The Colorado Springs 150th Anniversary Is Finally Here
This year, the City of Colorado Springs is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a city. A sesquicentennial (don’t worry, we can’t pronounce it either) is a pretty big deal for any city. That’s a long time to grow and thrive — and boy have we thrived. Once a tiny resort enclave and Gold Rush pit stop for optimistic miners on their way into the mountains, Colorado Springs has grown to become the 39th largest city in the United States.
There’s no question that we are huge fans of Colorado Springs. We spend a significant amount of time sharing just how awesome it is so that everyone else will love it too. Frankly, we don’t even have to work that hard. The city truly sells itself. In honor of our love of this quintessentially Colorado city, we’re going to share a little bit about the history of Colorado Springs.
How It All Began: The Founding of Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs was founded in 1871 by William J. Palmer (the man on the horse smack in the middle of one of our busiest downtown intersections). He designed the streets in the area (we aren’t so sure if we’re thankful about that, trucked in trees to beautify the city and established some of the city’s most beloved parks. He also eventually built his wife a castle. She rarely used it because the altitude made her sick, but it’s the thought that counts. Today you can visit Glen Eyerie and explore and even stay the night.
Palmer’s influence preserved much of the inner-city open space that residents and visitor still enjoy today. Considering the rapid pace of development since the city was first established, that’s definitely a good thing. It also might be the reason Colorado Springs is known for sprawling out in all directions.
Palmer wasn’t the only influencer making waves in the city. The teetotaling entrepreneur would eventually have to contend with another philanthropic capitalist — one that really, really liked his booze. Sassy bootlegger and savvy entrepreneur Spencer Penrose arrived in Colorado Springs in the late 1800s. He promptly struck it rich in Cripple Creek and used that money to fund a variety of ventures that only led to more success. One of those ventures was establishing a substantial number of attractions that residents and visitors still enjoy in Colorado Springs today.
Penrose built the world-famous Broadmoor Hotel, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Pikes Peak Highway. He also established the race that runs up that same highway each year, known as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. We highly doubt the man had any concept of the speeds with which future racers would hit those infamous switchbacks at the time. Maybe he would have made the road a bit further from all those giant drop-offs.
Quick and Cool Facts About Colorado Springs
There’s no question that Colorado Springs has a pretty interesting history. We thought we’d launch our celebration of the 150th birthday with some really cool facts about our city.
- Colorado Springs became a city before Colorado became a state. Colorful Colorado was still just the Territory of Colorado when Colorado Springs was established in 1871. The state would take another 5 years to make things official. Good thing they kept the name, or we would all look really silly.
- Colorado Springs was on the frontier, but it wasn’t your average Wild West town. It was a place for the elite to vacation and rub elbows, as well as a health retreat.
- “America the Beautiful” was penned by Katharine Lee Bates around 1895 after a trip up Pikes Peak. We can only surmise her awe was inspired by the grand view of Colorado Springs.
- Spencer Penrose, who you may remember as the other man whose name is plastered on a variety of landmarks and organizations, is interred with his wife, Julie, in the floor of the chapel of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun at Cheyenne Mountain
- William J. Palmer was less extra than his fellow city builder and is currently buried in Colorado Springs in an actual cemetery. You can visit his grave at Evergreen Cemetery located near Memorial Park.
- Nikola Tesla, tragic genius, had an experimental lab in Colorado Springs.
- Garden of the Gods is not allowed to charge any entrance fees or build any structures that are not a complete necessity for its maintenance. These rules were established when the family of Charles Elliott Perkins gifted the park to the city.
- Fannie May Duncan, a philanthropist, activist and entrepreneur called our fair city home and established one of the first integrated jazz clubs — the Cotton Club.
A Snapshot of Colorado Springs on Her 150th Birthday
Like Paul Rudd, the City of Colorado Springs just seems to look a little bit younger each year. The city is huge, much larger than Palmer or Penrose could have ever fathomed when they came here in the 1800s. The city’s most recent population report estimates a population of 498,879 people. The last reported size of the city was 195 square miles. However, that census was taken in 2010 so we are confident it has expanded even more in the last decade.
While the city still supports a thriving tourism industry like the days of old, it has also become a haven for artists and a place where industries such as health care, defense and recreation thrive. The latter is boosted by the copious amount of park land and numerous outdoor attractions established by the city’s forefathers 150 years ago. In short, this city is still looking as fine, if not finer, than she did the day she was established. Happy birthday, Colorado Springs!