoration would drive the price so high the neighborhood couldn’t afford it.

    The Steven Stearman House doesn't look terribly different from the day it was built circa 1900 by Charles H. Tyler, a retired real estate and manufacturing baron from St. Louis who came to Colorado Springs and started building homes on "Tyler Place" just west of North Nevada Avenue.


    This GoogleEarth image does not show the new four-story medical office building nearly completed just south across Tyler Place from the Stearman House.

    It’s a shame because it’s a great old house. From one angle, it doesn’t look much different than it did when it was built circa 1900.

    In reality, it’s an architectural orphan — a Queen Anne Victorian-style house amid a sea of concrete slab parking structures and office buildings of Penrose Hospital.

    The value of the house is not lost on leaders of the Old North End.  They tried to save it, recognizing a rich piece of its history will be lost Saturday.

    But like an organ donor, the house will live on in perhaps dozens of neighboring houses thanks to a last-minute salvage effort by neighborhood leaders.

    They will take the salvaged fixtures, windows, doors, trim and other items and store them for a silent auction among the neighborhoods 900 or so residents and business groups.

    A 1940 aerial photo of Penrose Hospital with the Tyler Place neighborhood at the top. Photo courtsey the Pikes Peak Library District archives.

    Still, the Stearman House deserves to be remembered for the man who built it and the surrounding neighborhood now vanished, for its noteworthy owners and, more important, for the service it provided during the last 30 years as a guest home for out-of-town families of hospital patients.

    A 2010 aerial photo of the Penrose Hospital campus from GoogleEarth showing the Stearman House and highlighting the old Tyler Place neighborhood.

    The two-story frame home with large windows, hardwood floors, ornate trim, fireplace and wrap-around porch is the last link, in its original location, to Charles H. Tyler, who moved to Colorado Springs in 1900 from St. Louis where he had amassed a fortune in real estate and manufacturing.

    He died at age 69 on June 20, 1902. But during his brief time here, Tyler built a handful of homes west of Nevada Avenue on “Tyler Place.” He went by the title “Captain Tyler” based on his claim as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River during the Civil War years.


    (His obituary also claimed he invented the roll top desk. Of course, the 1850 U.S. Patent is held by Abner Cutler of Buffalo, N.Y. and historians trace the desk design to 18th century France.)

    Vic Appugliese, president of the Old North End Neighborhood, orchestrated a salvage effort of the Stearman House. Items taken from the house will be sold at a silent auction with proceeds to benefit the neighborhood.

    From 1915 to 1924, the house was home to T. Ernest Nowles, who joined the Evening Telegraph newspaper in 1901 as a reporter, rose to managing editor and eventually negotiated the merger with The Gazette in 1923. He became president and general manager of the merged Gazette Telegraph, titles he held until he sold the paper to R.C. Hoiles in January 1946.

    In 1981 the house became known as the Steven Stearman House in honor of a cancer victim whose surviving family financed its conversion into apartments for families of Penrose Hospital patients.

    Preserving that history was foremost in the mind of Vic Appugliese, president of the Old North End Neighborhood Association, when he learned the house was to be demolished.

    “My grand scheme was to save this house, move it somewhere in the neighborhood and use it as a community center for the Old North End,” Appugliese said. “Ultimately, we realized that due to time, expense and location the house couldn’t be saved. So we decided to take what we could out of it and continue to dream of a community center.”

    So Penrose agreed to let the Old North End hire a crew to remove the interior fixtures and trim. The items, combined with others salvaged from a home demolished by Colorado College, will be sold at a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the neighborhood.

    The organ donation was a good idea but Appugliese doesn’t want people to forget Tyler Place, the captain, Nowles, Stearman and the rest.

    “I want people to remember that this was a home to a lot of people,” Appugliese said.  

    “This was a place of solitude for years for people visiting the hospital. It gave a lot of comfort to a lot of people over the years.”

    Some of the windows and trim salvaged from the Stearman House.


    Cheyenne Mountain is visible from the front bedroom of the Stearman House.



    Penrose Hospital spokesman Chris Valentine looks over the salvaged items inside the Stearman House.




    Wed, July 20, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    It’s called the Margery Reed Memorial Park in honor of a long-dead heiress and ex-nursing student whose mother gave large sums to the predecessor of Penrose Hospital.  

    The park is a symbol of efforts by the hospital’s owners, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, to get along with the Old North End Neighborhood.  

    Wildflowers are a highlight of the Margery Reed Memorial Park, built by Penrose Health Systems on the corner of Cascade Avenue and Jackson Street for its patients, staff, visitors and the neighborhood to use.

    Personally, I’d call it “Amity Park” as a tribute to the positive relationship it represents.  

    It sits at the corner of Cascade Avenue and Jackson Street.  

     The park isn’t huge. It’s a “pocket” park, actually. But it’s a nice little oasis amid the east and west towers, the parking structure and asphalt lots of the Penrose Hospital campus.  

    It is seeded with wildflowers and landscaped with trees and shrubs and lined with walkways that function beyond aesthetics.  

    Jamie Smith, chief operating officer of Penrose-St. Francis, tells me they were designed in a variety of surfaces — concrete, brick, wood, gravel — for use in therapy by rehabilitation patients.  


    Penrose Hospital has restored and put on display a tuberculosis hut at Margery Reed Memorial Park. It is furnished to the period at the turn of the 20th century when Colorado Springs was a center for treatment of the lung disease. Penrose traces its roots to 1890 when the Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium opened.

    I really like the restored tuberculosis hut on the corner of the park, which is furnished with a bed, dresser, trunk, nightstand and chair from the period in the early 20th century when Colorado Springs was a center for treatment of tuberculosis.  

    The interior of the tuberculosis hut contains historically accurate furnishings. The huts were common in Colorado Springs in the earlh 20th century.

    Tuberculosis patients lived in the one-room huts which lined the lawns of the Modern Woodmen of America sanatorium grounds from 1909 to 1947.

     The TB huts were lined up by the dozens outside the Modern Woodmen of America sanatorium north of town deep in the Woodmen Valley.

    Today we know the area as Peregrine!


    The Modern Woodmen is a fraternal organization and insurance company and it provided free treatment to its members at the sanatorium. The huts are visible around Colorado Springs in backyards, as businesses, country lane bus stops and other uses. 

    The park and TB hut are just one of many efforts by Penrose to be a good neighbor. It has tried to soften the appearance of its buildings by heavily landscaping around its borders. 

    It has adopted historic street lamps to blend with those installed in the neighborhood. 

    It even reached out to the neighborhood in 2010 and conducted a health wellness program over 10 months. 

    Penrose Hospital is located in the Old North End Neighborhood and residents give the hospital credit for working hard to address neighbors' concerns on issues such as appearance, traffic, noise and smooking.

     When neighbors saw the drawings for its east tower, built in 2005, they asked the hospital to enhance the appearance with curves and other design touches. Voila’ the building became more graceful!  

    The East Tower of Penrose Hospital, built in 2005, is an example of the cooperation between the hospital and the Old North End Neighborhood. The building was redesigned, at the neighborhood's request, to give it a curved appearance and other design touches to better blend with nearby residences.

    A painting of Margery Reed.

    As for the park’s namesake, Margery Reed, I found some interesting history from Penrose spokesman Chris Valentine. 

    Margery was the daughter of Mary and Verner Reed who moved to Colorado Springs in 1893. Verner made his fortune in mining, banking, ranching and irrigation. Margery was born in 1894. They also had two sons. 

    Verner died in 1919, leaving Mary a fortune which she used in charitable and philanthropic projects. 

    Margery, meanwhile, studied nursing student at Glockner before ultimately graduating from the University of Denver in 1919 with a degree in English and took a position as an assistant professor of English. That’s where she met her future husband, Paul Mayo, who also taught English. 

    A painting of Mary Reed, Colorado Springs philanthropist.

    In 1924 Paul and Margery traveled to Peru, where he joined the diplomatic service. Margery became ill in Peru and returned to the U.S., where she died at age 30. 

    To honor her daughter,  She died young and her family donated $100,000 toward construction of Margery Reed Mayo Hall at DU, which opened in 1929. 

    Then Mary Reed presented DU with $350,000 in cash and an additional $180,000 trust fund income to erect a new library that would bear her name. 

    In April 1941, Glockner celebrated the opening of a new $250,000 addition to its nurses’ home. It was named the Margery Reed building and was a gift from Mary Reed. 

    Old photos of Margery Reed Hall at the University of Denver

    Within the Margery Reed Nurses Home was placed some of her most cherished possessions. In the wood-paneled library was a large oil portrait of Margery and her entire library of 1,000 volumes. 

    Margery Reed’s ashes also remain at Penrose Hospital in two urns. 

    Here’s a link to a good story written in 2007 by my colleague, Scott Rappold, about Colorado Springs’ history as a tuberculosis treatment center. 



    Sun, December 12, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Caramillo Street is one of those cool old streets in the Old North End Neighborhood of Colorado Springs.

    I’m talking specifcally about the block between Weber Street and Wahsatch Avenue.

    It’s short — fewer than a dozen homes – and narrow — maybe three cars wide. And it’s century-old houses are crowded together.

    The street is shaded by a canopy of beautiful old trees. The homes have porches and sun decks. And it’s adjacent to Shooks Run Trail.

    Here’s a look at it during summer from Google Maps.

     But as great as it looks in the summer, it’s even better during the Christmas season.

    I immediately assumed there must be some fun people living on Caramillo. So I started making some calls. Turns out, my instincts were correct.

    These are people who work hard to get along and enjoy their neighbors.

    It’s folks like Tim and Camilla Mitchell, who have lived there 18 years. Their high school-aged daughter has had keys to most of the homes, Tim said, because she’s the neighborhood pet watcher for folks on vacation.

    It’s Gina Bamberger and Patrick Carter, both doctors, who have lived there since 1997 and even moved from one home to another when they needed a bigger house. They didn’t want to leave Caramillo or their friends.

    The neighbors all identify Patrick as being the sparkplug who ignites much of the fun. And they credit Gina for feeding everyone.

    The two couples get credit from others on Caramillo for being the catalyts for such events as the summer movie nights they enjoy. A movie screen is hung from one neighbor’s porch. A DVD projector is brought out and everyone contributes to a potluck dinner.

    The movies attract dozens from surrounding streets, as well.

    Tim and Patrick also were the force behind the Christmas lighting tradition. Tim saw lights draped across the streets of Hilton Head, S.C., and soon Patrick was exhorting everyone to light Caramillo.

    The transformation is amazing. Check it out:


    Gina Bamberger said the decorated bicycle on the porch typically rests in the garden as a decoration but her son hoisted it on the roof for Christmas. He wanted to add a special touch to the neighborhood decor and the family had banned any inflatables.

    Here’s another view of the decorations looking west.

    The neighborhood has an even cooler twist on the holiday decorations.

    It’s a tradition that started spontaneously. On one night, for a short period of time, the neighbors gather in their front yards, build a fire, play music and give away cookies and hot cider to passersby.

    How cool is that? I’m very impressed.

    Please don’t call me for details on the cookie and cider giveaway. I’m sworn to secrecy. Maybe you’ll get lucky and stumble onto it.

     I know I intend to be there!



    Wed, December 8, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    In day light, Margot Lane’s twin fir trees at 1535 Culebra Ave. in the Old North End Neighborhood are impressive. They stand nearly nine stories high at about 88 feet each. (See the map below).

    For a month each year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, the tree are more than impressive. At night, they are spectacular.

    That’s when Margot turns on the juice and 37,000 mini white bulbs glow.




























    What started in 1999 as Margot and John Lane’s tribute to their son, Bruce, who had died of cancer, has evolved into an annual Christmas gift to Colorado Springs.

    Except that Margot is moving in the spring, meaning this could be the last year the trees are lit.

    Here are some statistics courtesy of Bob Marchiani of Rocky Mountain Tree Specialist.

    He and his son, Marco, spend the week before Thanksgiving weaving 740 strands of white mini lights into the trees. Each strand has 50 bulbs.

    Here are a couple other views:

    To be precise, the east tree gets 340 strands while the west tree gets 400 strands.

    The east tree is the taller of the pair. Bob measured it at about 88 feet while the west tree is about a foot shorter.

    Bob made his calculations this way: the bucket at the end of its boom on the back of his truck stands 60 feet high. Bob then uses poles extended 20 feet, 6 inches. With his arms fully extended and standing on his tippy toes, he gains another 7 feet, 6 inches.

    Bob said he and Marco use 35 extension cords, ranging from 6 feet to 12 feet long, attached to eight wiring harnesses that drop down to four power outlets at the base of each tree.

    One tree draws  57 amps while the other draws 55 amps.

    Bob said squirrels do tremendous damage to the lights, chewing through the wires and making other mischief. Ravens also attack the bulbs. Wind is another enemy of the lights.

    Here’s a map:



    Wed, July 14, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    It took three years, but the furor over the Great Wall of Cascade Avenue appears to be over and it has been lowered to comply with Colorado Springs building codes!

    Disgruntled residents of homeowners associations, or HOAs, will soon have a state agency to turn to for help.

    And the battle for control of the Crystal Park HOA rages on, even after a special meeting appeared to result in a recall vote ousting six board members.

    First, the wall.

    The wall around the Old North End home of Holger and Sally Christiansen has been lowered in response to a judge's order. The city granted the couple permission to let their decorative columns, called pilasters, exceed the maximum wall height of 6 feet. The chainlink gates appear to be temporary in this July 14, 2010, photo.

    It’s been three years since a furor erupted in the Old North End Neighborhood, north of Colorado College, over Holger and Sally Christiansen‘s wall.

    In July 2007, neighbors started complaining to the neighborhood association and the city. Public meetings were held. Hearings. Eventually, the dispute led to lawsuits filed by the city and the couple.

    The Christiansens lost and were ordered to lower the wall to achieve compliance with city codes limiting it to a maximum 6 feet in height.

    They complied. But they received one favor from the city. They were allowed to leave their decorative columns, called finials. They exceed the maximum by about a foot.

    The three-year battle over the wall built by Holger and Sally Christiansen around their Old North End Neighborhood home seems to be over. The wall has been lowered, at a judge's order, to comply with city building codes which set a maximum height of 6 feet. This is a July 14, 2010, photo.

    Here’s a link to an earlier story on the wall.

    And this link will take you to prior blogs on the subject.

    The HOA Information and Resource Center will open Jan. 1, 2011, thanks to action by the Colorado General Assembly.

    Here’s a link to previous columns about the center.

    And this link will take you to blog postings.

    Lastly, Crystal Park remains in a furor over its HOA board of directors.

    After months of campaining, dissidents in the private, gated community succeeded in gathering sufficient votes to oust the board.

    They claimed 184 votes to recall the board. They needed 181 votes for a majority of the 360 members of the community above Manitou Springs.

    Not so fast, said the existing board. It deemed the meeting and vote illegal.

    I’m guessing this puppy ends up in court where only the attorneys will be the winners.

    Here’s a link to an earlier column on Crystal Park.

    Read my related blog post at this link.



    Wed, February 3, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    Fourth Judicial District Judge Timothy Simmons, below, wasn’t buying what Holger and Sally Christiansen were selling.


    Simmons presided over a three-day bench trial last month in the case of Colorado Springs vs. the Christiansens and their coutersuit over their construction of a massive red brick wall around the compound of their Old North End Neighborhood mansion on North Cascade Avenue.

    The city accused the Christiansens — he’s an architect and she’s a real estate agent — of building their wall without proper permits, without necessary Historic Preservation approval, and in violation of codes governing height, public easements and setbacks.

    They started construction in June 2007 and continued work even after the city issued a “stop work order” and warned them it was not in compliance.

    In other words, it was too tall, sat too close to property lines and encroached on city property by straying about two feet into an alleyway. Here’s a look at the wall in a photo I took in May 2008 when I first wrote about it. I’ve also blogged about it several times. Here’s my most recent postings.



















     Simmons rejected their arguments in an 11-page verdict which ended by giving the Christiansens 90 days to lower the wall to 72 inches. Here’s a link to the verdict so you can read it for yourself: simmons-verdict

    It’s a “very big victory” for the city, said Will Bain, senior city attorney, because it affirmed his argument that city codes, permitting procedures and appeals processes must be followed and not short-circuited by a trip to court.

    “We argued to the judge that this is not something the court can determine,” Bain said. “The city’s process has to be honored.”

    In his closing arguments, Bain actually argued that the Christiansens were asking for special treatment.

    “The case comes down to whether the city is a city of laws or a city of men,” Bain told Simmons. The Gazette’s John Ensslin reported on the trial at his excellent Sidebar blog on Gazette.com.

    The couple had maintained they were singled out for selective enforcement, denied due process and had their constitutional rights violated. They claimed they could not get a fair hearing before the Historic Preservation Board.

    The Christiansens have 45 days to file an appeal and 90 days to lower the wall.

    I called Holger at his architect office to see what he planned to do.


    He hung up on me.

    Fire up another bowl of popcorn. This could be a double feature!