Rock Ledge: It all started with a cabin

       A casual visitor to Rock Ledge Ranch's Galloway Cabin may come away with the impression that its owner was just another settler who scratched out a living in the region's early days.

Ken and Jan Hardison pose in front of a painting of the Rock Ledge House in the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center's Red Rocks Room.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Elsie Chambers, wife of Robert Chambers, even described Walter Galloway as a “plain, plodding, day laborer,” Ken Hardison related in a presentation with his wife Jan as part of the weekly “Look at the Garden” lecture series at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center April 23.
       But Galloway was also an astute businessman, Hardison pointed out. First, he successfully applied for the federal government's homesteading program, giving him the chance to keep 160 acres just east of the Garden of the Gods at no cost if he could show steady cultivation of the land for five years.
       Then, in November 1874, after 3 ½ years, Galloway was able to work out a revised homesteading deal that allowed him to purchase the land for $170. “The following day,” Hardison said, Galloway sold the land to the Chambers family for $1,400.
       The Chambers didn't do so bad themselves when it came to selling the property. After working the land for 26 years, they sold it to Colorado Springs founder William Palmer for $17,000. Of course, by then they had built the Rock Ledge House (which remains a landmark building to this day on what is now a city- owned historic site).
       The Chambers had moved to the area because of Elsie's tuberculosis issues (she was also pregnant with her third child). Living in a small wooden house early on, they had the Rock Ledge house built within the first year they were on the property. Their domicile also became a source of income, Ken Hardison recounted. They partitioned it and rented the space they didn't use. Other income came from farming and Elsie's teaching in a school the couple helped start and then oversaw.
       According to Jan Hardison, Palmer bought the land primarily for its Camp Creek water rights (the same rights that belong today to the Navigators organization that owns Palmer's Glen Eyrie property on Camp Creek).
       Palmer proceeded to add to the land's value by hiring well-known architect Tom MacLaren to design the Orchard House in 1907, Jan explained. The Cape Town Dutch Colonial style was chosen with respect to William and Charlotte Sclater, who were moving there from Cape Town, South Africa. (Charlotte was a half-sister of Palmer's wife Queen.)
       But after Palmer's death in 1909, the Sclaters moved away. The property was eventually sold by Palmer's estate, and four different families lived there over the next 50 years, until City Parks bought it (through the El Pomar Foundation) in 1968. The site has developed over time into an 1880s-style attraction/working ranch with regular summer hours and some special events.
       In their talk, they also addressed a folk mystery about Rock Ledge - how it gained the name “White House Ranch.” This was how the property was known for the latter part of the 20th century. A former caretaker has written that people started calling it by that name after an owner in the 1940s painted the Orchard House - the property's most visible house from 30th Street - white.
       According to Jan Hardison, City Parks eventually discovered the original color of the house had been beige – with a pinkish tint because of the crushed redstone surface beneath. In the 1980s, the original color was restored, and in the ‘90s the name changed to that which Elsie Chambers had given it: Rock Ledge Ranch.
       The Hardisons are retired from their respective careers (Ken as an avionics engineer and Jan as a secondary schools and college instructor), and both now serve as tour guides at Glen Eyrie as well as volunteers with Rock Ledge Ranch and the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center.
       Another ranch mystery, Jan said, is the actual boundaries of the original Galloway property, compared with those today. The current ranch consists of 230 acres (technically in the Garden of the Gods) north of Pleasant Valley, west of 30th Street and south of Gateway Road.
       Jan added that she plans to do additional research to find out why Elsie decided on the term “rock ledge” - if it was directly related to the terrain that was chosen for the house's location.
       As for Galloway's cabin, not all Rock Ledge visitors may know that the one at the ranch now is not his. The Chambers actually tore it down, the Hardisons said.
       The current one was built by a local carpenter in an agreement with the city, using ponderosa pine logs in the late 1970s, former Rock Ledge director Gene Smith has previously explained.
       The size of the replica is believed to be the same as Galloway's (24 by 18 feet), Ken Hardison said, but with a couple of differences: The original had only one door (the replica has two), and it's believed to be a little north of where Galloway built his.

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