Sign’s historical correctness debated
The following e-mail exchanges (slightly edited for space) occurred in the days following the June 18 Westside Pioneer article about the recently installed sign facing westbound Colorado Avenue traffic beside the I-25 overpass. The sign reads: “Welcome to Historic Old Colorado City – Capitol City of the Colorado Territory – 1861.”
While the June 18 Westside Pioneer on page 9 announces "A sign identifying 'Historic Old Colorado City' is finally on display to everyone's satisfaction on Colorado Avenue at I-25," did anyone check this for proper location, spelling and accuracy?
Apparently not, as Colorado City began five blocks farther west at Limit Street, "capitol" refers to a building, "capital" refers to a city, and Colorado City was capital for four days in 1862, not in 1861.
Actually Colorado City's eastern edge started at today's 13th Street in 1859 (see Fosdick Plat). Limit Street was the western city limit of Colorado Springs when it was founded in 1871. There was then a gap between them, even though Colorado Avenue was there and named from the beginning and connected to the street that continued over the bridge into Colorado Springs. Palmer, disliking Colorado City, refused to name HIS street extending westward [as] Colorado Avenue. He named it Huerfano to Limit Street from downtown. Not until he was long dead and Colorado City was dissolved and annexed in 1917 did Colorado Springs rename Huerfano [to] Colorado Avenue all the way to the western city limit of Colorado Springs, while Colorado Avenue wanders through the No Man's Land (county) to Manitou city limits. By which time, Limit Street (between Seventh and Eighth today) was meaningless.
In fact if you want to split hairs, right up until 1917, 20th Street [at] West Colorado Avenue was the de facto eastern Colorado City limit. The space between that and Limit Street was filled in progressively by new subdivisions and Colorado Springs' western boundary kept changing until it hit 20th.
So if you want to precisely delimit historic Colorado City, you have to move, or erect a “Colorado City” sign in about five different places and date each one. Doubt if first time visitors would stop and ponder each one.
And there was no “historic” Colorado City until many (not all) the buildings between 24th and half a block into 26th Street were designated part of the Colorado City National Historic District in 1982.
I do believe that you are one of the best historians in the area, and since we (the county) used the wording directly from the OWN board (which I'm told you served on at the time the design was formulated), the sign seems to capture an overall perspective to our indisputable historic area. And, as you stated, most visitors (or residents) will not be concerned with exact locations and dates. The sign does, however, give a great welcoming sense of neighborhood pride to our Colorado Avenue bridge entrance to the “wild” Westside.
Thanks and congratulations on your state historic award for your continued efforts!
Thanks for the kudos, Sallie. Yes, I was on the OWN Board when early discussions about a sign took place. It was always a puzzle how to point visitors from the I- 25 overpass to the appealing “historic” Westside (which is not limited to the small commercial “Old Colorado City” commercial district). Otherwise there wouldn't still be an effort to create an historic overlay zone over residential areas stretching all the way east to Spruce and Walnut - which originally were inside Colorado Springs city limits, albeit the “other side of the tracks.” The age and architectural style of the buildings are what sets the Westside visually apart from either greater Colorado Springs, or Manitou. And the sign alerts the driver that points west of the sign are “different” and have something to do with history that many people are interested in.
Yes, the Legislature only met in Colorado City for four days in 1862 (though legally it was still on the books as “the capitol” for much longer than that as Denver arm wrestled with Golden to finally land that honor.) But Colorado City was in fact the capitol for a time, and that little piece of historical pride is worth pointing to.
Unfortunately, Dave, what you have written here does not refute the fact that the sign is mislocated, is misspelled, and misdated. Capital city, capitol building. During the First Session in Denver, a coalition of non-Denver legislators pushed to get power distributed away from Denver, which was trying to become the center of all activities. Gov. Gilpin also concurred. So in December 1861 they designated Colorado City as the capital for the Territorial Legislature's Second Session in July 1862. Dissatisfied with Colorado City's inadequacies, the capital was then moved for subsequent sessions to Golden (no sessions met in Denver, so Denver didn't “steal it”) until 1867, when the people voted for Denver. This real history is recounted by Territorial Representative Wilbur F. Stone in Irving Howbert's “Memories of a Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region” (pp.71-75) as well as in Dorothy Aldridge's “Historic Colorado City, The Town With a Future” (pp.15-18).
We have enough erroneous plaques and exhibits; why don't we start trying a different approach?