Westside’s hogback history is as old as the rocks
One of the features of Red Rock Canyon Open Space is the large quarry. It can be seen where large blocks of sandstone - a
popular building material in the late 1800s - were cut or blasted loose. The rock was used locally or shipped to such places as
Denver, Texas, Chicago and California as a “premium, high-priced” material, according to historian Don Ellis at a recent
presentation in the Old Colorado City History Center.
Fortunately for posterity, however, stronger and longer-lasting concrete and steel came along around the turn of the century, ending the sandstone quarrying days. Had that not occurred, local entrepreneurs - including early Colorado City leader Anthony Bott - were evidently ready to remove, in the name of commerce, many of the sandstone formations that make the canyon so pleasing to the eye. In fact, Ellis added, there were even plans at one point to quarry the rock in the Garden of the Gods.
His July 19 talk, titled “History Along the Hogbacks,” was part of the recent “Tuesday Nights in July” series, sponsored by the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS).
Ellis described three types of sandstone found at Red Rock. The Lyons consists of petrified sand dunes, while the Dakota was formed by successive layers of sand, which allowed miners to cleave it along its layers. A third variety found at Red Rock is Fountain sandstone, an older, gravelly rock which washed down in the forming of the Rocky Mountains millions of years ago. The Fountain stone at Red Rock was unusable for building because of its tendency to crumble.
Area buildings using sandstone from Red Rock Canyon can still be found in such places as the mineral-spring kiosks in Manitou Springs, the east part of the cog railway depot and at Glen Eyrie and the Midland Railway station (now Van Briggle pottery), he said.
Other signs of the prehistoric uplift that formed Red Rock Canyon are the long, north-south hogbacks that run through its east part. The two most prominent are known as White Ridge (nearest to the Midland area), and Brown Ridge (the next hogback to the west, from which the Dakota sandstone was extracted).
Early Colorado Springs leader Irving Howbert wrote in 1920 that Indian fortifications had been found along White Ridge, although clear signs of them were already gone by that time. This would have been a logical place, considering the commanding view the hogbacks provided over the plains to the east, Ellis noted.
Two of the earlier gold mills were located at the base of the White Ridge, off what is now 31st Street. The Standard Mill was about where Red E Rent is now, while the Colorado-Philadelphia was in the area of the old stables that is to become the 31st Street trailhead for Red Rock Canyon.
The most visible signs today of either of those early mills are remnants of rock walls, Ellis observed.
Westside Pioneer article