Bock family: Sold Red Rock after plans denied

       Editor’s note: The following article/opinion piece is the second of two parts.

By Dave Hughes

       While I started working to rescue the half-deserted Westside's “Old Town” business district from neglect and the wrecker's ball in the 1970s, I studied the history of the original Colorado City and its environs. I ran across several self-published small books and a visionary developmental plan by the elder Bock (John G.) and his sons.

John G. Bock, around 1930, with sons Richard (left) and John S.
Courtesy of Richard Bock

Richard Bock some years later.
Courtesy of Richard Bock

       In one book, “In Red Rock Canyon” - which even included his own cowboy poetry - John G. Bock writes that in the 1930s he created a local museum. I asked his two boys, “Where was the museum?” It had been put in what was originally the second Colorado City Hall, at 26th and Cucharras streets. But it closed during the 1930s Depression, in part because their father had to charge admission and, in his words, the “wealthy” of Colorado Springs looked down on him and built their own “free” museum - now the misnamed Pioneers Museum.
       Bock's was the real frontier-area museum, with hundreds of rifles and ranching, Indian and railroad items - even original Spanish brass stirrups. His sons stored that museum's contents right on their property until nearly 1980, when they asked $32,000 for the 1,200 items in it. I didn't have that sum handy, but I knew its historical value. So I paid out over $6,000 for several hundred items, from saloon gambling and drinking paraphernalia to ranching and frontier relics, all from the original Colorado City and southern Colorado ranchland. Most of those items I loaned out are still displayed in the Old Colorado City History Center - today's museum. That collection was another of Bock's legacies.

The Colorado City Museum that John G. owned in the 1930s.
Westside Pioneer archives

       By the 1950s, John and his wife Sylvia had to move to Arizona for John's deteriorating health. He died in 1966. I never got to meet him.
       Both sons, John S. and Richard, attempted to design and market Red Rock Canyon as a “world trade center,” which would match the Broadmoor in design elegance and also natural beauty. They solicited my advice.
       Their property had one major problem - access from the divided-highway Midland Expressway to their ridge-enclosed property. The State of Colorado promised an overpass to their land, then reneged.
       Then covetous City of Colorado Springs denied the Bocks water from the city system. The county commissioners, the City Council and the state, lobbied by other business interests including the Broadmoor, opposed what they saw as “competition” for a resort outside the city limits - designed by those cranky Bock brothers.
       But being pretty visionary myself about the future, I suggested (and John pursued) turning the site into a world teleport center - wherein a large company like AT&T could not only put up a giant telecommunication satellite dish that could carry business data to and from the Springs but also build an office center at the teleport base, with exporters, finance and associated international firms on the west side of their property. Then new private homes could be built for the employees on the east side of the same spectacular Red Rock property. In this way, those people could go to work and be connected to the rest of the world with what we now call - 20 years later - “the Internet,” without loading up Highway 24 and the Midland corridor with daily traffic.

Part of Richard's model for Red Rock Canyon. The tall vertical shapes in valleys and on mesa represent business and/or residential buildings. View looks south, with Highwy 24 at bottom and 31st Street at upper left.
Courtesy of Don Ellis

       I proposed that idea in the 1990s to city leaders. That was too futuristic for limited-vision Colorado Springs. So I pursued it independently. Soon afterwards, in 2002, John S. Bock died, the family vision dying with him (Richard no longer being an owner). In 2003, the city purchased the 789 acres from John's surviving wife Joan.
       Richard, now 89, lives in Arizona and in recent months sent color copies to the Westside Pioneer of the visionary plans he had for Red Rock Canyon, including the world trade center and an Indian college. You can examine those documents in the Reference Library of the Old Colorado City History Center.
       The Bocks never stopped dreaming. And they saved that precious natural resource. So those of you who tramp through Red Rock Canyon should tip your Stetson to the whole Bock family, whose lonely work and legacy gave you the recreational resource you have today.

Dave Hughes can be contacted at dave@oldcolo.com.