History of Colorado Springs

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The history of Colorado Springs doesn't begin simply with its discovery, its first inhabitants or its founding, as is the case with so many American cities. Its creation dates back tens of millions of years ago when powerful geological forces molded this part of the earth into a range of sky-scraping mountains.

The area which today is known as Colorado Springs, a natural retreat located at the base of Pikes Peak, was once thought to be an unconquerable alpine wilderness, too rugged for comfortable living. However intimidating the landscape, its beauty drew settlers from several Native American tribes, including the Arapaho and Cheyenne. The land, rich with wild game and pure mineral springs, made a good home - one in which they lived alone for several hundred years.

In the first decade of the nineteenth century, intrepid explorers began to push further west in search of land, fur and wealth. The most notable expedition to the Colorado Springs area was undertaken in 1806, headed by a young lieutenant in the United States Army, a man by the name of Zebulon Pike. Upon sighting the immense mountain, Pike vowed to conquer it. His small group was battered by a winter storm and eventually had to concede the climb, but Pike was later honored for his ambitious quest by having his name grace the beautiful peak.

The passing decades saw few settlers but a great deal of traffic as prospectors flooded west into California, seeking their fortune in gold nuggets. By 1859, a small town called Colorado City had formed to serve as a midway point where supplies and mining equipment could be housed. It was this developing industry that brought General William Jackson Palmer to town.

Palmer was scouting the land for a railway he was building when he passed through Colorado City. The mild climate and breathtaking countryside vistas of the area just outside the city held a special appeal for the Civil War veteran and railroad magnate. He imagined creating a sprawling resort community modeled after those he frequented along the East Coast. He was so charmed that in 1871 he established himself in the community and began planning the town that would be Colorado Springs.

In the years before the turn of the century, the new city flourished as a western retreat for upscale travelers from New England. It was during this time that Palmer constructed what was the first incarnation of a Colorado Springs institution, the Antlers Hotel. The larger-than-life frontier environment and warm lodge-like accommodations attracted luminaries from the uppermost echelons of society. And Americans were not the only ones enchantedso many British tourists frequented during the summer months, the city was dubbed "Little London."

This bustling, yet peaceful, microcosm was shattered in 1891 when gold was struck in the citys neighboring town of Cripple Creek. Colorado Springs experienced a huge influx of people 'the population more than tripled' all eager to claim their part of the riches. Many of these new residents found their dreams realized and settled in Colorado Springs as gold-rush millionaires.

One of these men, Spencer Penrose, used his fortune to leave a permanent mark on the city. He funded the construction of several of Colorado Springs' most enduring landmarks, including the Broadmoor, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. The city was young and wealthy, and growing by leaps and bounds. These heady days continued for 25 years, until the federal government began using silver for coin currency, and gold mining became less profitable. Colorado Springs once again focused on the tourism industry.

The city was no longer flush with money, but the next two decades were comfortably prosperous for its residents. Tourists from the world over continued to visit Pikes Peak and its mountain town, but another change was on the horizon. America became embroiled in World War II, and the country was in need of more military bases. Colorado Springs found itself the new home for both Fort Carson Army Base and Peterson Air Force Base. Even after the war was resolved, the military community grew with the addition of the Air Force Academy and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Colorado Springs was again changing.

Today, the city boasts an impressive history as a gold-mining boom town, a posh western resort and one of the nations major military capitals. Even with such success, Colorado Springs continues to be a community on the forefront of industry, as it has been throughout its existence. Technology is now part of the diverse mix, and more people than ever are being drawn to live by the mountains. Colorado Springs, the creation of a forward-thinking businessman, embraces this enterprising philosophy and its history, but strives on in search of new frontiers.