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COBWEB CORNERS: How Manitou used to get 'plastered'

By Mel McFarland

       I have talked before about Manitou's limestone and plaster business in November 2012, September 2011 and in September 2007.
       In January, 1921 the plaster mill was just getting cranked up again. People used to say that Manitou was a "little mountain resort." The town had just opened an industry which promised to surpass almost every other enterprise of a commercial nature in the Pikes Peak region. The lime was deposited in huge rocks up through Ute Pass and in many of the canyons around the town. A plant was erected just above Minnehaha Avenue in June, 1920. There were three kilns and a dehydrating plant. The capacity per day was 40 to 50 tons of plaster. It cost $100,000 to erect the plant, according to J.C. Roberts, president of the Western Lime company, which built it. Some 20 men were employed.
       Prior to the opening of the plant, all the lime products used in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and other nearby states came from Missouri, Texas, Idaho or Utah. Now the big supply was here at home!
       The supply of limestone in Ute Pass along the Midland Terminal railroad, and in Williams Canyon and other points near Manitou is so great that even if a much larger plant was run at full capacity every day and night for 100 years, hardly any difference would be noticed in the amount of limestone still remaining. The objection to a factory of any kind in Manitou (because of the idea that factories mean dirt and smoke) was countered by using electricity. Western Lime installed three 30-horsepower electric motors and a number of 20- horsepower and 10- horsepower motors. They powered a large shaft that ran through the plant and turned all the machinery. With the hydroelectric plant on Ruxton, the lime kilns got first chance at the power source right from the slopes of the Rockies.
       Anyway, Manitou from the earliest days of the pioneers, had a lime industry! There once were old ruins of lime kilns near Adams Crossing, between Colorado City and Manitou. Even before the first health seeker or the first tourist trod a foot in Manitou, a quarry was opened in Williams Canyon by ansestors of O.P. Snyder, best known for the quarry in the red rocks west of Colorado City. At that time, the lime was hauled to Adams Crossing and run through the process of purification in those kilns and shipped away. When the Cave of the Winds was discovered, tourists were drawn to Williams Canyon in such numbers that the lime manufacturers quit the business. The kilns were closed, the buildings abandoned and soon the business was almost entirely forgotten. The newer operation ran to the 1950s. If you stop at the exit at Serpentine and US 24 and look south of the Manitou water tank, you can see how those hills were changed during this lime operation.

(Posted 3/16/14; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

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