COBWEB CORNERS: A drive along the avenue of yore
By Mel McFarland
When I drive to Manitou, I often watch for signs of the way it used to be. Not just what I remember as a youngster, but what I see in old pictures of a century ago and more. Colorado Avenue is quite a busy place, even on Sunday mornings, but the thoughts of how this road used to be are often more interesting. As we travel along the avenue, I will compare what was there then, but not always talk about what is there now. We will start at the east edge of Colorado City, at modern-day Limit or 8th. Before there was a Colorado Springs, there was a trail west from here, but it was not until Colorado Springs came into the picture that this path was of much importance. From early views of the area it was pretty wide open until the 1880s. Colorado City really did not show up until about 21st Street. The majority of the buildings actually date from 1900 or newer. Colorado Avenue was straightened in the late 1870s when more people traveled east and west, and Cucharras Street and Pikes Peak Avenue came later.
Where Buena Vista School and West Middle School stand was open land. There were only a few houses in the area when they were built in the 1920s. Once you got to 22nd Street, if you came this way in the 1870s, you would start to see population, but you might not recognize it as it looks today. The reports show this area had smaller houses, replaced by the larger homes built in the 1880s. The business district from 24th to 27th changed a lot over the years too.
The old wooden stores, such as the cabin in Bancroft Park, lasted into the mid-1880s, but the new prosperity brought on when the railroad and the mills opened in the 1890s saw the construction of better and bigger buildings. Brick became a popular building material, and we had our own brick plant. Rock from the quarries had been used for foundations and a few buildings, but it was not until the arrival of the Midland Railway that the numbers of these buildings shot up.
The town fathers were optimistic, building the City Hall at 29th Street, which at the time was also open area. Later, one was built on 26th, along with a jail. It was close to the action on Cucharras. Next week I'll keep going along Colorado Avenue and get you to Manitou.