Plaque that ID’d historic Westside fort stolen
Since 1936, a bronze plaque in front of 2818 W. Pikes Peak Ave. has told the tale of a long-ago fort, which in the 1860s had provided settlers a “defense against the Indians.”
But the plaque, attached to a stone slab on the sidewalk, had no defense for itself last week. The Valdez family, which lives at 2818, reported it missing to Colorado Springs Police Jan. 5.
Matt Mayberry, director of the city's cultural services division and the Pioneers Museum, said he fears the plaque may never be recovered. “Sadly, we're having plaques stolen all over the community, old and new,” he said. “My guess is it was stolen for scrap.”
Asked how a clearly historic piece could pass the scrutiny of a metal dealer, Mayberry responded that thieves have their ways. “I'm totally speculating,” he said, “but it may have gotten cut up. Elsewhere in the country, that's been done with sculptures. It's less obvious that way.”
It's not known what steps the police are taking. When Shirley and Ed Valdez reported the plaque missing, the person taking the call at the main police number said they would be provided with a case number for the crime within three days. But as of Jan. 11, nearly a week later, they still had no number. Ed said he has left messages on the answering machine at the phone number police had told him to call, but no one has called back.
In any case, no major clues appear to have been left behind. Shirley said she saw no tool marks or evidence of damage to the stone.
Mayberry is not sure if that means the thieves were careful or just lucky that the plaque came out easily. A past photo of the marker shows that it was held in place with a screw at each corner.
Based on experience with other thefts, he said, “if they had to wreck it [the stone], they would have.”
If anyone has information about the missing plaque, they should call the Police Department. The Westside's Gold Hill station is at 385-2100.
In the event the original plaque is not recovered, Mayberry said he is doubtful if his own budget could spare the cost, which he estimates at about $1,000. He is open to anyone who would like to fund a replacement and can be reached at 385-5636.
However, he also has the concern that, if a new plaque were also made of valuable metal, another theft might occur. “It's so infuriating,” Mayberry said.
The marker was in good repair. In 2009, responding to a neighborhood concern, the city had upgraded the concrete pedestal beneath the stone slab. The plaque itself seemed to need no care. Valdez said she once tried to polish it, but it didn't make any difference.
Dated 1936, the plaque had the inscription: “This marks the site of the old fort and stockade built by pioneers of Colorado City used in defense against the Indians in 1861 and 1868, constructed of logs set end on end.”
The plaque also stated that the marker had been erected by the State Historical Society of Colorado, the Mrs. J.N. Hall Foundation, the El Paso County Pioneers Association and the City of Colorado Springs.
The plaque did not state that it was the Anway Hotel, but historians have agreed that it had that name by 1868. According to a 2002 article by Dave Hughes in the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) newsletter, an unpublished Anway family manuscript told the story of Harvey Anway coming to Colorado City in 1865 with his family, trading his team of horses for the hotel/fort and operating it for several years. When Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians “went on the warpath” in 1868, “all the women and children of tiny Colorado City slept in 'The Fort' for protection while their men stood guard,” Hughes wrote.
For Ed and Shirley Valdez, who have rented at 2818 W. Pikes Peak Ave. for five years, having the marker in front of their house has given their home a special quality. Shirley has saved a copy of a newspaper article (given to her by a neighbor), which described the plaque's commemoration ceremony and that Mayor George Birdsall was among those in attendance.
“That's why the marker meant so much to us,” she said. “It commemorated the history.”
Westside Pioneer article